Health & Wellness

Somerville Horticulturist Helps to Nurture Plant Therapy Program in the Garden State

SOMERVILLE, NJ - A series of proclamations from federal, state and county legislators have planted the seeds to grow “Horticultural Therapy Week NJ” March 19-25.

A proclamation from Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7),  resolutions from the New Jersey Senate and Assembly, and a proclamation from the Somerset County Freeholders were presented at a Feb. 28 meeting of the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

New Jersey is the first in the nation to formally designate “Horticultural Therapy Week,” initially established by Congress in 2006 to celebrate the benefits of connecting people and plants.

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“Designating a week each year to raise awareness of Horticultural Therapy is expanding opportunities for more people to take advantage of the many benefits it offers,” said state Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex).

“Horticultural Therapy is a time proven practice dating back centuries that’s helped countless people from children to seniors to veterans to those with special needs. I hope this week in March will now be filled with many events highlighting the importance and value of horticultural therapy,” Bateman added.

Horticultural Therapy is the time-proven practice of utilizing the therapeutic benefits of working in a peaceful garden environment and using horticulture as modality to improve quality of life, according to Laura DePrado, president of Final Touch Plantscaping, LLC, of Somerville. She is a registered Horticultural Therapist and helped to author the legislation designating “Horticultural Therapy Week NJ.”

It is practiced through social, vocational and therapeutic programs and successfully empowers individual to achieve their maximum independence providing a wide range of benefits to people of all ages in rehabilitative, health care, and residential settings, in addition to its valuable, indirect benefit of encouraging the designation and creation of public and community gardens, according to DePrado.

“Growing a garden and working with plants provides many benefits to people, such as physical activity, focusing on a task and a sense of accomplishment," said Douglas H. Fisher, New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture. "The Department fully recognizes and supports the diverse settings in which horticultural therapy is utilized and the important connection it has to our Jersey Grown plants, flowers, shrubs and other decorative nursery products.”

Representatives of several state and county organizations attended the Freeholders' meeting, including the American Horticultural Therapy Association.

Horticultural Therapy gained prominence in the United States in rehabilitating wounded veterans of World War II through the assistance of volunteers and trained professionals and continues today in veteran’s hospitals across the country.

The practice brings dignity and enhanced skills by helping individuals such as those recovering from illness or injury, the elderly, socially disadvantaged individuals and individuals with disabilities, according to DePrado.

The AHTA provides opportunities for registered horticultural therapists to work with diverse treatment teams, and to share research and best practices.

Awareness of the growing profession of horticultural therapy is being realized through increasing educational opportunities, beginning with the first MS degree in horticultural therapy, awarded by Michigan State University in 1955, and continuing across the country, and through horticultural therapy certificate programs.

Horticultural therapy was practiced by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Activities will be taking place around the state including a display by the AHTA at the Statehouse in Trenton from March 20th to 24th in Goldfinch Square.

For information contact DePrado online, laura@finaltouchplantscaping.com.

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