Therapeutic Horticulture Programs by Wake County Extension Master Gardeners

— Written By

The first Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (EMGV) Therapeutic Horticulture program in Wake County was started in 2005 by Catherine Soderberg, EMGV. Therapeutic Horticulture is to support social development, psychological well-being and physical rehabilitation for those who are physically and mentally challenged. Residents live in Assisted Care, Intermediate Care facilities and Independent Living and are interactive, as they are able. Currently Wake County EMGVs are supporting 2 facilities in Raleigh, 2 in Wake Forest, 1 in Cary, 1 in Fuquay Varina, and 1 in Zebulon. Many of the residents have been gardeners before coming to their facility.

Since it began 8 years ago, Wake County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers (EMGVs) have grown their therapeutic horticul­ture program to include groups of EMGV’s visit­ing each of six assisted living facilities and one Independent Living facility around the county each month. A total of 20 EMGVs have committed to this program in 2013, and the response to their therapeutic horticulture activities has been inspiring! The 7 facilities include: Brighton Gardens and Springmoor in Raleigh, Glenaire in Cary, Carolina House and Crossings at Heritage Independent Living in Wake Forest. Carillon in Fuquay-Varina and Zebulon House are also served.

 Many of the residents in the participating facilities were gardeners at some time in their life, so planting, harvesting and eating from their gardens brings back positive memories that they freely share during classes. Those confined to wheelchairs can garden in raised beds or large containers. Other related activities have included attracting birds and butterflies, compost­ing, making flower necklaces, and food preservation.

A favorite class was making herb butters. During this class residents were able to harvest the herbs; wash, cut and mix them with the but­ter; and the best part, to spread them on bread and taste! In one meeting, residents actively assisted in the design and making of the pressed, dried flower bookmarks. One resident said he’d use his bookmark in his Bible and another said books were her emotional outlet and without them she didn’t know what she would do. Her bookmark was going to be put to use immediately.

The Wake County EMGV Therapeutic Horticulture Pro­gram will continue to engage challenged populations, provid­ing them with healthy oppor­tunities and memorable experi­ences.

Extension Master Gardeners of Wake County are part of the volunteer staff of NC University’s Cooperative Extension Service. In 2012, 8341 hours were logged – all helping Wake County to grow beautifully! Master Gardeners provide unbiased research-based educational assistance and programs in horticulture and environmental issues to the gardening public.

 An Extension Master Gardener is available to respond to calls and emails during office hours Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m.-12 noon and1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (919) 250-1084: Website: