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What is Horticultural Therapy?

Horticultural Therapy is the process of using gardening, horticultural activities and nature-based art activities to improve the social, psychological, educational and physical condition of participants thus improving their bodies, minds and spirits. Our accessible therapeutic garden programs bring this powerful healing tool to many. As stated by Hamilton’s Under the Willows Therapeutic Garden Program Coordinator a therapeutic garden is a “site and program are like a container that is safe and has multiple levels for the children to express themselves through arts and gardening”. Over one hundred studies have confirmed spending time in nature benefits stress reduction.


Mitchell Hewson, Horticultural Therapist Masters, says” there is a real need and demand for therapeutic spaces, facilities and training.” He also states people “are discovering how the wonders of nature can represent a profound change of lifestyle.” Our garden projects include programming and the development of an accessible therapeutic garden at Willow Springs’ base in Lappe, and at the Food Security Research Network’s Campus Community Garden at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Willow Springs also facilitates the coming together of different organizations, volunteers, artisans, horticulturists, food advocates and community children, youth and adults. This can only result in the creation of positive community development strategies.


Willow Springs Creative Centre has already formed concrete partnerships with agencies serving clients with physical and mental health concerns to offer therapeutic gardening and creative expression programs. The Ontario March of Dimes, CNIB, the Stroke Recovery Group and George Jeffrey Children’s Centre are a few of the organizations with whom Willow Springs Creative Centre is working. Most organizations in Thunder Bay and the Northwest Region that could benefit from therapeutic gardening programs do not have in-house programs. It may not be feasible to deliver this service within each organization, but the people of this area deserve access to this type of unique programming and training. Willow Springs Creative Centre bridges this gap by providing programming and training at a home based and in a mobile format.


Finally, the recent Thunder Bay needs assessment indicated a requirement for additional volunteers in the community and for volunteer opportunities for Aboriginal people and for differently abled individuals. Through our work with community partners such as The Food Security Research Network, The Thunder Bay John Howard Society, Ontario March of Dimes and George Jeffery Children’s Centre, we will be able to respond to this need.


Please contact us for more information about opportunities to get Horticultural Training or for programming inquiries.


Funding provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

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