Our fall therapeutic horticulture sessions kicked off in mid-September in the Greenhouse at Wilmot Gardens. We are excited about the addition of two new groups to our programs: the first group, which is affiliated with the UF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, is geared at young adults with autism, while the second group is from the UF Health Florida Recovery Center, a local treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction. We have been planting a lot of seed crops, as well as giving some much-needed TLC to our older plants that have survived the summer in the greenhouse. In a few weeks the greenhouse will be chock-full of colorful seedlings: edibles and non-edibles ready to be transplanted. Another edible that we are looking forward to harvesting is our vanilla orchid. It bloomed in the greenhouse last spring, with each bloom lasting for less than a day. Since there are no natural pollinators in the greenhouse, we hand pollinated the flowers, many of which went on to produce vanilla beans. Several have thrived and we expect them to split open this month. Then we can harvest them and (hopefully!) cure them. Vanilla ice cream, anyone?!
Another exciting event this fall is the start of our alumni group. Since much of our program funding comes from grants or involves research, many participants attend the sessions for a pre-determined time period and then we must wish them farewell. Although this is the nature of research and grant funding, it is difficult to end participants’ access, especially when the program has had such positive impacts on their well-being and quality of life. Although we intentionally teach our participants skills so they can continue gardening at home, one of the most important aspects of the program is the opportunity for social interaction and group support, which we have found is often missing from their current lives. Thanks to our plant sales and recent funding from the UF Medical Guild, we are now able to offer on-going sessions for those participants whose program group has ended. We look forward to reconnecting with our past participants and hearing about their recent horticultural endeavors.
We hope you’ll stop by the greenhouse too and learn more about our plants and programming!
Elizabeth “Leah” Diehl, RLA, HTM, Director of Therapeutic Horticulture, Wilmot Gardens