Despite the persistent warm temperatures in Gainesville, summer has come to an end and we have started our fall programming. It’s been great to see familiar faces as well as lots of new faces and we are happy to be growing again. We have planned our fall plantings – both for the greenhouse and the gardens – and are now busy working on the plan. We are propagating lots of interesting plants by seed, cuttings, division, and any other way we can think of! We are growing plants to plant in the gardens and in our new raised bed outside the greenhouse, for our upcoming plant sales, and also to send home with participants. There is always something interesting coming up in the greenhouse so stop by and see for yourself!
Early fall is also the time that I get to reconnect with my horticultural therapy (HT) colleagues from around the country and abroad at the annual conference of the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA). This year it was held in Burlington, Vermont, and although it was too early to see any fall foliage color, I did get to take a boat ride on Lake Champlain and the scenery was beautiful. The theme of the conference was Community Connections through Horticultural Therapy and there were great sessions that explored that theme. I gave a talk on our employment training program for young adults with autism and although it was the only session at the conference covering the autism population, there were several practitioners attending the conference that also worked with individuals with autism spectrum disorder. We were able to exchange ideas and experiences and I look forward to trying out some of those ideas. This conference is always a great opportunity to reconnect with like-minded professionals, learn about amazing ways horticulture is being used to create better lives, and to discover (or rediscover!) some great ideas for projects. I always leave the conference energized and excited to invigorate our programs at Wilmot Gardens.
Another great thing that happened at the AHTA conference was that Ray Odeh, our very own graduate student, received the Anne Lane Mavromatis Scholarship Award. Ray was given this award, along with a $500 scholarship, in recognition of his academic achievements at UF. The award also aims to promote the growth of professionalism in the field of horticultural therapy. Ray is conducting his research on the benefits of gardening and people-plant interactions under the guidance of Dr. Charlie Guy. His project began this month and is taking place in the greenhouse and the conference center. We are very proud of Ray and look forward to the results of his research project; you’ll be sure to hear about it in a future newsletter.
Elizabeth “Leah” Diehl, RLA, HTM, Director of Therapeutic Horticulture, Wilmot Gardens