Searching for our Roots – Getting grounded physically, mentally and socially

I am Chih Ching Wu from Taiwan. My venture into the field of therapeutic horticulture represents my personal journey of self-discovery. After spending over a decade working in various countries, I reached a point where I felt adrift and decided to embark on a quest to reconnect with my roots. The inspiration for this journey was sparked by my grandfather, who provided me with a clue: my name. He carefully selected two plants, Chih and Ching, for my name.

Our family is a combination of the Hakka ethnic group and the Saisiyat indigenous group. As I learned more about our ancestors’ wisdom, I became increasingly amazed by how their knowledge and wisdom grounded our people and helped them derive benefits from nature. The knowledge and wisdom I have acquired encompass a range of topics, such as the 24 Solar Terms and ethnobotany.

The Chinese established the 24 solar terms in a year by carefully observing changes in nature. Within each solar term, they identified specific routines, such as the ideal times for planting and harvesting crops. We have developed a deep understanding of how to work in alignment with the natural rhythms. When we live in harmony with nature, we can reap the maximum physical and mental benefits it has to offer.

Ethnobotany explores the diverse ways in which different ethnic groups utilize plants. As Harshberger noted in 1895, ethnobotany delves into the use of plants by primitive and aboriginal peoples (Harshberger, 1896). Turner, in 1995, extended this definition by describing ethnobotany as the science that examines the interactions between people and plants, encompassing a broader and more comprehensive perspective (Turner, 1995). I consider Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hakka ethnobotany, and Indigenous ethnobotany as integral components of my cultural heritage and draw upon these knowledge systems to design horticultural therapy programs.

I have shared these insights in therapeutic horticulture programs with diverse groups, including dementia care groups, indigenous groups living in remote areas, prison groups and minorities in Cambodia. In these programs, we have implemented therapeutic, vocational, and social wellness models. When designing our Horticultural Therapy (HT) programs, our priority is to incorporate as many native plants as possible. We connect the diverse uses of these plants with people’s memories and personal experiences. In fact, our participants, along with therapists, actively explore potential applications of these plants, leading to fascinating intergenerational interactions within our communities.

I am still on my journey and maintain a profound connection with my motherland. Visiting Wilmot Botanical Garden provides me with a great opportunity to immerse myself in therapeutic horticultural programs and learn from people around the world.


Harshberger, J. W. (1896). The purposes of ethno-botany. Botanical gazette21(3), 146-154.

Turner, N. J. (1995). Ethnobotany today in northwestern North America (pp. 264-283). Portland: Dioscorides Press.

Chih Ching Wu

Registered Horticultural Therapy Technician, Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association