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Saturday 26th May 2018 from 9am to 4:30pm – National Networking Day for all those interested in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture

This day will be a fantastic opportunity to:

  • Learn about Social & Therapeutic Horticulture and its benefits
  • Learn about current programmes of Social & Therapeutic Horticulture in Ireland
  • Link up and network with fellow practitioners.
  • Share your experience and ideas.
  • Access advice and support.

The past decade has seen a large increase in the delivery of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture for the improved quality of life for people from all sectors of society.

This National networking day is being held to showcase a number of projects from around the country together with a variety of practical demonstrations. Of equal importance, we are keen to develop a shared vision with all interested people and parties to help shape the future of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture in Ireland.

We will have a range of speakers, many of them practitioners, to share their experiences of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture as well as the research behind it and who can benefit from it!

This day will be of interest to the following:

  • anyone interested in learning more about Social and Therapeutic Horticulture and what it is and to meet and network with others
  • healthcare practitioners, green care practitioners, horticulturists and horticulture educators who would like to offer Social and Therapeutic Horticulture and to meet and network with others
  • healthcare practitioners, green care practitioners, horticulturists and horticulture educators who already offer Social and Therapeutic Horticulture and want to see what others are doing as well as meet and network with others

Venue:       Festina Lente, Old Connaught Avenue, Bray, Co Wicklow, A98 F702

Cost:           Cost €65.00 which includes lunch + booking fee, click to register your attendance.

We are also offering Social and Therapeutic Horticulture Practitioner courses throughout the year, click here for more details.

Click here to download our A4 flyer

Agenda for the Day

Start Time Presentation Presenter Organisation Organisation Website
9:00am Registration & Refreshments
9:30am Seminar Welcome & Introduction Dr Jill Carey Festina Lente
9:40 The Use of Gardens within approaches to Health and Wellbeing, an overview on how society could utilise gardens for health in different ways. Damien Newman Thrive
10:10 The Development of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture for People Affected by Social and/or Economic Exclusion Ann Gleeson Festina Lente
10:40 Social and Therapeutic Horticulture: Education, Learning and Practice. Caitriona Kelly Grow It Yourself Ireland
11:10 Coffee\Tea Break
11:30 Living, Dying and Gardening – The Role of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture in Person Centred Palliative Care Zoe Stiles Foran Milford Care Centre
12:00 Rehabilitation and Horticultural Therapy Rachel Gerard National Rehabilitation Hospital
12:30 The Importance of Outcome Measures Liz Curtis Blossoms at Larne Lough
1:00 Lunch
2:00 Demonstrations of Social and Horticultural Practice      
3:00 Coffee\Tea Break
3:20 “Developing Horticultural Therapy  in Ireland” Discussion Ann Gleeson & Patrick Howlett Festina Lente
4:30 Finish Time

Presentation and Speaker Information

Presentation Information: Application of horticulture for Health and well being across Society – The Use of Gardens within approaches to health and well being, an overview on how society could utilise gardens for health in different ways. 
The presentation will summarise the state of evidence for the use of Horticulture for health and well being and explore how this knowledge can be applied across society to support maintaining healthy lives as well as addressing ill health and disability. It is important that the different approaches to using horticulture and other nature based engagements can be appropriately delivered to target populations where its use is efficacious and needed.

by Damien Newman, Thrive Training, Education and Consultancy Manager

Speaker Bio: I am Damien Newman, Thrive’s Training Education and Consultancy manager, I deliver and manage the sharing of Thrive’s experience and expertise in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture through short courses, higher education, bespoke training and consultancy. I have worked for Thrive for over 7 years delivering upwards of 300 courses on the subject, additionally presenting at various national and international conferences and having articles on the subject published in both specialist and general publications. Having accredited one of the few higher education curricular in the field of nature based health and care interventions I am one of a handful of people across the world who lecture and provide higher education in this field. I have taught in the field of Health and Social Care for over 12 years following and during 12 years of working in mental health services where I first realised the value of horticulture as a therapeutic tool for people with ill health and disabilities. I believe and work toward nature, gardens and horticulture being appropriately utilised across society for the health benefits it is evidenced to provide.


Presentation Information: The Development of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture for People Affected by Social and/or Economic Exclusion
Festina Lente provides a wide range of therapeutic interventions for people affected by socio economic disadvantage and/or people affected by disability and mental ill health. Though traditionally this has been through the medium of equine assisted activities such as therapeutic riding or equine assisted learning, in more recent years the area of social and therapeutic horticulture has been developed within the Walled Garden Programme. This presentation will present the development of social and therapeutic horticulture within the Festina Lente Walled Garden and will include its’ initial start-up, the funding mechanisms, profiles of different service-users, reported benefits, impact on the Walled Garden as a Social Enterprise and the development of staff skills as it has transitioned over time.

by Ann Gleeson, Garden Manager of Festina Lente

Ann first came to the historic Festina Lente Walled Gardens in 2004 as a project assistant, a role she then juggled alongside her horticultural studies at the Dublin School of Horticulture. As a mature student with a grown-up family, she already had a successful business career under her belt but was eager to leave that world behind her.
Attracted by the idea of working outdoors and very interested in the therapeutic aspects of horticulture, she discovered the Festina Lente Foundation, whose stated aim is to provide “a wide range of integrated training, occupational learning and employment opportunities to people whose needs aren’t being met by mainstream services.”
Over the years, Ann has worked with the team to develop an area within the Walled Garden which focuses on sensory integration through raised areas, water troughs and specific planting for sensory stimulation. The Kitchen Garden has been transformed to an allotment garden incorporating 54 plots in the original vegetable beds. A once redundant derelict area within the garden now provides three tunnels to facilitate workshops, propagation and all year gardening.  As Garden Manager I see my role to promote a good working and positive environment for staff, volunteers and students. A key priority is to expand the garden as a therapeutic, horticultural, recreational and educational environment.


Presentation Information: Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH): Education, learning and practice.
This presentation will outline the various pathways through which people become STH practitioners. A focus on the skillsets required to be an effective practitioner, will pave the way for an exploration of the processes involved in delivering a STH programme. These will be explored within the context of adult education, with reference to Paulo Freire and Lave and Wenger. The idea of learning as a social practice will be discussed.
Principles of community development as applied to STH will be critically examined with reference to a case study.

by Caitriona Kelly, Therapeutic Horticulturist with GIY (Grow It Yourself)

Speaker Bio: Caitriona Kelly is a full-time therapeutic horticulturist with GIY (Grow It Yourself), and has designed and facilitated therapeutic horticultural programmes with men in recovery from addiction, asylum seekers and adults experiencing homelessness. She also delivers training in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture, and is passionate about both teaching, and learning.  With a background in adult education and community/youth work, Caitriona has worked with a range of community-based groups in Ireland and in northern Spain over the last 15 years. Originally from Dublin’s inner city, Caitriona currently lives in north Leitrim, where she grows a lot of her own food, and gets to practice horticultural therapy on herself!


Presentation Information: Living, Dying and Gardening – The Role of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture in Person Centred Palliative Care
Zoe will be discussing 5 instances on the impact of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture on 5 of her patients:
• The young woman who had stopped communicating with her care team and become shut down, who used gardening to reconnect and build trust again.
• The family with young children who wanted to create special memories through gardening together that would endure and live on after grief and loss.
• The lifelong gardener wheelchair bound by his illness who worked with his brother and friends to build a new accessible containerised garden. Ultimately enabling him to reengage with his loved pastime.
• The man who hated gardening but found escape and peace in our therapeutic garden.
• Finally, the little girl who simply wanted to make her mother smile one last time before she died.
Through their work and her experience, she hopes to give you some insight into how Social and Therapeutic Horticulture works to improve the quality of life of individuals living with a life limiting illness.

by Zoe Stiles Foran, Therapeutic Horticulturist with Milford Care Centre

Speaker Bio: Trained initially in Commercial Horticulture at the College of Horticulture in Drogheda, Co Louth, I have worked extensively in many aspects of horticulture. My introduction to Horticulture as a therapeutic medium began in 1994 when I facilitated a local group of intellectually and physically challenged young adults to work in a commercial horticulture environment.
I started work on the development of a Dedicated Horticulture Therapy Unit in Milford Care Centre in 2004. The unit offers a safe garden-based environment that includes a restorative garden, glass/ winter garden and an enabling garden room. These resources are available clients, their families and friends as well as staff.
Clients can participate in a tailored therapeutic, client-focused, goal- based programmes, or participate in one of the many social and recreational group sessions. These group sessions offer peer support and participation in diversionary restorative garden based activities. Such activities in a natural plant based environment can enhance mood, promote relaxation, good communication, encourage independence and the formation of good memories, all as part of a holistic palliative care programme designed to support the client and their families and friends.


Presentation Information: Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) at the National Rehabilitation Hospital
Rachel will talk about her role and the service provided at the NRH. The service uses a wide and varied spectrum of STH activities. Using horticulture as the therapeutic vehicle, the activities are designed to improve physical and mental health through meaningful tasks. The sessions enable individuals develop better task focus, increase self-esteem, and give opportunity for experiential learning. Sessions are patient-centred, focusing on their goals and working to achieve the best possible outcome.
The benefits can be observed in a variety of ways – including a patient’s well-being, physical fitness, stamina, self-esteem, focus, concentration and experiential learning. Social and therapeutic horticulture is not a stand-alone treatment, but Rachel strongly believes that it is an integral part of the integrated, interdisciplinary, rehabilitative programme.


Rachel Gerrard, Therapeutic Horticulturist with National Rehabilitation Hospital

Speaker Bio: After almost 20 years in the legal profession, Rachel returned to education as a mature student to study horticulture at the National Botanical Gardens completing her honours year at IT Blanchardstown. With particular interest, she studied social and therapeutic horticulture; alongside the academic theory she also had the practical learning experience of designing and running weekly horticultural workshops for a group of special needs QQI L 3 learners. The focus of her final year research thesis was on “The Role of Horticulture in Integrated Substance Abuse Recovery Programmes,” exploring the benefits horticulture has to offer service users.
She volunteered with the Peter McVerry Trust, assisting the horticulturist at their residential community detox centre in north county Dublin. Since attaining a BSc (hons) in Horticulture, she designs and restores gardens for private clients. She was a finalist on RTE’s ‘Super Garden 2016’ TV series.  Since September 2016, RacheI has been employed as the Horticultural Therapist at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dun Laoghaire, where patients have acquired a physical or cognitive disability and require specialist medical rehabilitation. She is responsible for the day to day running of the occupational therapy garden.


Presentation Information: The Importance of Outcome Measures
Liz will talk about her experience of developing and delivering Blossom’s 8-week course, and the vital role outcome measures have played in this Public Health Agency funded pilot study.

Liz Curtis, Therapeutic Horticulturist with Blossoms

Speaker Bio: Liz Curtis is from Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland, where she lives and runs Blossoms at Larne Lough.  Liz is one of the main people behind Blossoms at Larne Lough which is a social enterprise that specialises in using Horticultural Therapy to increase health & wellbeing and decrease stress.  Shortly after studying Sociology at Queens University Belfast, Liz started working in her family business of wholesaling trees and shrubs.  After gaining an interest in the therapeutic side of nature, she then decided to study the Professional Development Diploma in STH from Thrive & Coventry University.
Liz is passionate about using Horticultural Therapy to target work place stress, and help balance the growing over-engagement in technology.” Her passion is in finding practical and enjoyable ways for everyone to engage in nature based therapy, on a daily basis.

What is Social and Therapeutic Horticulture?

Social and therapeutic horticulture (STH) involves the use of plants by a trained professional to meet certain clinically defined goals. STH is particularly relevant for the promotion of independence, health and well-bring amongst groups and communities of vulnerable people. This can be achieved through active as well as passive involvement.

Organised therapeutic horticulture programmes have been shown to increase self-esteem and self-confidence, develop social and work skills, improve literacy and numeracy skills, increase general well-being and promote social interaction.

Social and therapeutic horticulture (STH) can benefit people in a number of ways:

  • It can be part of a person’s rehabilitation process, to help them recover and ‘find their feet again’ after an illness or a difficult time in their lives
  • It can help people recover from a wide range of conditions
  • It can help people to learn new skills
  • Can help slow down the deterioration seen when someone has a degenerative illness.
  • Better physical health through exercise and learning how to use or strengthen muscles to improve mobility
  • Improved mental health through a sense of purpose and achievement
  • The opportunity to connect with others – reducing feelings of isolation or exclusion
  • Just feeling better for being outside, in touch with nature and in the ‘great outdoors’

Social and therapeutic horticultural benefits people with many different disabilities, including those recovering from stroke and heart disease, blind and partially sighted people, those in the early stages of dementia, and people with physical, mental health and learning disabilities.

For cancellations 2 weeks or less before start date there is no refunds. Please note an administration fee applies to all refunds given.