Plants Can Teach Us A Lot

Plants Can Teach Us A Lot

By Megan Sperry, Horticulture Therapist

We are in full swing for our upcoming ‘Thyme for Kids’ plant sale, a fundraiser for our horticultural therapy and Build Trybe program. The students enrolled in my class help manage a commercial greenhouse, learn to nurture living things, contribute to a team project, and gain a basic understanding of plant science. We have been growing annuals, perennials, herbs, houseplants, and vegetable transplants to sell to the community.

"What makes horticulture therapeutic?” I am asked this question often. I believe it varies from individual to individual. There are educational, therapeutic, and vocational components to everything the students do. They learn by engaging directly with plants and each other. They also experience progress as we start with a barren, empty greenhouse in January and participate in its evolution into a beautiful, blooming garden center to display all of their hard work over the four-month period leading up to the ‘Thyme for Kids’ plant sale. Obviously, this year has been a bit different. Our program through February 2021 and the sale has moved to online purchasing only.  But, this is a great example of adapting to change. Change is hard for people in general, but it is especially difficult for youth. We used it as an opportunity to reinforce that change is a part of life.

Students aren’t just growing plants, they are growing life skills. They are growing social-emotional skills, learning self-awareness and their impact on their community. This evolution gives them hope and confidence. It provides an opportunity for personal growth as they take ownership of their plants and their vital contribution in planning for the sale. Engaging in a constructive, encouraging, and nurturing environment, such as the greenhouse, is just one component to the road to help heal from childhood trauma.

Many youth I work with have grown up in homes that lack empathy, and compassion. It’s not that our students are not capable of expressing these emotions, but nobody has modeled the skills in a way for them to understand. The greenhouse provides an opportunity to model and develop those fundamental skills as they begin taking care of their own plants and contributing to a community project. It is a place where all students have the chance to be successful and contribute. It’s the perfect blend of this relaxing, yet encouraging and stimulating environment. 

Plants can teach us a lot about ourselves and life in general. How to nurture and care for something other than ourselves. How to forgive (have you ever seen a desperately dry plant and then water it?) Plants can demonstrate resiliency, teach us to be patient, and they give us hope! 

As we finish up transplanting a seed tray, sometimes a few little scrawny plants are left that we are tempted to just compost. But, I always encourage the students to give that one a chance, because in the right environment, it might just flourish!

You can support the Horticulture Therapy program by shopping our Thyme for Kids Online Plant Sale from April 14–29.