Horticulture Therapy Program Sows Seeds of Spring for a Spectacular Summer


Mother’s Day Flowers

By Jeannette Glennon, MSW, HTR, Horticultural Therapist, Magee Rehabilitation Hospital

My goodness where has the time flown!  Spring has gone by and the first day of summer is Friday, June 21st.  It has certainly been an uncertain spring with lots of rain, wind and tornado warnings.  These are challenges for anyone trying to garden these past couple of months. In April, our creative healing gardens focused on improving the soil in our outside raised beds with organic matter, good garden soil and fertilizer.  Both volunteers and patients helped hand till this to prepare for our International Garden.  Old plants were removed and planning took place for the new seeds to hopefully arrive soon!  Sharps Landscaping did a wonderful job starting their plantings on the 6th floor to beautify the space.    

Bath salts & essential oils

During the past 3 months, there has been activity inside the greenhouse where patients, therapy staff and volunteers worked on projects to focus on goals addressing cognitive, physical, sensory and areas of social integration.  Repotting houseplants, making fresh flower arrangements, using essential oils, making herb kitchen dish gardens, participating in general greenhouse duties, starting seeds then transplanting them, wheelchair mobility and scavenger hunts were some of these activities. The Horticultural Therapist takes her programming “on the road” to the Riverfront to connect patients with these activities in Day Rehab, MS group, Wellness and co-treats with therapy staff twice a month.

In May, perennial herbs and flowers in the butterfly garden starting emerging and patients added flowering annuals.  The International Garden got planted with seeds focusing on the countries of Europe and Asia. The Horticultural Therapist added international country flags and color copied seed packets to let people know what the vegetables should look like and where they originated from.  The Horticultural Therapy program was highlighted in the National AHTA magazine and in SJ Retrospect article, “Therapy Thanks to the Good Earth.”  Flowers were made by volunteers to recognize patients on Mother’s Day and Blue Star Families of active military (Memorial Day).

Keep watering, weeding, and thinning out your plants in your garden. Watch for destructive pests as summer heats up, but enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Therapy staff is usually notified a couple of times a month what can be harvested and used by patients in the OT kitchens.  This includes herbs, edible flowers and vegetables. 

Magee Rehabilitation has been providing Horticultural Therapy services to its patients for over 30 years. Horticultural Therapy uses plants, gardens, nature crafts and gardening activities to provide therapeutic and rehabilitation outcomes. These are coordinated with physical and occupational therapy rehab goals as a team approach.


Horticultural Therapy has benefits including increasing strength, range of motion, balance, sensory stimulation and improving cognitive sequencing skills. Magee Rehabilitation is the only rehab hospital, in Center City, that provides a direct Horticultural Therapy Program and has a rooftop greenhouse. The greenhouse is used by other Magee professionals for 1:1 patient time, including art therapy, therapeutic recreation, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, patient leisure activities and others.


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