By Hollie Niblett
Hi, my name is Hollie and I have a friend named Annie and we are a rare breed…horticultural therapists from Oklahoma.
We met for the first time at a our mutually favorite coffee shop and cafe (Red Cup) in Oklahoma City, “set up” by a mutual friend who thought we should meet, being that we were both horticultural therapy graduates from Kansas State University. And WHAM, we became friends instantly. Not only do we have a degree in common (except, to be fair, hers is a Masters and mine is a Bachelors), but Annie is also just an incredible person: funny, smart, compassionate, creative, hard-working, and just so darn SMILEY. I love smiley.
So, Annie and I became friends and have since been supporting each other in our lives and careers, and all the while talking about how awesome it would be to bring what we know in the field of HT to our community under the umbrella of our own little business. And in fact, we have both had some twists and turns and ups and downs since we met that have made us both stronger, wiser and more experienced. We have both gotten married, started new jobs, she bought a house and I moved to Costa Rica. It’s been a whirlwind…but we always come back to our favorite coffee shop and our favorite topic…making our community a better place and helping people through horticultural therapy.
What is a horticultural therapist? It’s a common question. A horticultural therapist is a credentialed, professional-with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree- who has an academic background in both horticulture and social sciences, as well as a minimum amount of practical experience in the form of a 480-hour internship. Horticultural therapy is about promoting healing and well-being in others through intentional contact with nature and gardening activities. The goal for each group or person is different, depending on who we work with.
When I first graduated in 1998, I spent four years working as the director of an alternative school program for inner-city kids, which consisted of a 5,000 square foot, production greenhouse. The goals for my students, as a group, were very different than the goals Annie has for her patients. She is currently employed at a hospital, working to help people in rehabilitation to heal. Some horticultural therapists work in nursing homes, some in botanical gardens, schools or hospitals. Horticultural therapy is a term that covers a very broad field, and the goals, activities and locations are as varied as there are people practicing it.
Now we want to make therapeutic horticulture even broader. We believe many people have lost touch with their connection to the earth. They have forgotten the healing power of putting their hands in the soil, growing their own food, feeling community through gardening. In our modern world, we have forgotten the sheer and simple joy of cleaning out something that doesn’t work anymore to make room for something new and beautiful.
That’s where Annie and I come in. We are passionate about healing-spiritual, physical, emotional, psychological- through nature, and we have the skills and know-how to make it happen.
The world is about to get a little greener and a little dirtier.