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Cultivate News

Collectors' Plant Fair

 | Published on 4/18/2019

"Green Healing" - Therapeutic Horticulture
1-3 pm, Saturday April 6th, 2019

Collectors' Plant Fair 2019

Hawkesbury Race Course, on a glorious hot autumn day with masses of fabulous plants and crowds of excited plant collectors, was the setting for our inaugural appearance on centre stage at the renowned Collectors’ Plant Fair to talk about the principles of therapeutic horticulture and to demonstrate via interactive activities, how and where it can be applied and who can benefit from green healing.

Claire Boyle, Clinical Horticultural Therapist at Royal Rehab ( explained the work of Royal Rehab and demonstrated various assistive/adapted tools that are available for people to use to enable them to start or continue gardening. Tools included specialist tools that have been specifically adapted and manufactured to assist people with a range of conditions such as for example, arthritis; readily available household garden tools that can be adapted using other household items such as hooks and therabands; and items such as the ‘peashooter’ – a novel adaptation of a piece of polypipe that not only enables someone to dig a hole at a ready for planting, but to then ‘plant’ the seed using the same pipe as a blow pipe.  Ingenious!

On a side note, did you know that Cultivate NSW maintains a tool library in collaboration with Royal Rehab? You can view the full list of tools here. Tools are available for loan for demonstration by members.

The next speakers were Virginia Field, Karen Gray and Karen Coombs-Valeontis, co-authors of a beautiful new book, Nature Heals ( as well as being individual practitioners of nature therapy.

Virginia commenced with a discussion about the value of gardens as therapy and gave everyone a preview of their book that is full of stories of restoration as well as practical nature-based activities from diverse communities across Australia and New Zealand.

Karen then talked about the work of the Secret Garden and Nursery ( and engaged everyone in the activity of making a ‘tussie-mussie’ or small posy of fragrant flowers and herbs. Karen had brought along a wonderful selection of various scented plants from the Secret Garden and Nursery, including salvias, geraniums, rosemary, lavender and other herbs. Each posy was tied up with some hessian and finished off with some ribbon. The ‘tussie-mussie’ tradition dates back to the Victorian Era. Suitors gave small bouquets to young ladies filled with flowers that symbolised sentiments such as friendship, love, fidelity. It was a lovely fragrant activity appreciated by all in the audience that stimulated a lot sharing and collaboration between participants – the essence of therapeutic horticulture and green healing!

Kerryn, ( the final speaker in this session, gave us an insight into eco-art therapy. She is an art and horticultural therapist specialising in the area of mental health.

In her introduction to the activity of making an autumn leaf mandala, Kerryn gave us a quick look at benefits of eco-art to well-being, as an instrument to foster collaboration between people and as in the case of constructing the mandala, the art is sustainable – it becomes compost. She also touched on the idea of nature deficit disorder (NDD) that argues that as we become increasingly alienated from nature, our sense of welling decreases and that it is particularly problematic for children.

Our final session for the day was conducted by Elizabeth Docking from the Royal Botanic Gardens Community Greening program. (

Elizabeth explained the work of the Community Greening program and then invited four participants onto the stage to make a kokedama (Japanese for moss ball) to demonstrate an easy and fun activity that can be used to engage or re-engage people of all ages, in gardening. Each participant received a bonus. They were able to take home their finished kokedama!

We are delighted to report that in excess of 50 people on average, attended the session across the afternoon and that there was a high level of interaction between attendees and presenters both during and after the sessions. 

We would also like to say a huge thank you to Collectors Plant Fair ( and Linda Ross ( in particular, for giving us the opportunity to spread the word and to introduce social and therapeutic horticulture to a wider audience.

A huge thank you as well to the presenters for making the session informative, interactive, very engaging and overall success!

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Horticultural Therapy Society of NSW Incorporated ¦ ABN: 50 499 802 321 
ACNC registered charity endorsed as a Deductible Gift Recipient