Horticulture: Meeting the Needs of Special Populations
In the past five to ten years, there has been increasing research of the healing, social, and therapeutic benefits that plants impart to human life. With all of the resultant new information, people have become confused by the many facets of people-plant interactions, including the meaning of horticultural therapy. Much of this mismatching and misunderstanding has occurred at the university level as horticulture faculty members, well-versed in crop production and basic science, have begun to try to understand and share with students the value of horticultural commodities to the consumer. Horticultural therapy frequently is used as the catch-all phrase applied to anytime anyone gardens and feels better, acts better, or gets better under any conditions. In some situations, it has been the term of choice to apply to children's gardening, home food production in developing countries, and hobby gardening practiced by individuals with a disability. The restorative value of views of plants and nature also have been lumped into horticultural therapy, as has the social value of community gardening. Although horticultural therapy is a very important aspect of human interaction with plants, and is a rapidly growing profession, there are many other areas of people-plant interaction of equal importance to understanding the role of horticulture in addressing special populations.