There’s nothing like getting out in nature to clear your head and get a fresh perspective on whatever’s going on in your life. Fortunately for Delawareans, Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin provides the perfect place to destress and enjoy the beauty of the state’s native plants and wildlife.
For centuries, people have been aware of the healing powers of spending time in nature. Since the ancient Egyptian times through the Middle Ages and beyond, physicians have prescribed spending time in nature and gardening to treat patients with mental and physical illnesses. Today, this practice is frequently referred to as horticultural therapy.
The American Horticultural Therapy Association formed in 1973, focusing on advancing the practice of horticulture as therapy in rehabilitative, vocational and community settings. Individuals can undertake an undergraduate degree program to become a professional registered horticultural therapist (H.T.R.) or complete a certificate program in horticultural therapy (H.T.).
At Mt. Cuba, certified horticulture therapist Kathy Andrzejewski, M.Ed., H.T., is excited to share her knowledge about the power of nature to enhance one’s health and well-being. The botanic garden offers a number of programs to highlight ways to engage with and reap the benefits of being outdoors, including fitness walks; forest bathing; bird-watching (called ornitherapy); Nature Play Day, a program designed especially for families; and Nature as Therapy, an interactive workshop designed to teach people how to use their senses and the power of observation to engage with nature.
“Within the last five years, horticultural therapy has shown a resurgence, even more so following the pandemic,” Andrzejewski says. “While it’s not a new concept, I believe more and more people have come to appreciate the therapeutic benefits of being outside and spending time in nature.”
The next Nature as Therapy program, in April, will include a lecture about the history of horticultural therapy, along with outdoor activities that highlight different ways to incorporate nature into your daily life. Participants will receive a take-home toolkit containing a variety of interactive, horticulture-based activities to use on their own. The program will be offered in an easily accessible part of the gardens, so anyone can participate.
Mt. Cuba is the former residence of the late Lammot du Pont Copeland and his wife, Pamela. The 583-acre property became a public botanic garden in 2013, designed to highlight the beauty and value of native plants and inspire conservation.
“Everyone can reap the benefits of engaging with nature, regardless of your age, where you live or your socioeconomic background,” Andrzejewski adds. “I encourage everyone to go outdoors, even if it’s only for a short period of time each day, focus on and observe what’s going on around you, and you’ll begin to feel your stress lift away.”