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Rutgers Horticulture Therapy Program in the News

EXPLORATIONS: Acclaimed Program Grew From Seed Planted Over 50 Years Ago

The Horticultural Therapy program at Rutgers blossomed from alum Joel Flagler's (Cook '74) undergraduate inspiration and the support he received along the way, writes EXPLORATIONS, the George H. Cook Campus Magazine.

The Guardian: Gardening Trend That Bloomed during the Pandemic Is Here to Stay

"There are certain very stabilizing forces in gardening that can ground us when we are feeling shaky, uncertain and terrified. It's these predictable outcomes and predictable rhythms of the garden that are very comforting right now," Joel Flagler, a professor of plant biology at Rutgers University, told Agweek Magazine.

NWF.org: Seeds of Recovery

"WHEN JOEL FLAGLER TAKES ON new clients, many are dubious at first. "They haven't had gardening experience, and they're sure that any seed we give them won't grow," says the Rutgers University horticultural therapy professor. But as their seeds germinate and develop into thriving plants, "it demonstrates that a person’s actions can make a difference," he says. "Having success with plants, we find, can help our clients deal better with other issues in their lives," including cancer, strokes and addictions."

CNN: Gardening becomes healing with Horticultural Therapy

"The clients" are the caretakers, and that's an important role for people who are on the receiving end of medical care," said Joel Flagler, a professor of horticultural therapy at Rutgers University. Studies have found that horticultural therapy supports recovery and improves mood, resulting in shorter stays for many populations, such as mental health facilities and hospitals."

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"Gerbera daisies, bamboo palms and "dumb cane" or dieffenbachia, too, are among "the very best at enriching the indoor atmosphere and filtering out toxins, while also giving our brains a beautiful set of leaves to look at," says Joel Flagler, a registered horticultural therapist, Rutgers University professor and agricultural extension agent. "We do respond to the patterns and the presence of tropical plants as feel-good benefits." Some tropical varieties, like snake plants, have leaves that although visually striking, appear more blade-like than rounded and graceful."

"There's nothing like a flower in bloom, because the sheer aesthetic is so stimulating, beautiful and captivating," says Flagler, who grows orchids in his home and provides horticultural therapy to people in many settings. "Flowers can draw someone's attention, and provide a sense of wonder that really transcends their disability or pain."