This week I’m chatting with New England-based horticultural therapist and master gardener, Erik Keller, who is also the author of the book A Therapist’s Garden: Using Plants to Revitalise Your Spirit.
Over 20 years, Erik has worked with thousands of people of all ages and types, using horticulture and therapeutic techniques to help them deal with physical, emotional and mental challenges. Erik talks about using an outdoor space as a place for therapy and learning and about the downs and ups of bringing horticulture into peoples’ lives as a way to heal.
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What we cover
Erik’s background in therapeutic gardening
The most therapeutic and stimulating plant scents for people to work with
How plants spark memories
Establishing a connection between growing and eating plants
Techniques to stop attention wandering whilst completing a task
Techniques you use if people are exhibiting undesirable behaviour
Lesson planning and being flexible during gardening sessions
Using your garden year round
How seasonal changes can help garden users deal with their personal issues and relate to the garden
About A Therapist’s Garden: Using Plants to Revitalise Your Spirit
The Zen of mixing mud with seniors; crafting surprising salads out of weeds; and a hidden rabbit bringing joy to girls in a juvenile detention center. These are a few of the nearly 100 stories that Erik Keller takes readers on through a journey of how interacting with plants and nature can help heal mental, emotional, and physical trauma. Through the lens of January to December in a New England landscape, discover how horticultural therapy improves the lives of those in pain including special-needs children, cancer patients, and disabled seniors.
A Therapist’s Garden is unique in portraying how gardening, nature-based arts, plants and horticulture can revitalize the spirit of people. It encompasses over 20 years of experiences seeing the healing power of horticultural therapy. Its themes and subject material are universal in interest as different portions of this book apply to nearly anyone who likes plants or to garden, both booming activities today, as well as therapists who will find the approach interesting and of use to their client bases.
About Erik Keller
Over the last 20 years, Erik Keller has worked with thousands of people of all ages and types using horticulture and therapeutic techniques to help them deal with physical, cognitive, social and emotional challenges. Venues have ranged from special-needs schools, to prisons, to nursing facilities to private homes. Certifications from the University of Connecticut as a Master Gardener in 2000 and the New York Botanical Garden in Horticultural Therapy in 2009 has given Keller a strong base of knowledge from which he has been able to help his clients. He is a member of the American Horticultural Therapy Association, the Northeast Horticultural Therapy Network as well as the Connecticut Master Gardeners Association. He writes extensively about the healing power of horticultural therapy on a variety of social media platforms and on his website www.grohappy.com.
For over a decade, Keller has been running a twice-monthly horticultural therapy (HT) program at Ann’s Place, a not-for-profit facility helping those with cancer located in Danbury, CT. Since the emergence of COVID-19, Keller has developed a wide variety of virtual and hybrid HT sessions for clients. He also manages and maintains the grounds at Ann’s Place, which he designed over a decade ago to accommodate therapeutic needs of the client base.
Keller is also a commissioner for the Ridgefield Conservation Commission, which manages and maintains over 5,800 acres of open space in Ridgefield, CT. In the past, he has run horticultural therapy programs at senior living and nursing facilities as well as run programs at Green Chimneys, a school for special-needs children in Brewster, NY.
Earlier in Keller’s career, he spent a decade as a journalist and editor for a variety of technology- focused trade publications, a decade as a Research Fellow at Gartner, Stamford, CT (the leading technology advisory firm in the world), and another decade as a management consultant with his own firm. During that time he received many awards for editorial, writing and analytical excellence. He also wrote a well-received book for the technology community called Technology Paradise Lost (Manning Publications) in 2004.
Keller graduated from State University of New York at Stony Brook with a Bachelor’s of Engineering degree as well as minored in English and Journalism. While at Stony Brook, he won the University’s Martin Buskin Memorial Scholarship for Journalism.