A Way Forward –Horticultural Therapy at Hong Kong Flower Show
Fung, Connie Yuen Yee, HTR RSW
President,Hong Kong Association of Therapeutic Horticulture


In Hong Kong, Horticultural Therapy is a new emerging profession. With three years’ development, horticultural therapy is now applying in various health care and social service settings. Service users include students, elderly, persons with physical & cognitive impairment and so on. Apart from therapeutic groups & projects, therapeutic landscape design is an area for development.

Hong Kong Flower Show is a popular event in Hong Kong each year. In 2008, it has been held from 14 – 24 March at Victoria Park. More than 200 organizations from 21 countries participated at the flowers and landscape display. There were over 548,000 visitors.

The theme of Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden display 2008 was “Horticultural Therapy”. To be the first and the only horticultural therapist registered with American Horticultural Therapy Association in Hong Kong, I actively participated in the project. We started from concept and finished with wonderful accomplishment.

Conceptual Framework
Horticultural therapy is client-centered and emphasizes participation. Therapeutic landscape is the hardware and therapeutic programs are software. Basically, participants can feel in the therapeutic landscape and participate in therapeutic programs. These are the “being” & “doing” parts of horticultural therapy.
Based on these concepts, the goals of the display were:

To demonstrate the essential elements of therapeutic landscape.
To demonstrate therapeutic programs for different targets.
To promote horticultural therapy.
Special characteristic of the display is interactive and experiential.

Therapeutic Landscape Design

The design is guided with the universal design principles. Accessibility is a key consideration. Features include accessible entrance, hard paving, handrail, signage, wheelchair accessible and gentle graded path.
There were four thematic areas for therapeutic landscape display: Sensory Walk, Meditation Corner, Horticultural Therapy Program Site, Raised Planters with Adaptive Tools.

1. Sensory Walk
Sensory Walk provided a wide range of plants and landscape. We can enjoy through the use of one’s senses and interaction with plants. It exhibits the positive relationship between people and plants. It is especially beneficial for those with visual impairment, dementia, cognitive impairment and depressive mood.
The Walk was designed in a meandering path with handrail. All plants can be reached in a seating position. Participants can touch, rub, smell and see.

The following is a list of plants for sensory stimulation.


Brassica oleracea, Helianthus annuus, Rhaphiolepis indica, Loropetalum chinense, Rhododendron pulchrum, Tropaeolum majus, Viola tricolor, Pelargonium hortorum, Antirrhinum majus, Calendula officinalis and…..


Asparagus densiflorus, Stachys byzantine, Senecio cineraria,
Kalanchoe tomentosa baker, Artemisia schmidtiana “Nana”,
Selaginella uncinata, Dichondra argentea, Pogostemon cablin and……


Osmanthus foagoans, Lavendula spp., Michelia figo, Melissa officinalis,
Mentha spicata, Thymus vulgaris, Rosemarinus officinalis and……


Pennisetum purpureum, Rhapis excelsa, Disporum cantoniense,
Cymbpogon citratus and …..


Borago officinalis, Strawberry, Eggplants cloud nine,Tomato, Chives,
Passiflora edulis sims, Lettuce and ……

2. Meditation Corner
Nature employs the mind without fatigue but tranquilizes it. One of the founders of modern landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmstead, supported that contact with nature is beneficial to psychological and physiological health. Gardens can benefit participants in the following areas:
– Sense of control: temporary escape, access to privacy.
– Social support: among participants, family, staff…
– Physical movement & exercise: mild exertion, physical rehabilitation.
– Natural distraction: plants, flowers, water, nature sounds, wildlife.
The essence of the design of the Meditation Corner includes simplicity, serenity and comfort. Features are trellis, benches, lawn and water feature. Cool color was adopted for calming effects. Lavendula spp. and Senecio cineraria were thematic vegetation.

3. Horticultural Therapy Program Site
Horticultural Therapy Program Site lets clients participate and experience horticultural therapy activities. It is the “doing” part of horticultural therapy. Facilities include an accessible environment, hard paving, firm and movable tables and chairs, shade areas, tool shed, vertical planters, containers, and water source. Horticultural therapeutic programs were demonstrated at the site during the Flower Show.
4. Raised Planters with Adaptive Tools
Most planting worked at ground level. However, it may be difficult for those disabled and elderly to bend and reach for ground level plantings. Raised planters, containers and vertical planters can solve these problems. Participants can sit or lean on raised planters to do planting in a comfortable position.

For persons with physical disabilities, they may also experience difficulties in using conventional full-size gardening tools. Horticultural therapist can facilitate their participation through task analysis and program modification. Adaptive tools may be another alternative to engage them in horticultural therapy activities. Characteristics of these tools are ergonomic design, light-weight, easy grip and non-slip handle, endurable and easy to identify.

In the display, we had two raised planters with different height, planter for wheelchair, vertical planters and containers. Special designed towels and cultivators were placed at the raised planters for visitors to try.

Demonstrations of Horticultural Therapeutic Activities

I conducted four sessions of horticultural therapeutic activities at the display.

1. HT groups for elementary school students

Target of one group was students and their parents. They made dried flower picture together. Another group was seed collection and to make seed packets.

2. HT groups for high school students

Two groups were implemented. One was to press flowers and to make pressed flower picture. Another group was scheduled to make plant arrangement.

3. HT groups for elderly

Totally, two sessions were conducted for elderly living in community and those living in elderly home respectively. For community-dwelling elderly, focus was on enhancing their quality of life. They made plant arrangement – succulent & herb.
For elderly living in residential home, we had two activities:

Cognitive training: seed sowing & transplanting lettuce seedling
Life education: coleus cutting & planting.

Volunteers played a significant role for the success of the display. They are responsible for introducing display features and promoting horticultural therapy. There were totally 32 volunteers recruited from previous horticultural therapy elementary certificate courses. Majority of them are professionals.
For this display, we had two training workshops, one on-site briefing session and an evaluation session.


Volunteers for the display

A Way Forward

It is very encouraging that the display got an award — “Hong Kong Flower Show Grand Award For Design Excellence (Landscape Display)—Local”.

The display is a good step for the development of horticultural therapy in Hong Kong & China. There is still a long journey for horticultural therapy to flourish. But I believe: “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”John Kennedy


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Hong Kong Flower Show 2008. Retrieved on 24 April 2008 from http://www.lcsd.gov.hk