New horticulture class shows mood-boosting power of plants

Posted 28 January 2021 at 9:29 am

Press Release, Katie Oakes, horticulture educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County

Photos courtesy of Cooperative Extension: Certified Horticulture Therapist Gerry Sherman will lead the introductory Zoom class “Horticulture as Therapy” on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.

KNOWLESVILLE – A new class series offered by Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension will guide participants through the basics of common horticultural subjects as well as provide a hands-on plant-based project intended to boost the spirits.

The “Horticulture for Mind and Body” class series will feature monthly educational classes that touch on the benefit of each topic to human health, basic educational groundwork of each topic, and a hands-on activity.

The series will launch on Wednesday, February 24th, with a general overview “Horticulture as Therapy” on Zoom by certified Horticulture Therapist Gerry Sherman of Hello Dahlia Horticulture.

The classes will continue once a month on Wednesday (in-person) or Thursday (virtual) evenings until the end of November. Topics include Indoor Greenspace, Herbs for Health and Well-being, Tremendous Trees, and more. Complete class descriptions, dates and times can be found on the Orleans County CCE website:

Research now backs up what many gardeners have known for centuries … it feels good to be around plants! Plants can have many benefits to human health and well-being, often with little input or effort by the human! Being around plants has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, increase creativity, happiness and self-esteem, and improve memory, attention span, and productivity (Journal of Environmental Horticulture, March 2019).

The effects of these benefits can be felt in natural greenspaces such as parks and forests, in landscaped environments like yards and gardens, or even indoors with the help of potted ornamental plants or natural décor.

Potted houseplants like this coffee plant brighten indoor spaces.

These benefits can be so important to human health, that they are regularly recommended to people across all demographics to combat the stress and strains of everyday life.  In fact, Cornell University launched its Nature Rx program in 2017, modeled after a similar program developed by a group of Washington DC doctors and the National Park Service.  The idea of these innovative programs is that spending time in nature can be an effective tool against a wide range of physical, psychological, and social maladies.  At Cornell, the Nature Rx program is a collaboration between university faculty, staff, students, and medical professionals where time in nature is actually prescribed to patients as a part of their treatment for various issues. Learn more about the Nature Rx program at

Horticulture Therapy is a blossoming field of therapy focusing on the use of horticulture (defined by Merriam Webster as “the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants) to improve physical and mental health.  This type of therapy is typically conducted in clinical settings by certified Horticultural Therapists.  But the benefits of using plants to feel good can be as informal as tending to a potted houseplant in your own home!

Plants can add color and cheer to an otherwise dull living space.

With that in mind, Orleans County CCE Horticulture Educator Katie Oakes designed a series of classes for the community with the focus on the mental and physical benefits of horticulture, especially important this year as the Covid 19 pandemic continues to impact people’s lives in numerous ways.

“We’ve seen such a surge in first-time gardeners over the past year, as more and more people are spending extra time at home, “ explained Oakes.  “It has also been documented that the pandemic has increased levels of stress, anxiety, and negative feelings in people of all ages.  I wanted to offer a program that addressed this shift in a fun and educational way.”

The class series will be offered both in-person (following all current NYS Covid-19 guidelines for gatherings) and virtually via Zoom, and the class fees will be on a sliding scale based on self-assessed payment ability (participants pay what they can afford).

Because each class will have materials included for the hands-on activity, class size will be limited, and pre-payment is required to offset the cost of supplies. These classes will be geared toward a wide range of ages (older children to the elderly) and abilities.

To register for these classes or to ask any horticulture related question, please call 585-798-4265 or email Katie Oakes at

Starting seeds at home is the hands-on activity for the Ready, Set, Grow class on May 19th and 20th.