The vast majority or the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens volunteers are either seniors, youth-at-risk or people with disabilities. They provide over 90 percent of the physical labor for the project.
Horticultural therapy is using gardening as a mode of therapy. Whether it is watering, harvesting, planting or arranging a bouquet it can have a wonderfully therapeutic effect.
Unlike many other public gardens where the therapy is a defined project in a defined area, the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens finds therapeutic activities in everything that occurs. Because the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens has such a small staff it is very dependent upon its volunteers. The volunteers find themselves in therapeutic activities and the garden gets planted and maintained.
We view our Horticultural Therapy program as another aspect of our commitment to sustainability since 1977. The another definition of sustainability is: “to strengthen spirits or courage of; comfort, buoy up; encourage,” this is provided for in the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens volunteer program that includes participating senior, youth and handicapped individuals.
As volunteer Adele Beedie explained in January on a warm, beautiful day in the conservatory, “Being here refreshes my soul. You can actually see the spirits of our volunteers rise once they start working with plants and enjoying the camaraderie of other volunteers.” Volunteers also receive the benefits of horticultural therapy and the self-esteem building knowledge that they are adding to the quality of life in their community.
Horticultural Therapy adjusts to every age, ability or condition. It can focus on many needs. Whether there are developmental, fine motor coördination or problems arising from behavioral problems. At the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens you will see teens working off court imposed fines working with seniors along with those from the local sheltered workshop all gardening together. The work they do is never “make-work chores” but rather needed labor to help enhance the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens in every way.
Volunteers are also make friends across generations and differing backgrounds. As CBG volunteer, Pauline McCabe (97 years young), often said, “The people are so friendly here.” The volunteers create a sense of family among each other that is inclusive and can be felt in the ambience of the operation. One of the younger volunteers, 17-year-old Katie Schroeder comments, “Plants are like music, they just make you feel good.” It is certainly easy to see the spirits strengthening as everyone watches the flourishing of the seeds they have sown.
You will see people brimming with pride in their work in the gardens and with plants as they reaping the benefits of a harvest, transplanting or making a bed look beautiful.
The many youth that have been involved in the Gardens over the past many decades often come back to the staff as adults talking about what how valuable it was to experience work at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens.