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The Secret Garden

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HT - Horticultural Therapy Program

“Gardens are sanctuaries for sustenance, beauty and tranquility. They harmonise and heal us.

They build connections and community. Not only plants grow, people do to!

Gardening the soil and your soul.”

(Costa, ABC Gardening Australia)

The Secret Garden has successfully provided Horticultural Therapy programs for hundreds of participants for over twenty years. During this time the Garden has grown substantially in size, outputs and the people it connects to as a community. Under management now with North West Disability Services the Garden will embark on a new stage of its journey. The Secret Garden is in the process of moving to a new location on the UWS campus and will open a new Garden, Nursery and Cafe, with additional activities on the site being  Baby Animal Experience, Riding for Disabled, Mates Shed, Art Therapy, Music Appreciation and lots of other ongoing opportunities.

We have enjoyed the development of a New Program for Horticultural Therapy to adapt and grow with the new site.

The Secret Garden Horticultural Therapy Program will aim:

  • to provide diverse activities to enrich lives and inspire participants;
  • to provide a safe and accessible way to connect participants to their natural environment;
  • to share the benefits of growing plants for their beauty, taste, scent, textures and colours;
  • to provide a safe and friendly atmosphere for social interactions;
  • to empower participants to achieve projects and outcomes.

This Horticultural Therapy Program will be presented by trained horticultural staff, including horticultural therapists, from the North West Disability Service. The staff may choose from a diverse range of activities to connect people with plants. Horticultural therapy activities can involve active participation in garden activities from growing flowers, herbs and vegetables to even preparing arts and craft from natural materials.  The preferred activity will suit the physical ability and needs of participants. 

Gardening brings many benefits for our health. Each season brings new tastes, colour and visual delights providing lots of options for programming. From fiery autumn leaves, perfumed spring flowers, crisp winter vegetables to the cool greens of summer. The following seven activities are examples of how the program may be provided.

Program Activities

ACTIVITY 1 : Healthy Plant Care


Tailored to groups to choose from a range of different elements for Plant Care. For more physical groups this may involve planting trees or maintenance skills from compost making, mulching, weed removal, watering, pruning and raking. Gentle activities for some participants may include watering with small watering cans, removing spent flowers and assistance with raised garden beds.

Healthy soils = Healthy plants = Healthy people

ACTIVITY 2 : Growing Vegetables

Using raised beds, containers and the garden, groups can experience the different stages of growing fruit and vegetables. We will nurture the life in the soil with compost and mulch to create a healthy environment to grow plants from seeds and seedlings. Groups can help with harvesting and experience the benefits of growing healthy food. Making soups and meals from the vegetables grown demonstrates the full cycle of a produce garden and also builds an interest in cooking.

ACTIVITY 3 : Herbs & Scented Plants

A sensory journey as we explore ways with herbs, touching and smelling herbs, growing herbs, drying herbs, making gifts, tasting herbs and herb teas.

ACTIVITY 4 : Propagating Plants


Discover the fun of growing plants from leaf and stem cuttings. Enjoy potting new plants and learning ‘behind the scenes’ in plant nurseries. We will harvest and sow seeds and discover the joy of creating new plants! 

ACTIVITY 5 : Colour & Creativity

We explore different ways of combining colour.  Decorate pots, plant colour, make floral arrangements, craft items, mosaics and garden sculptures from nature.

‘Flowers don't worry about how they’re going to bloom.  They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful’ (quote by Jim Carrey)

ACTIVITY 6 : Well being naturally

Spend time in the garden to observe new shoots, flowers, birds, insects, aromas and the unfolding changes of the season. A chance for exercise, relaxation, fresh air.   Enjoy the  beauty of nature, the warmth of the sun, the earth, the wind, the water and space!

ACTIVITY 7 : Caring for Farmyard Animals

Meet the farmyard friends of The Secret Garden. A chance to be up close with these beautiful animals. Assist with feeding and watering the pigs, chickens, ducks, guinea pigs, goats, sheep and ponies.

‘There is a multitude of tactile and sensory opportunities that present themselves as we work the garden. Feeling the warm, moist soil in our hands, breathing in its earthy, rich scent, and anticipating its power to produce life - these are powerful experiences that have a positive impact on the body, mind, and spirit’ (quote by Elizabeth R. Messer Diehl).

The program can be adapted to individuals and small or large groups. We are always growing the number of participants. Each activity can be structured (as below) over 3 hrs, or a full day. Individuals or groups may move between activities while at the garden and could also participate in the many other activities that happen in a day. Ie Mates shed in the morning and then Horticulture Therapy in the afternoon.

The activity flows as follows :

  • Activity set up with tools and materials required
  • Risk assessment and safety guidelines are discussed
  • Group get together - discuss and plan the activity
  • Enjoy the active engagement in the activity with friends
  • Reflect on outcomes and achievements
  • Clean up tools and work area

Benefits of the proposed Horticultural Therapy Program

  • Grow self esteem and enhance social interactions
  • Reach personal goals in a relaxed outdoor environment
  • Opportunities to gain experience in a range of skills
  • Well being & health benefits connecting with nature

To maximize these benefits it is always important to create a safe and aesthetically pleasing space.

For further information on whats on at the garden or to organise a visit, please contact :

Kerry Carne on 9686 4155

Email :

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