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Stu­dents who par­tic­i­pated in the plant therapy session on Sept. 20 were able to make their own herb gardens. CRYSTAL SCHUPBACH | COLLEGIAN

In the green­house behind Hayden Park fields last Thursday, a handful of stu­dents took an hour out of the afternoon to plant herbs and refocus.

The ses­sions, which will occur once a month for the remainder of the semester, stem from a com­bined effort on the part of Hillsdale College Hor­ti­cul­turist Angie Girdham and Director of Health Ser­vices Brock Lutz to offer stu­dents a chance to step away from their studies and take part in the ther­a­peutic activity of gar­dening, according to Girdham.

Lutz explained that the idea to have plant therapy ses­sions has been in the works for a while, though this is the first semester it has been actu­alized.

“A couple of years ago Angie got cer­tified as a hor­ti­culture ther­apist, and had a couple ideas,” Lutz said. “She is the absolute driving force behind this and deserves all the credit.”

Though Thursday’s session was the first of its kind, Girdham’s use of planting as a sort of coping mech­anism is not a new tech­nique. Lutz explained that in the past he has sent stu­dents to Girdham who suffer with sea­sonal depression.

“She works with them by using visu­al­iza­tions, and that’s been really helpful,” Lutz said. “As you’re planting, you’re thinking of things you want to put into your life, and as you prune, you think about what you want to take out. It pairs well with what we do here at Hillsdale — encour­aging people to think about the soul.”

Though she has only offi­cially prac­ticed hor­ti­culture therapy in the past few years, Girdham said she has observed the calming effects of working with plants for years.

“I think I’ve wit­nessed it my entire career, and seeing how it affected the stu­dents I worked with really made me a believer. So when I had the oppor­tunity to expand this to more of the student body, I was really excited about making that happen,” Girdham said.

Girdham explained that plant therapy is a tech­nique used for addiction, post-trau­matic stress dis­order, and for pro­moting memory retention in the elderly. Since it is a rel­a­tively wide-ranging term, and the group is not in a clinical setting with mea­surable goals, it will be used more con­cep­tually, according to Girdham.

Thursday’s group planted herbs which rep­re­sented the stu­dents’ goals for the semester, each plant rep­re­senting an idea. Lutz described this as “sym­bolic.”

“Angie talked about the dif­ferent symbols that all the dif­ferent plants have, like thyme rep­re­senting courage, and mint rep­re­senting friendship,” Lutz said. “To me, it’s like how we wear crosses: it’s another reminder of things we want to be cog­nizant of. And it’s a great coping mech­anism to get out of your head and plant things, to have a little garden.”

Junior Danae Sollie said that despite being unsure about how the session would go, it was “nice to just plant some herbs.”

“We planted herbs in little flower pots. I just thought it was a very restful time, and a chance to do some­thing other than study: a good rest, a good break…I was kind of having a stressful day, so it was nice for that day,” Sollie said.

Girdham explained that even in rural Michigan, stu­dents can forget how much they need nature.

“We tend to get what’s called nature-deficit dis­order, or plant blindness, where we take a lot of what is around us for granted,” Girdham said. “It’s really important that all of us slow down and live in that moment and enjoy life, and not take it for granted.”

The three remaining ses­sions will be held Oct. 25, Nov. 19, and Dec. 10, and are on a sign-up basis. Inter­ested stu­dents can email agirdham@hillsdale.edu.