Tag Archives: succulents

A Gallery of Fun Fall Horticultural Activities

Check out this sampling of various garden related activities to do with your group this autumn. Take a look at a gallery of a variety of Cucurbit family members – pumpkins, squash, and gourds – and more fall activity ideas here.

Mini Blooming Pumpkins
Decorate mini pumpkins with dried everlasting flowers from the garden. Check out this tutorial on decorating mini pumpkins with dried flowers.

Pumpkin Planters
Carve open a pumpkin and plant your favorite cool season plants inside it. Transfer the plants to the garden when the pumpkin is finished. Check out this tutorial on planting your own pumpkin planters.pumpkin-planter_eatbreathegarden

Succulent Pumpkins
Looking for no-carve pumpkin decorating options? Embellish pumpkins with air plants (Tillandsia), bareroot succulents, preserved moss, pine cones, everlasting flowers, seed pods, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and more.Using hot glue or craft glue, apply a generous layer of glue on top of the pumpkin around the stem. Then add a layer of preserved moss on top of the glue. “Fluff” the moss to give it more dimension. Now your pumpkin has a moss toupee!Once the moss is secured in place, add the plant material on top. Here, we used a bareroot succulent. To do this, find your favorite potted succulent plant, like Echeveria, and cut its stem at the soil level, at the roots. Note: you may need to use your fingernail to scrape some of the soil away from around the base of the stem BEFORE cutting the stem. Or, purchase it already bareroot from your favorite florist or specialty garden center.  Apply craft glue around the leaves at the bottom of the plant, not on the stem, and nestle the succulent in place on the moss bed. Apply more succulents as your budget and supply permits. Later, the succulents can be gently removed from the pumpkin and transplanted outdoors or into containers.Start applying natural embellishments, such as wheat plumes, faux wooden flowers, and other materials, around the succulent to create the desired effect. Use other natural embellishments, like pine cones, dried magnolia cones, and preserved eucalyptus, to decorate the pumpkin. Note: when using material collected from the garden, I typically freeze the material in a paper bag in the freezer for a few weeks, just to make sure that there aren’t any insect critters crawling around.Incorporate whole star anise and cinnamon sticks. Check out more beautiful embellished pumpkins from a recent workshop below. Painted Pumpkins
Create unique pumpkin characters using a combination of paint and other creative supplies. Check out the troll… …Or the Pinocchio-inspired pumpkin… …Or the owl made out of construction paper, glue, and paint.

Halloween Planters
Have fun with Halloween-themed planters. Check out this planter with cactus growing out of a “skeleton…”  Or the decorative containers planted with succulents and embellished with a colored pebble mulch. Transplant the succulents outdoors at the appropriate time.

Tending the Garden
The garden is at the root of what we are all about. It is great to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air and cooler temperatures. Sow seeds for cool season veggies. Plant cool season plants like pansies and Swiss chard in the garden and in containers for garden display. Go on a leaf collecting scavenger hunt, and then press the leaves once indoors – use pressed leaves in other projects. Harvest everlasting flowers, acorns, and the last of warm season veggies from the garden.As they say…Happy Fall, Y’all!






Plant Adaptations: Metaphors for Overcoming Life’s Obstacles

Originally posted on the Horticultural Therapy Institute blog

Plants have acclimated to grow in all sorts of climates and growing conditions, whether they are cloud forests and rainforests or aquatic, alpine, or desert habitats. Native plants in these ecosystems have adapted to the soils, temperatures, precipitation, wind, and other unique conditions of their habitats. This is evidenced by their growth habits, methods of pollination and seed dispersal, and other plant characteristics.

Through in-depth examination and discussion of plant adaptations to their habitats, horticultural therapy clients can translate stories of plants’ resilience to personal experiences in challenging situations. Plant adaptations don’t happen overnight, and this perspective may help cultivate insight on current personal challenges. One might ask, “If a plant can grow, flower, and survive in a tough environment, I might be able to adjust and thrive despite the challenges of my own situation.”

One example of adaptation involves plants that grow in the hot, arid conditions of the desert. We may think of the desert environment as extreme and brutal, but the plants that live there have adapted to flourish in these conditions. Check out some of the ways in which desert-inhabiting plants have learned to survive despite the odds.


Many plants have thick succulent leaves, stems, and roots (which are often extensive root systems). These allow plants to soak up as much water as possible during infrequent periods of rainfall and store it for the dry spells. The plants then often conserve resources and expend less energy, resulting in slow growth habits. The slower they grow, the less food and energy is used.


Some desert plants have minimal to no leaves or shed leaves during times of drought so as not to use all the plant’s energy in sustaining a sizable leaf canopy. Despite having no leaves, cactus stems are able to conduct the process of photosynthesis. Ever notice how some cacti, like barrel cactus, have a “ribbing” on their stems? This acts like an elastic waistband, allowing the stem to swell as it absorbs water when it rains and shrink as it conservatively uses its resources during dry spells.


The “hair” on plants helps to shade the leaf surface and reduce water loss. Plus these hairs and thorns of plants make them much less palatable for animals to munch.


The waxy coating of leaves and stems also help to reduce water loss.


The leaf arrangement and growth habits of some plants help to efficiently manage exposure to the sun and elements.


Several flowering plants conserve energy by opening their blooms for a brief period at certain times of the day. Blooms open up at the time of day when their pollinators are most active and then are closed the rest of the day.

Examining plant adaptations with clients in therapeutic horticulture activities

To engage clients, research and make a list of your area’s growing conditions and native plants. Or, select a different ecosystem to study. This can be done either with clients or during pre-session preparation. Have living specimens, pressed plant material, and/or photos of native plants in their habitats available for client interaction. Discuss what qualities make them suitable for growing in this environment. Note how plants don’t all adapt in the same way – for example, some plants have thorns that are a visual and physical deterrent that keep them from being eaten by animals, while others contain poisonous compounds that make them undesirable. Encourage client discussion to similarly evaluate the characteristics of their own environments (the people, situations, culture, etc. in these surroundings) and identify personal adaptations and healthy coping strategies that can enable them to grow and thrive in these surroundings.

SucculentTrough_SusanMorganFor succulent plant activities, plant individual or group dish gardens or open terrariums with succulent plants that offer diverse characteristics. Encourage clients to select a favorite plant and explain what is interesting about it. Explore the senses by blending a special soil mix with sand and/or gravel, ideally suited for succulents. Add a creative flair with colored sand and aquarium gravel as a mulch. Repurpose objects, like colanders, old shoes, and strawberry jars, as planters for succulents. Use woodworking skills to craft wood scraps into planting troughs and then use a woodburning tool to etch inspirational phrases on the side (as shown in photo). (Note: use caution when working with thorny or caustic succulents and gravel and when using woodworking and woodburning tools.)


Missouri Botanical Garden, “Biology of Plants: Plant Adaptations.”

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, “How Plants Cope with the Desert Climate.”

National Park Service, “Plant Adaptations.”

Originally posted on the Horticultural Therapy Institute blog