Delaware Valley University Faculty Member Nancy Minich Recognized for Landscape Design Work

Credit: Delaware Valley University. Nancy Minich (left) working with Pine Run residents to plant a raised bed garden.

May 01, 2019

Nancy Minich, a registered horticultural therapist who teaches Delaware Valley University’s horticultural therapy certificate program, was recently recognized in her field. Minich was published in a textbook, "The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy." A local park she designed also recently won a 2019 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.

Minich’s textbook article, “A Healing Garden for Adults with a Range of Intellectual Disabilities and Autism,” discusses a real-world application of horticultural therapy. In the article, Minich details the process of designing a healing garden in Bucks County for people with disabilities. After observing the positive impact of nature on the agitation and stress of local residents with intellectual disabilities and autism, Minich applied for and obtained a grant to fund the project. Her goal was to create a natural space that would help reduce stress for people with autism and intellectual disabilities. 

She worked with clients at Peaceful Living, a nonprofit that serves individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities, on the project. Working on the garden allowed clients to connect with nature and gain the benefits that engaging with plants and nature can provide. 

The project allowed Minich to create an effective horticultural therapy program for adults with autism and intellectual disabilities in the region; develop a manual of horticultural therapy activities for use by others who wish to implement similar programs; and train others, specifically horticultural therapy interns. 

“The garden provides clients with sensory stimulation from the colors, scents, textures, and sounds from the rustling of the surrounding trees, shrubs, birds, and insects visiting the garden,” said Minich. “For the individuals who came weekly to the Garden Club, constructing the garden helped alleviate anxiety through the physical activity such as using a wheelbarrow and spreading gravel for drainage. Working on the garden helped with self-esteem and provided engaging leisure time. Clients had the opportunity to experience completing tasks, improving socialization skills by working cooperatively, and improving gross and fine motor skills by repetitive planting and watering.”

Minich said the healing garden continues to be a restorative space for the individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities who partake in various horticultural therapy activities in that garden most of the year. She also gave DelVal students the chance to be a part of creating the garden, which provided real-world, hands-on experience for students studying horticultural therapy. 

Recently, a park Minich designed in Newtown, Pennsylvania won a 2019 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. The project helped to stabilize the banks for the Newtown Creek. Minich partnered with the Newtown Creek Coalition to address environmental concerns with the design. The Newtown Common project is a Newtown Borough park. It was designed with solar lights, sitting areas of porous paving, and a bike rack along the Newtown Creek. The park design incorporates native plants, trees, shrubs and herbs.

Learn more about the horticultural therapy certificate program at Delaware Valley University.