New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher joined Department of Human Services Acting Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly for a tour of the horticulture program at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in Trenton.

Between eight and 26 patients participate in the horticultural vocational program, The New Leaf Gardeners, on a daily basis.  Secretary Fisher and Acting Commissioner Connolly visited a plant design class, toured the greenhouses and potting shed and viewed retail items available for purchase, including houseplants, seasonal floral arrangements and birdhouses.  In addition, they toured the hospital grounds to view areas that have benefitted from landscape design, installation and hardscaping projects.

“Growing and working in a garden provides many benefits to people, such as physical activity, concentration and a sense of accomplishment,” said Secretary Fisher.  “As a result of this program, there could be employment options for the participants in the nursery and greenhouse field.”

New Leaf Gardener workers receive three hours of education and three hours of paid work each week.  They assist with greenhouse operations and production, which might include preparing soils, watering plants, repotting plants, weeding and cultivating plants, maintaining the greenhouses and managing various outside gardens on the hospital grounds.  There is a floral design class and special projects that include interior plantscaping, hardscaping, landscape design and installation.

“The TPH horticulture program educates students and teaches practical skills used in the landscape and horticulture industry,” said Acting Commissioner Connolly.  “The main goal is to prepare students with job readiness skills and competencies to obtain entry level employment in the green industry.  The program encourages students to develop teamwork and critical thinking skills that are applicable to the horticulture industry and life.”

New Leaf Gardener vocational students propagate plants from seed and cuttings and plant them in flower beds, containers and pots.  These plants, floral arrangements, fresh produce and retail items are sold at the hospital’s main greenhouse on Sullivan Way in Trenton.