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North Florida gardener teaches veterans how to grow roses as therapy

It's called horticulture therapy. Rose Garden Angels, a nonprofit, has been using this method for six years to help veterans with PTSD and trauma.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Stop and smell the roses. The Rose Garden Angels want veterans to learn how to plant them, too. 

The founder of the nonprofit, Pam Greenewald, says growing roses can teach people stress-management techniques, emotional balance and help their well-being through working with nature.

“It wasn’t actually growing the roses, the roses actually grew me," says Tayden Haile, a Navy veteran who was the first veteran to join the program six years ago. He still grows roses today. 

“Being in the military and going through the trauma that we go through, you kind of shut yourself off from the world," Haile said. "You kind of become guarded. This was my way of opening back up and giving my energy to something that would give me energy back.”

He’s from Orange Park. He served eight years in the military. Now he's sharing his story to a socially distanced group of gardeners at the Garden Club of Jax.

Greenewald is the founder of Rose Garden Angels and she’s also one of very few organic rose gardeners around the world.

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“Roses are healing," she says. “Veterans are so used to the killing. Learning to kill. Being trained to kill. This program is being trained to heal, for life.”

The program also gives them a source of income. The veterans bring back their blooming flowers to Greenewald at her nursery in Alachua County and she pays them. 

She also will sell them for wholesale and whatever money is made goes right back to the veterans. 

Growing roses is a process, but Greenewald says it is not as difficult as it looks. Haile says it takes kindness. What you put in is what you get out.

He now grows roses with his entire family, which includes seven adopted children. Haile says the rose therapy is helping is kids work through their trauma growing up in foster care. 

If you want to get involved or take part in the program, you can learn more at RoseGardenAngels.org.

The idea that nature is healing has been shown in many studies. 

Recently, a study by the University of Exeter found that if a person spends two hours a week in nature, it can positively affect their health and well-being. You can read more about the study and the benefits of being in nature here.

Learn more about other programs at the Garden Club of Jacksonville here. 

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