For Individuals Living with Alzheimer's

Fairchild's Plants and People Horticultural Therapy Program for Individuals Living with Alzheimer's

Fairchild's Plants and People Horticultural Therapy Program encourages people living with Alzheimer's and their caregivers to interact with the garden in an enjoyable and relaxing way.  Fairchild's Plants and People Program unearths a world of experiences for people living with Alzheimer's.

If you or your loved one is living with Alzheimer's, please join us for a wonderful experience at Fairchild. The Plants and People Program connects you or your loved one with the beauty of the garden including the scent of allspice leaves, blooming flowering trees, birds, butterflies and much more while enjoying a guided tour of the garden and a delicious lunch. The program starts at 11:00 a.m. on the dates listed below.

Upcoming Dates:

Monday, January 12, 2015
Monday, February 2, 2015
Monday, February 23, 2015
Monday, March 2, 2015
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Monday, April 6, 2015
Saturday, April 25, 2015

A delicious lunch is offered to participants and their caregivers, and it is our pleasure to offer this program and lunch free of charge.  

Registration is requested at least one week in advance of each offering. RSVP for the Plants and People Program by calling 305.667.1651, ext. 3388. Early registration is encouraged as there is limited seating.

For more information, please call 305.667.1651, ext. 3328 or

Support is generously provided by Lin Lougheed, the Aaron I. Fleischman Foundation, and the Alzheimer’s Association. 

24/7 Alzheimer’s helpline: 1.800.272.3900 

Summaries of Past Events by Patty Kelly, Director of Admissions and Guest Relations

Monday, November 28, 2011
26 guests and 7 volunteers attended the program. The day began with guests enjoying a delicious lunch catered by Creative Tastes. Volunteers and staff enjoyed talking with guests over lunch.

Following lunch, Ted Weiss drove the tram tour for the group narrated by Bob Petzinger and Carl Bauer. Guests were pleasantly surprised during their introduction to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s history learning of the introduction of mangos and nectarines into the U.S. by David Fairchild. The guests became bright eyed looking at trees of unusual color, enjoyed the spicy smell of various plants and trees, and there were oohs and aahs at the overly large roses, bugs, and bees. The participants expressed such kindness and gratitude at the opportunity to visit the garden.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

26 guests and 6 volunteers attended the program. Guests enjoyed a catered lunch by Creative Tastes with the volunteers and staff visiting with them during the luncheon.

Ted Weiss drove the tram while Bob Petzinger partnered with Carl Bauer to narrate throughout the garden providing specific information on colorful trees, fragrant leaf samples, commonly known names of the plants and trees, and explained the iconic sculptures of Will Ryman. Guests were pleasantly awakened to the bright rose colors and placements throughout the garden. Such gratitude was given for the pleasant day of experiences as well as for the care given by the volunteers and staff.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Participants: 38

Tram Tour Synopsis

  • Excited about the Rainbow Tree.
  • Really like the yellow rose
  • The bumble bee by Madagascar
  • They passed the Star fruit around and love the smell
  • Baobab tree and how big it is
  • Thought the sausage tree was neat and funny

Monday, January 23, 2012

Participants: 37

Tram Tour Synopsis

  • There is talk about the colors of the Rainbow Tree and how beautiful it is.
  • The Allspice Tree, they were intrigued by the nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon smell of the leaves.
  • Said they had never seen such large ants and were very glad the ants are not real.
  • One participant ate a slice of the star fruit demonstration and enjoyed it.
  • They comment on the baobab tree base comparing it to the foot of an elephant. Everyone laughs at the dead rat tree comment from Bob.
  • Gasp at the red rose.
  • Everyone gets a giggle at the colorful Agama-agama wiggling near the palms.
  • They liked the bright red color of the cycad cones
  • Amazed that animal crackers can be made from native cycads.
  • Care-taker is glad that the tour is different than the last tour and she learned different facts during this tour.
  • Laughs from Bob’s comment about the tree they like to refer to as the tourist tree, its trunks are red like a sun burned tourist.
  • Bay rum leaves, comments about the lovely rum smell

Saturday, February 11, 2012

36 guests were signed in by Marie Pappas, Volunteer. Jackie Rudd, Volunteer and Alexis Smith, VS Associate decorated the luncheon tables beautifully with bamboo pieces, bright bougainvillea, and ferns. Guests enjoyed a catered lunch by Creative Tastes. Volunteers Jackie Rudd, Carl Bauer, Marie Pappas, Bari Laakman, Bob Petzinger, and Ted Weiss hosted along with VS staff Patty Kelly, Alexis Smith and Kasha Abbott during the luncheon. Following lunch, Ted Weiss drove the tram for the group while Bob Petzinger provided narration during the tour. Carl Bauer presented information at different stopping points - the Carambola was a big hit! Sliced and presented, the star fruit was new to most of the guests.

Guests called out the names of plants that they recalled. There was pointing and “look” at the unusual arid plants. Bright orange of the flame vine turned heads to the Vine Pergola. The “tourist tee” story of the Gumbo limbo brought laughs as did the “Petticoat” palm. “That’s a ginger?” was an exclamation heard from one of the guests, before “oh, is that alligator really alive?” when one was spotted on the north bank of Center Lake.

The families were so appreciative. Everyone gave their heartfelt expression of joy at being in the Garden. The Volunteers and VS Staff enjoyed the whole experience.

Monday, February 27, 2012

25 Program Guests, Volunteers Bari Laakman, Jackie Rudd, Ann McMullan, Nazy Given, Danielle Strickman decorated the luncheon tables and assisted John Soliday, Carl Bauer, Bob Petzinger, Ted Weiss with hosting the attendees. The colorfully striped tables were enhanced with bamboo pieces, bright bougainvillea, and ferns. Creative Tastes provided sandwiches, salad, dessert and drinks. VS staff Patty Kelly and Kasha Abbott during the luncheon.

Following lunch, Ted Weiss drove the tram for the group while Bob Petzinger provided narration during the tour. At the beginning of the tour it was easy to see that “Cat’s Whiskers” were familiar to most. Carl Bauer presented information at different stopping points – the chenille passed among the guests brought awed reactions like “it’s so thick,” “it almost feels artificial.” The sweet almond bush was beautiful; a guest said “I could smell it before I saw it.’ The star fruit/carambola was a big hit, but Carl’s talk at Cycad Circle captivated the group as he had “Animal Crackers” in his hand as he talked about the coontie and arrowroot starch.

One guest, Ken, was quite the photographer. He captured “Icon,” the rose tower beautifully. He really was in his element when he was able to get Bob and Carl showing off the fruits and special plants they took time to explain to the group. Though he couldn’t capture it on a photo, Ken got a big kick out of the agama agama lizard from Africa because it moved so fast. He said if he is able to make a slide show of his pictures he will e-mail it to us. Murray said, “loved seeing the big blue-grey bird (great blue heron) and added with a sly smile “maybe I’ll have him for dinner.” He laughed and added, “there’s nothing like a sense of humor to keep me young.”

Caregivers were so happy enjoying the event. They really relaxed as the tour progressed. They expressed pure joy at being in the garden. Guests and caregivers alike said, “I want to come back. There’s more to see on foot.”

Fulfilled by assisting others, happy to provide support, the Volunteers and VS Staff had a truly successful time in the garden.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Seven groups attended with 40 participants; Jackie Rudd set up and hosted the luncheon area with the assistance of Gloria Greene. The tram team joined in conversation with the participants during lunch. Ted Weiss drove, Bob Petzinger and Carl Bauer provided an excellent narrative of the plants and sculptures of the garden during the tram tour of the garden which lasted over an hour. Visitor Services Director Patty Kelly and Visitor Services Assistants Mike Parages and Kasha Abbott provided coordination and aid to the group throughout their visit.

Some of the participants had come before and found many new things which surprised and delighted them. Will Ryman's yellow rose sculpture received WOWs but really startled one into saying "that's not a REAL one." Which brought laughs of delight to the others around. There was a group of men and women from the VA care center who had served in World War II. After Bob had explained about the Kapok tree, a man explained the kapok trees were around his POW camp. He had been in the camp for three years. He continued to say, "The trees were strung with barbed wire to keep the men in the camp; it didn't hurt the trees any, they grew just fine." The cycad cones were noticed to not have the orange color one visitor remembered. After the tour many of the more able bodied participants walked to the rainforest to see the orchids. The day ended with a surprise visit by a small alligator on the far side of Pandanus Lake to the delight of our departing guests.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The morning began with an exuberant group of our Volunteers. Bari Laakman was the first to arrive to help Patty Kelly set up the room. Jackie Rudd, Gloria Green, Nazy Given and Ann McMullan all assisted in putting the final touches on the Visitor Center Ballroom and the girls were joined by the gentlemen, Bob Petzinger and Carl Bauer to sit and visit with the guests and their caregivers. The tables were covered with brightly patterned table cloths and bamboo and a few of the currently blooming flowers were placed on the table. The menu was lovingly planned and Creative Tastes did an exemplary job in preparing and helping to set up the buffet.

The guests were as excited as kids waiting for the tram to depart and brought their own sound effects after the first turn when we asked them to check out the first of the Will Ryman Rose Sculptures, “Origin”. The interactive part of the tour took off with a bang…Bob Petzinger grabbed a small stem from the Jade Vine and the oohs and aaahhhs were heard from the front to the back as it was passed around.

The Spiny Forest of Madagascar with all the blooms prompted another wave of comments…like “ouch” and “that would hurt” and then we stopped for the Will Ryman Bee! It seems they know it’s not real but said they were “really scared” and “does it fly”?

When we got to the Rainforest, it seemed like the group were all in sync announcing that it was ‘dark and cold’! “It’s so peaceful” was also heard. Surprisingly, there were lots of questions about the Science Village construction!

When we got to Cycad Circle we had another opportunity to have an interactive moment when Carl Bauer took the stage and shared the info amusing tid bit about cycads being main ingredient of animal crackers.

We realized that many of the folks have gardens of their own and the chatter picked up when we arrived at the Edible Garden. They really chuckled when we talked about the mangosteen, the star fruit, and the sapodilla and remembered that they too have edible gardens.

When we arrived in the lowlands, we were getting signs of the recognition about the heliconias, bamboo, and the mesquite…amazement when we stopped at the sausage tree and they asked if they could eat it. The real thrill was when we turned the corner and headed south again. Everybody was treated to a surprise! A bevy of birds, turns out they were terns, were swooping and taunting a crocodile and the crowd howled. Very exciting!

When we got to the Pandanus collection, the jelly beans came out, another part of the interactive tour, and the hoots and hollers were infectious.

All of the volunteers were heroes. They love giving back and it shows. Everyone thanked us, took the time to thank Bob and Carl and the girls personally and the day was not only perfect in weather but perfect in the joy to be in the garden.


                     View a photo gallery here                                   Read letters of appreciation for the program

                     View a video on the program here                     

The first ever Plants and People-an Interactive Garden group photo.