UF/IFAS horticulture therapy leader recognized as Outstanding Educator by FNGLA

The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association has named University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences lecturer Leah Diehl an Outstanding Educator award winner.

Diehl, an environmental horticulture department faculty member and the lead for the undergraduate program for horticultural therapy, was chosen among a group of highly qualified educators from across the state. She was chosen for her career-long impact on the horticultural industry and her focus on issues critical to the industry.

For example, as the lead of the therapeutic horticulture program at Wilmot Gardens at UF, her work has expanded to impact veterans, cancer patients, people with psychiatric illnesses, people with lower back pain and students experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety and depression, among others.

“I’m so honored. FNGLA is such an important presence in the state of Florida in the horticulture world, so for them to recognize that I’m doing something impactful with horticultural therapy, it means a lot,” Diehl said. “I’m not your typical horticulture educator, but they recognize the importance of what we’re doing and how it’s impacting people and their mental health.”

Ed Bravo, FNGLA former chapter president, said Diehl has been influential in UF’s horticultural therapy program since its early days. He’s been impressed by the impact her work has had on students as they navigated COVID-19 lockdowns and stress after the pandemic.

“What I admire about her is her results and her drive. This has been a unique route and a very different way of implementing horticulture, research and medicine all wrapped into one,” he said.

Diehl is a registered horticultural therapist and a licensed landscape architect who focuses on healing gardens and therapeutic design and programming. She began working in horticultural therapy in 1993, where she initiated a therapeutic, pre-vocational program in Chicago for people with physical and developmental disabilities. She also served as the editor-in-chief of Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, a peer-reviewed publication, for 15 years.

Her work was critical to the development of the Ben and Renee Bolusky Garden at Wilmot Botanical Gardens at UF, Bravo said.

Diehl’s work with the UF therapeutic horticulture program was boosted when the program received $474,604 in university strategic funding from UF President Ben Sasse to support the mental health of 80 students per semester.





The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.

ifas.ufl.edu  |  @UF_IFAS


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Posted: May 2, 2024

Category: Agribusiness, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS

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