Cultivating Wellness

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Toni SalterToni Salter
Activity co-ordinator & Registered Horticulturist
National Councillor, Australian Institute of Horticulture (2011-12)
Founder, Editor in Chief – Cultivating Wellness

Trading as The Veggie Lady, Toni has a passion to see organic principles adopted by everyone, encouraging people everywhere to grow organic produce whether it’s in their backyard, hospital rehabilitation centre, day programs for people with disabilities or even mental health and aged care facilities.

Toni has been teaching community education classes both privately, at her home, as well as through various community colleges and local councils around Sydney since 2003. She has also featured as a talk-back guest on ABC Radio helping gardeners solve their gardening problems organically.

Toni also spends her time running therapeutic gardening programs, developing sensory gardens through a number of organisations including AFFORD (Australian Foundation For Disability). She offers training on therapeutic gardening for staff, carers and volunteers working in mental health, disability, rehabilitation or community gardens.

Toni is lives in Sydney, Australia and writes a regular personal blog. She also offers guest contributions for supermodel Miranda Kerr’s Kora Organics and Ecomii. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tara Graham Cochrane Tara Graham Cochrane
Principal Landscape Architect / Urban Designer
Registered Landscape Architect (AILA)
Contributions: Landscape

Tara is a Landscape Architect and Urban Designer with over 10 years experience in landscape architecture and urban design within the private and public sectors of Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra.

Tara began the landscape architectural consultancy designwell in 2006 which currently has 6 staff across their Sydney and Adelaide offices. A leading designer and educator on healing and therapeutic landscapes, Tara is highly recommended by many health advisory bodies as a leader in her field of expertise.

Tara currently sits on the Australian Dementia Enabling Environments Panel (DEEP) and is the author of “Gardens That Care: Planning Outdoor Environments for People with Dementia”. She is also the President of Horticultural Therapy SA and a board member of the Horticultural Therapy Society of NSW.

Tara has a passion for designing educational, healing and therapeutic landscapes for aged care, healthcare and educational facilities. She also operates an online store called Connection2Nature which sells gardening tools and raised garden beds for people with limited mobility.

Steven WellsSteven Wells

Steven has successfully combined his nursing and horticulture careers, and currently works as a nurse, horticultural therapist and gardens and grounds project officer at a large public hospital in Melbourne.

He is also a garden designer and has created sensory and therapeutic gardens within hospitals. He is a keen gardener and is passionate about sharing the benefits of gardening and horticultural therapy.

Steven was awarded the ABC Gardening Australia’s “Gardener of the Year – 2012″ title, for his horticultural therapy work at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre, Melbourne.

Colleen PettifordColleen Pettiford, Florist
Contributions: Herbs a la Cart, Floristry

Colleen became a trained florist and worked as a business owner/manager in the flower and nursery industries for twenty years. During this time she had the opportunity to work on flower farms and in nurseries learning growing techniques for both glasshouse and outdoor conditions. This brought her the opportunity to create, grow and bring joy and happiness to many.

After leaving floristry, Colleen worked for as a Health Promotion coordinator with NSW Health for the next ten years. She was responsible for running Community Health campaigns, working with health professionals and educating the greater community in better health practices for their families.

She then established a garden design business creating and renovating outdoor spaces. This was the inspiration for her current invention and design of the Herbmobile, a two-tiered garden trolley on wheels, accessible for all.

Colleen’s interest in health began as a young person involved in competitive swimming. This was the start of her personal journey into health and wellbeing, which she still maintains today.

You can follow Colleen on Facebook and Twitter or visit her website.

Robyn MerrileesRobyn Merrilees

Robyn is a qualified Psychologist and Natural Health Practitioner with almost 25 years’ experience.  Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Graduate Diploma of Applied Psychology and a Diploma of Herbal Medicine.

When asked the question, Why do you choose to work the way you do healing with Natural methods, diets, and remedies, Robyn replied, “What first got me interested in diet and foods was the weight that I put on in my final years of High School.  In order to lose the weight I started looking at diet a lot more closely.  This started me on a path of pursuing natural health, natural foods and natural remedies, it influenced my decisions to study Natural Therapies and Psychology to heal myself and others holistically.  For those of you who are wondering, yes I have kept the weight off, even 30 years later.   I firmly believe in taking the challenges in life and using them to make you stronger and propel you to create a better you, to Cultivate Wellness.

When asked “What is the passion that drives you? Robyn responded

My life’s passion is to empower people to reach their full potential to be all they are created to be.  I believe in eating only the best fuel available for our bodies to maximize our bodies potential, and that is organic.  I eat a completely organic diet my s elf. My favourite quote about food is from Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food”

I am so excited to be able to contribute to this magazine Cultivating Wellness and look forward to sharing with you

Karen DempseyKaren Dempsey

Karen Dempsey is committed to seeing people overcome the obstacles that life puts in their way. As an Occupational Therapist she has helped children and adults adjust to disability and injury and loves nothing more than to see her clients regaining a sense of control over their lives and joy in living.

A fun and practical speaker she has presented at forums and seminars with lots of “How to” advise such as How to …  “Help my aging mum stay safe in her own home”,  “Maintain my Garden with Arthritic Hands” and “Adapt and survive when life been has turned upside down”

Karen has had her own practice in NZ for several years where she also helped establish a local Farmers Market. It was then that she began to meet wonderful crazy people who had a passion for fresh, local produce and gradually started to try her own hand at a vege patch (with varying levels of success.)

Karen can be contacted at

Brenda ParentBrenda Parent

As a National Consultant on Accessibility for over 20 years, Brenda Parent, an Incomplete Cervical Spinal Cord Injury Survivor and Master Gardener, is focusing her efforts to improving the accessibility within private and public gardens. Brenda is using her own gardening experience, reflected in her blog, to share the many issues she endures while working in her garden as a quadriplegic. Gardening is her passion.

Brenda will also reflect on how gardening has been therapeutic for her since her injury 28 years ago. She is sharing her travel experiences, good and bad, to both public and community gardens as well. Brenda’s goal is to take accessibility a step further by implementing greater access to gardens and plant materials for people with all types of disabilities.

Brenda has reviewed 100′s of parks for accessibility, and has been instrumental in all areas of public access. Brenda as a certified ADA Coordinator has been familiarized with the needs of people with various disabilities. Brenda’s disability also makes her aware of what gardening is really like for any individual with a weak grasp, and with mobility issues. Brenda is also growing older and understands the importance of maintaining independence as long as possible.

Because Brenda loves to get her hands dirty almost daily, Brenda will continue to write and share. “I feel as if I have something very worthwhile to say, and this reflection of my own personal experiences will be both resourceful and inspirational to many people.” Initially she thought that her blog would simply appeal to those gardeners with disabilities, or to those who are simply getting older. The reality is that anyone interested in gardening or garden design, no matter what age or with the presence of a disability or not, can learn something.

Brenda lives in South Carolina with her husband Kevin, 2 cats and one year old puppy, Jodie. Brenda is also the very proud mother of a son, Alexander, an officer in the US Navy. Brenda’s goal for the next year is to continually expand her knowledge regarding the therapeutic benefits of specific plant materials. “There is always something to learn!”

You can follow Brenda on Facebook or visit her blog.

Jane GroverJane Grover, Chef

Jane Grover is passionate about food & cooking it well with simple, healthy recipes that use wholefoods, preferably locally grown, in season, organic & biodynamic produce.

Jane is a qualified chef, having trained and worked in many top Sydney restaurants, she then retired from the restaurant kitchen to enjoy being a full time mum to her three children.

Jane began janeCOOKS in May 2009. It is her desire to see people educated and equipped to cook and eat well. Her passion and vision is to teach others, by providing healthy, practical and entertaining Cooking classes, inspiring others to cook from scratch and understand what is in the food you are eating. Jane also runs fun and inspiring Market Tours, introducing people to buying fresh produce and meeting the producers who grow it.

Jane writes a regular post on her Food & Travel blog NAKED FOOD, as well as doing various speaking engagements and expos, including very entertaining LIVE Cooking Shows. She is currently working on her first cookbook,
NAKED FOOD…the way food was meant to be!

Jane lives happily on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, with her husband Paul and their three teenage children.

Christine L. Kramer

Christine is the horticultural therapy program manager at the Horticultural Therapy Institute  (HTI) in Denver, Colorado. She co-founded the Institute in early 2002 and continues to offer accredited horticultural therapy education to students from across the U.S. and abroad. Previously, she worked as the program coordinator at the Denver Botanic Garden’s horticultural therapy program.

She has a BA in journalism from Metropolitan State University in Denver. She has written for numerous publications including: OT Weekly, Mountain Plain and Garden, Green Thumb News, People-Plant Connection, AHTA News, GrowthPoint, The Community Gardener, Health and Gardens, Colorado Gardener and Our Sunday Visitor. She is the editor of the HTI on-line newsletter Making Connections.  She was a reporter for the Denver Catholic Register newspaper for many years and has received writing awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Catholic Press Association and the Colorado Press Association.