Engaging Our Grounds – Int’l Green Schoolyard Conference

Berkeley Adventure Playground, Berkeley, CA. Photo by SharonDanks

Berkeley Adventure Playground, Berkeley, CA. Photo by SharonDanks

Engaging Our Grounds
2011 International Green Schoolyard Conference
September 16–18, 2011
Berkeley & San Francisco, California

I would so love to go to this conference.

The green schoolyard movement is growing rapidly and flourishing around the world.  Schools near and far are re-imagining their grounds, replacing their extensive paved surfaces with a vibrant mosaic of outdoor learning and play opportunities. Schools in many different countries are leaders in this field, finding innovative ways to weave curricula into their landscapes, diversify their recreational offerings, enhance their local ecology, and reflect their unique location and cultural context.

We are at the forefront of a new paradigm that blends education, ecology, and urban sustainability.  We invite you to join us and become an important part of this exciting movement by registering and supporting this ground-breaking event.

Participate in the first International Green Schoolyard Conference held in the United States—an exciting opportunity to learn about cutting edge schoolyards and school gardens, meet like-minded colleagues from around the world, share ideas, tour fantastic local school grounds (including the Berkeley Adventure Playground, pictured above), and get inspirational ideas for your own community.

Engaging Our Grounds will bring together leading green schoolyards practitioners from the United States and other countries to share the latest trends and innovations, case studies, best practices, and creative thinking in green schoolyard design, maintenance, curricula, advocacy, and funding partnerships. The conference will include a resource and networking fair, keynote presentations by visionary leaders of the school ground movement from Canada, England, Germany, Japan, and Sweden; tours of outstanding local school grounds; and networking time.

Learn more and register at www.greenschoolyards.org.

Thanks to Sharon Danks, conference organizer and author of the terrific new book Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation, for this information and these images.

Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo this month – Discounts for TLN members!

Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo healing garden. Image courtesy Hitchcock Design Group

Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo healing garden. Image courtesy Hitchcock Design Group

Just around the corner, with discounts for TLN members

Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo
September 20 – 22, 2011
Navy Pier, Chicago, IL

The Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo, now in its 24th year, is the original event that brings together the entire team who designs, plans, constructs and manages healthcare facilities.

This year, they will debut a Healing Garden located on the exhibit floor and created and sponsored by Hitchcock Design Group (members of the TLN’s Designers and Consultants Directory). Learn how these landscape architects are creating spaces that improve patient experience outside the building to enhance the healing process. Within this garden, a number of therapeutic elements make this space “healing.” Healing gardens benefit patients by improving medical outcomes, reducing stress and elevating the immune system. For more information visit www.hcarefacilities.com.

And we get special treatment! All Therapeutic Landscapes Network members, including anyone who joins the TLN between now and September 22, will receive a 20% discount on the full conference pass or a VIP ticket for a free pass to the Expo. VIP Tickets include admission on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 to the Keynote, the Exhibit Hall, Healing Garden, educational sessions in the Learning Lounge, and evening reception.

To join the TLN (membership is free, and you’ll receive our monthly newsletter), go to www.healinglandscapes.org/resources/newsletter.


Water Features in the Landscape – Please take our survey!

Detail, water feature at Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Naomi Sachs

In the last TLN Blog post about the upcoming annual ASLA Meeting and Expo, I mentioned an education session that Jack Carman, Clare Cooper Marcus and I will be giving, “Water in the Designed Landscape: Benefits, Precautions, and Recommendations.” Click HERE to link to the last post, with the blurb about our talk.

I also mentioned that I’m conducting a survey about water features. While the survey is geared toward designers and people in the healthcare field, it can be taken by anyone who has designed or has experience with water features. Private and public fountains, ponds, and water parks all have their benefits as well as their risks, and they all certainly need maintenance, which is a primary focus of the survey. The more respondents we have, the better our ability to impart information at the annual meeting and then, eventually, as more detailed research. Please pass this along to anyone (and everyone!) who you think would have something to say.

Here’s the survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/waterh2o.

Thanks so much!

Urn fountain at Wesley Woods Hospital of Emory Healthcare-Emory University. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Urn fountain at Wesley Woods Hospital of Emory Healthcare-Emory University. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Naomi Sachs

ASLA Meeting & Expo! Good stuff this year, and in San Diego.

Photo by Henry Domke, http://henrydomke.com

Photo by Henry Domke, www.henrydomke.com

Annual ASLA Meeting & Expo, San Diego, CA, 10/30-11/2/2011

The annual ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) Meeting & Expo is coming up fast, and I’m really looking forward to it. As with every year, several sessions focus or at least touch on restorative landscapes, and I’ll share those with you in this post. Lots of other good stuff, too – see the full program on the ASLA website. Advance deadline is 9/16, so hurry up and register.

The ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Professional Practice Network will hold its annual meeting on Monday from 11:00-12:30. This is the best way to meet colleagues involved in this kind of work. In fact, the TLN was born from one of those meetings (see History on our website)!

In addition, our group MAY be having another meeting before the meeting, as we did last year in Washington, D.C. As a group, we walked around various sites on the Mall related to restorative landscapes. It was a great success, and though San Diego is far more spread out, we hope to visit a couple key sites the day before the meeting.

Here are some of the education sessions I’ll be attending. I have to attend the first one, on Sunday, 1:30-3:00 because I’m speaking at it, with my wonderful colleagues Jack Carman and Clare Cooper Marcus.

“Water in the Designed Landscape: Benefits, Precautions, and Recommendations”

We know water is an important landscape design element and that people are naturally drawn to it. But how does it affect us and why? Presenters will explore current research and the theoretical and practical implications for water features in the landscape, particularly to maximize benefits and minimize risk.

Learn about theories of why and how water‚ natural and designed‚ contributes to making spaces restorative. Evaluate a specific study on human reaction to the sound of water and its design implications. Explore safety concerns involving water features, especially in healthcare settings, and the latest design and maintenance findings.


Wordless Wednesday, 8/17/11 – Wish Tree

Yoko Ono's "Wish Tree for Washington, DC." Photo by Naomi Sachs

"Wish Tree for Washington, DC" by Yoko Ono. Photo by Naomi Sachs

"Wish Tree for Washington, DC" by Yoko Ono. Photo by Naomi Sachs

"Wish Tree for Washington, DC" by Yoko Ono. Photo by Naomi Sachs


This year at Greenbuild! “The Human Connection: Landscapes that Promote Health and Well-Being.”

Gary Comer Youth Center Rooftop Garden, Chicago, IL. Image courtesy Hoerr Shaudt Landscape Architects

Gary Comer Youth Center Rooftop Garden, Chicago, IL. Image courtesy Hoerr Shaudt Landscape Architects

This year at Greenbuild (www.greenbuildexpo.org), Zolna Russell, Director of Sustainability at Hord Coplan Macht, Peter Schaudt, Principal at Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects and I (Naomi Sachs) will be presenting the Education Session “The Human Connection: Landscapes that Promote Health and Well-Being.” Competition for presentations was stiff – hundreds of proposals were submitted – and so it’s a testament to the growing interest in this field of restorative and therapeutic landscapes that our talk was chosen.

Greenbuild is in beautiful Toronto, Canada this year, from October 4-7. Early-bird registration ends MONDAY, so if you’re thinking about going, make that decision before Monday and save some money. Go to the Greenbuild site to register.

Here’s the blurb about our Education Session:

It is well known that humans benefit from exposure and connection to nature. LEED has acknowledged this and requires projects to create meaningful outdoor spaces. This seminar will explore the documented benefits of landscapes for health which are designed using evidence based design. Case studies of several landscape settings including healthcare, school environments and public spaces will demonstrate the principles and outcomes of evidence based design and specific characteristics which make projects successful.

We’ll be talking (on 10/5) about the characteristics, with examples and case studies, of restorative landscapes (any landscape, wild or designed, that facilitates health and well-being) and therapeutic gardens (a garden, in this case usually healthcare gardens, designed for a specific population and a specific site with a specific intended outcome). We’ll discuss restorative and therapeutic landscapes as addressed in the Green Guide for Healthcare, LEED for Healthcare, and SITES (the Sustainable Sites Initiative).

Our program was selected as one of Greenbuild’s “special sets,” which means we’ll have some sort of fancy stage set-up that facilitates more interaction with the audience and really shows off all of the beautiful images we’ll be showing. Should be fun!


Wordless Wednesday, 8/10/11 – Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Milkweed (Asclepius syriaca). Photo by Naomi Sachs

Milkweed (Asclepius syriaca). Photo by Naomi Sachs

It’s only fitting that we feature a photo of milkweed (this one is Asclepias syriaca) named by Carl Linneaus for the Greek god medicine and healing, Asclepius.

Son of Apollo and Coronis, father of five daughters: Hygia (“Hygiene”), Laso (“Medicine”), Aceso (“Healing”), Aglæa/Ægle (“Healthy glow), and Panacea (“Universal remedy”). The snake-entwined staff, often used as symbol in the medical world, is the rod of Asclepius.


Maintaining the healing garden – An essential design element

Photo by Naomi Sachs

Higher maintenance. Photo by Naomi Sachs

There’s gardening, and then there’s maintenance. Things have been so busy this year, and for the first time in my life, my garden has felt like a chore. I don’t have time to be in it – relaxing or gardening – and I barely have time to maintain it. Maintenance isn’t the sexiest of garden topics, but it’s part of life, so let’s talk about it.

As a designer, especially one who loves plants and gardening and who knows about the myriad benefits thereof, I used to be so disapproving when clients wanted a “low-maintenance” landscape. How boring! Nevertheless, I would try to sympathize and design accordingly. A low-maintenance landscape can still be beautiful and rewarding. For example, one Santa Fe client had a sweet little backyard but was not a gardener and was away about half the time, traveling for work. When she was home, she didn’t want to worry about weeding and pruning and deadheading and mowing; she wanted to sit in her garden with a cup of tea, or meditate under her favorite tree, or hang out with friends. She was very happy with the design, a xeric, “zen-like” garden.

"Sanctuary garden" designed by Naomi Sachs. Photo by Lee Anne White, www.leeannewhite.com

"Sanctuary garden" by Naomi Sachs. Photo by Lee Anne White, www.leeannewhite.com

In presentations on restorative landscapes, I talk a lot about stress reduction, and I do touch on maintenance. If you’re not a gardener, or if you don’t have time to garden, or if your climate doesn’t allow for gardening (think Texas in the summer), or you don’t have the budget to pay a gardener, a high-maintenance garden is going to cause more stress than joy. You don’t want to look out your window and think about out all the work that needs doing, or be sad when your plants die because they are not being tended to. Where’s the pleasure in that?

For private home healing or sanctuary gardens, you have to know yourself and your limitations (preferences, time, funds). Whether you’re designing and planting for yourself or hiring a designer and installers, be honest with yourself, and only bite off what you can chew.

Photo by Naomi Sachs

A mailbox at a home for people with dementia is a wonderful idea...as long as the roses are kept pruned! Photo by Naomi Sachs

And the same thing goes for gardens in healthcare facilities and other public spaces. There’s a garden nearby that was so beautiful when it was installed a few years ago. A very interesting design, with a rich variety of native plants, around a really cool building. But the organization that owns that property lacks the funding and the volunteers to maintain the landscape. It needs more TLC than it gets, and is no longer the best reflection of the organization.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful the design is, or how successful it would be in an ideal world. If it’s not maintained, it doesn’t serve the facility or the users of the space – the patients, clients, the visitors, the staff. Maintenance should always be budgeted in from the start, and a plan should be provided to the facility so that things can be kept looking good and working well. Having a horticultural therapist on staff certainly helps, as they work with patients in the garden and can really keep an eye on things. A good designer will know and understand the limitations and the strengths of the facility and design with that in mind.

There’s no such thing as no maintenance (and believe me, I’ve had requests!). But there’s a big range in how much a landscape needs to stay healthy and beautiful. If you keep in mind the reality of what can and cannot be done, the garden – for yourself or for clients – has the best chance of being a true source of healing and inspiration.

Note: We’ve been having a good discussion (http://lnkd.in/mfJzKu) on this topic in our Therapeutic Landscapes Network LinkedIn group. Come join us!

Wordless Wednesday, 8/3/11 – Black swallowtail butterfly

Black swallowtail on Echinacea purpurea (coneflower). Photo by Gary Wangler

Black swallowtail on Echinacea purpurea (coneflower). Photo by Gary Wangler

Gary Wangler, Horticulturist/Manager of Grounds Operations/Horticultural Therapist of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital took this photo at a State Park last week, where some of the hospital patients were enjoying a week-long summer camp. Thanks for the gorgeous image, Gary!

For another recent post about butterflies at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, click on the following blog title: http://www.healinglandscapes.org/blog/2011/06/butterfly-magic-st-louis-childrens-hospital-healing-garden/.


“From Motown to Growtown!” – Documentary ‘Urban Roots’ on farms, community gardens, and food justice in Detroit, MI

Urban Roots poster by Shepard Fairy, http://obeygiant.com/prints/urban-roots-a-new-documentary-by-tree-media

Urban Roots poster by Shepard Fairy

Last night I watched the excellent and inspiring documentary ‘Urban Roots‘ at the Horticultural Society of New York.  It’s a film about urban farmers, gardeners, and food and community activists who are taking over the hundreds (thousands?) of acres of vacant lots in Detroit, MI and making them into productive landscapes that address ecological and economic problems at the same time – in other words, healing Detroit by healing and cultivating the earth. Or as one young woman said, “turning Motown into Growtown!” And it’s happening elsewhere, too. For example, at the Healing Landscapes Sustainability Symposium in Cleveland, OH this past February, I learned of several similar projects in the Cleveland area, and even in my own city of Beacon, NY, we have the Green Teen program, which “empowers urban youth to be effective community change-agents by immersing them in the local food system” and the CSA (community-supported agriculture) Common Ground Farm.

What impressed me about the movement in Detroit is individuals working at a grass-roots level (no pun intended…) to solve deep economic, social, and environmental problems for themselves instead of waiting for someone to give them a hand and do it for them. In other words, self-determination.

Some of the projects and places in the film: Brother Nature Produce, D-Town Farms, Field of Dreams (FOOD), Grown in Detroit, Eastern Market, Farnsworth Community Garden, Elmhurst, and Earthworks Urban Farm.

At the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, we focus on gardens and landscapes in the healthcare setting and on research and evidence-based design, because no other organization is doing this kind of work on an interdisciplinary level. But our mission is to serve as a “knowledge base and gathering space about healing gardens, restorative landscapes, and other green spaces that promote health and well-being.” That means any landscape, wild or designed, urban or suburban or rural, large or small, that facilitates health. And preferably the health of not just humans but animals and the planet as a whole.

For information on these broader topics, visit our website’s Other Healing Landscapes section. We’re still adding to this, but right now we have pages on community gardens, gardens in prisons, and memorial gardens. Input and suggestions are always welcome.

Thanks to the Horticultural Society of New York for screening the film, to Mark McInnis for making the film, and most of all, to the people of Detroit for their inspiring work. Keep on growing!