Wordless Wednesday, 12/15/10: Winter stream

Winter at Hiddenbrooke, Beacon, NY. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Bundle up! Don’t let the cold stop you, get outside and play.

I just stumbled across this article, “Going outside—even in the cold—improves memory, attention,” that the TKF Foundation posted on their Facebook page, which is so timely given a conversation I had this morning.

I was talking with a friend about the importance of outdoor play for children (well, for all of us, but this conversation was about kids). We live in New York in the Hudson Valley, where it gets cold in the winter. It has been getting cold here in the winter for a long time (and I’m talking geological time), and yet last week, his son’s school barred students from going out during recess because “it was too cold.” It was 30 degrees out. Um, hello-o, that’s barely above freezing. People upstate, like in Buffalo, not to mention North Dakota, would just laugh.

A couple of months ago, another parent told me that her son’s school was using recess – or the withholding of it – as punishment. Misbehave and you don’t get to go out at lunchtime. This is like trying to put out a big fire by giving it more oxygen. Kids need exercise. They need to blow off steam. They need unstructured play. They need to socialize outside of the classroom.

This is, sadly, a common problem, which is why the Children & Nature Network and lots of other wonderful organizations have sprung up in recent years (for a partial list, see the Therapeutic Landscapes Network’s Get Out and Play! page). Access to nature – for play, for fresh air and exercise, for a sense of wonder, for growing the next generation of stewards – is critical, and we need to keep fighting for it. So here’s some ammunition for our fight:

The Case of Elementary School Recess by the U.S. Affiliate of the International Play Association.

Several studies by Frances Kuo and Andrea Faber Taylor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Landscape and Human Health Lab have proven the benefits of “doses” of nature for kids, including those with ADHD. For a good summary, click on this link:, and also “Children with ADHD Benefit from Time Outdoors Enjoying Nature.” Here are the actual citations:

Coping with ADD: The surprising connection to green play settings.” Andrea Faber Taylor, A., Frances Kuo, & W.C. Sullivan, (2001).  Environment and Behavior, 33(1), 54-77.


Books for Inspiration with a Healing Garden Theme

Healing garden books for inspiration

I’m forgoing Wordless Wednesday today in a big way since the number of shopping days until Christmas is dwindling fast. If you’re still looking for the perfect gift for someone special (including yourself) and you can’t get everything you need from the TLN store, here are some recommendations for beautiful books with a healing garden theme.

These are all books that I own and refer to again and again for inspiration when designing and consulting about healing gardens (including my own). There are more academic and educational books out there, which are listed on the TLN’s References page. Our “If You Only Read Five” page, which lists books in categories (inspiration, evidence-based design, horticultural therapy, specific populations, etc.), is still a work in progress, but look for updates this spring.

The books in this list are sure to inspire you and your giftees to create spaces that are truly nurturing to body and soul. And as a bonus, when you buy from all of the Amazon links on this post, you’ll be nurturing the Therapeutic Landscapes Network as well. Through the Amazon Associates program, the TLN receives a percentage of each book sale. This is true for Amazon purchase at any time of the year, so please bookmark the link and use it when you shop there. Of course, if you can find the books locally, all the better.

Our Shadow GardenI just discovered this sweet, sweet children’s book, Our Shadow Garden, by Cherie Foster Colburn. Illustrated by young patients at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, it’s about a girl who creates a garden for her grandmother: When a beloved grandmother becomes ill and is no longer able to be in the sun, her granddaughter is inspired to create a garden for her she can enjoy. She and Poppa work together in secret to transform Nana’s garden into a night blooming oasis, a place where she can be with the creatures and plants that bring her happiness. Published by Bright Sky Press, Our Shadow Garden is the winner of the 2010 Growing Good Kids: Excellence in Children’s Literature Award from the American Horticulture Society and Jr. Master Gardeners.  I’m not providing an Amazon link to this book because when you purchase directly though the Children’s Art Project all proceeds go to them at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. They have raised more than $26 million dollars for cancer patients and their families selling notecards and gift items that feature original art by pediatric cancer patients, so when you buy this book, you’ll be giving a gift that becomes two gifts.


Educational Opportunity: Healthcare Garden Design Certificate Program at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden birches. Photo by Naomi Sachs

See that brick building in the background? That's your classroom (thus this is your view).

Every spring, the Chicago Botanic Garden holds an intensive 8-day Healthcare Garden Design Certificate of Merit Program, right on its beautiful campus. It is one of the few healthcare garden design certificate programs in the world and is an excellent way for students and professionals interested in this area of the field to really dive in. Instructors include experts such as Roger Ulrich, Clare Cooper Marcus, Teresia Hazen and many more (see the website for a full list of faculty. This will be my first year teaching there, about research – how to find the information you’re looking for when designing therapeutic gardens).

The first day of the program, on May 4th, is also available as a one-day seminar: Gardens That Heal: A Prescription for Wellness.

Registration is still open, but slots fill up quickly (they had a waiting list last year), so hurry!

Note: For information on other educational opportunities, see the Education page on the Therapeutic Landscapes Network website. And if you know of a program that isn’t on that page, please let us know.

Healthcare Garden Design Certificate of Merit Program

When: May 4-11, 2011
Where: Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe (near Chicago), IL

Healthcare garden design is an emerging area of specialization in which several professions converge to create environments of care. In this professional development program, attendees will discover the many ways gardens provide verifiable health benefits for their patients, staff, and visitors. The multidisciplinary program introduces the latest research in healthcare garden design, demonstrating the benefits of healthcare gardens while providing participants with the expertise, knowledge, and tools to effectively design, manage, and evaluate such gardens. These garden environments of care maximize the effectiveness of clinical treatments for illness and disabilities, and create passive garden experiences that significantly reduce staff stress and absenteeism, improve patient health, increase client satisfaction, and strengthen the bottom line.


Wordless Wednesday, 12/1/10 – Winter dogwood

Winter dogwood, photo by Naomi Sachs

Garden Design Journal (UK) publishes article on Therapeutic Landscapes by TLN Director Naomi Sachs

Garden Design Journal article by Naomi Sachs, "That Healing Feeling."

Garden Design Journal cover, December 2010 An article by Therapeutic Landscapes Network Founder & Director Naomi Sachs appears in the December 2010 issue of Garden Design Journal, the journal for the Society of Garden Designers in the UK. Click on the title to link to a pdf: Garden Design Journal article by Naomi Sachs, “That Healing Feeling.”

It’s that time! Shop at our store and support the TLN

TLN Store screenshot

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Seems like a good time to point out that the Therapeutic Landscapes Network has a store on our website where you can buy mugs, tote bags, mousepads, Sigg water bottles, magnets, hats, and clothing for him, her and baby, all sporting our beautiful Echinacea “mascot” (thank you, Henry Domke!).

All proceeds go to support the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, and all gifts are guaranteed to bring joy.

Wordless Wednesday, 11/24/10: Autumn leaves

Oak leaves at Kew Gardens, photo by Naomi Sachs

Oak leaves, Kew Gardens. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Landscapes for Healing: Resources for Veterans

Veteran and sunflowers. Photo courtesy of Defiant Gardens.

Photo courtesy of Defiant Gardens

Speaking of veterans (see yesterday’s post. “Veterans Day, 2010 – Memorials as Healing Landscapes“), many who come home alive require medical treatment for both physical and emotional problems. Steve Mitrione, a doctor as well as a landscape architect, explains that more people are surviving because of body armor and better medical technology, but the injuries are more severe. The number of veterans returning with traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, is alarming. Also alarming is the number of veterans returning with post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Current studies estimate that about 20% of active duty and 42% of reserve duty soldiers require mental health services for PTSD. The VA system and the military are beginning to reach out to landscape architects and horticultural therapists as one strategy for addressing PTSD. Several students have contacted the TLN this year looking for information because they want to write their masters thesis on the subject Here are some good resources to tap into, but what’s still lacking is research. If we are to create spaces and programs for people (veterans and others) with PTSD based on the evidence, we need the evidence. If you know of any published studies, please let us know! Leave a comment on this blog, or contact us through the TLN website.

Returning Home: The Veterans Therapeutic Garden Project,” by Dr. Steven Mitrione, Associate ASLA  – Article written for the ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Professional Practice Network’s Spring 2010 Newsletter. “Given the challenges facing the VA system, we believe that therapeutic gardens have the potential to alleviate suffering, provide for recovery and therapy, enhance the veteran’s experience of care, and reduce costs.” This article is really really worth reading. Chock full of good information and ideas. A good place to start.

Therapeutic Garden Design and Veterans Affairs: Preparing for Future Needs.” – Joint conference with the Acer Institute and the ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Professional Practice Network in Miami, FL, 2005 – Click here to link to the conference proceedings.

Acer Insitute’s list of Therapeutic Gardens at Veterans Healthcare Facilities – This list is in development. If you know of a facility or program (especially if it’s a good one!), you can sign in and add to the list.

Gardening Leave ( – A UK charity founded by Anna Baker Cresswell for ex-Servicemen and women with PTSD and other mental health issues. The goal is to combat stress through horticultural therapy activities – growing fruit and vegetables – in a walled garden setting, where people feel safe and protected. The program has been developed in accordance with plans by Combat Stress (Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society).

Gardening Leave commissioned an evaluation of their  project, which you can link to on their website. The title of the report is “An Evaluation of the Gardening Leave Project for Ex-Military Personnel with PTSD and Other Combat Related Mental Health Problems,” by Jacqueline Atkinson, Professor of Mental Health Policy at Glasgow University June 2009.

VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System Veterans Garden – Nestled in the heart of Los Angeles, this unique 15-acre garden is operated by vets of the VA Hospital as part of the Horticulture Therapy Program. The Vets’ Garden is open to the public and offers a beautiful and tranquil escape from the congestion and concrete of the city. Established in 1986 as a work therapy program, the garden continues to run as a fully self-sufficient business, selling fresh-grown, pesticide-free produce to individual customers and several local restaurants.

Farmer Veteran Coalition – “Farmers helping veterans, veterans helping farmers.”

Veterans Farm – The veterans farm was developed to unite disabled veterans and to help them overcome disabilities such as (PTSD) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and (TBI) Traumatic Brain Injuries through “Horticulture Therapy”. Through different programs, veterans will have a chance to “Earn While They Learn.”

Veteran Homestead Victory Farm – Victory Farm, is a supportive housing program located on an eighty acre working organic vegetable farm in New Hampshire. This program offers a lifestyle change to the homeless veteran who has not been successful transitioning from residential treatment programs to independent or transitional housing.

Defiant Gardens, by Kenneth Helphand – The book gives a historical view of “…gardens created in extreme or difficult environmental, social, political, economic, or cultural conditions. These gardens represent adaptation to challenging circumstances, but they can also be viewed from other dimensions as sites of assertion and affirmation.” The website, also called Defiant Gardens, brings us up to date, with gardens in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and even Guantanamoinformation and images of prison gardens, community gardens, and . The most recent post is the text from a New York Times article on gardens in Afghanistan.

Also see our blog post “Defiant Gardens” and Other Resources for Veterans from last November.

A Place to Call Home: A Landscape Master Plan to Honor the Veterans at the  Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, Chelsea, Massachusetts,” by Suzanne Higham Independent Project Thesis fora  Graduate Certificate in Landscape Design at the Landscape Institute of  The Boston Architectural College (note: I just received this thesis yesterday and have not yet had a chance to put it on the TLN website. Please check back soon).

So to reiterate, the big missing piece is RESEARCH.
Rick Spalenka, a landscape architect who is also a registered nurse and treated veterans with PTSD in a psychiatric nursing program, noticed two things: First, that PTSD is much higher in women vets than in men, often stemming from sexual abuse either before or during service. And second, that outdoor smoking areas are extremely important places for social gathering and connection. Designing areas for smoking into a garden? Some people might be appalled by this idea, but if that’s what gets someone out of their hospital bed and connecting with other people, maybe it’s not such a bad thing. “Smoking activity and smoking privileges have therapeutic qualities despite seeming so contrary to health. You remove smoking privileges from psych patients you will face hostility and anger. You prohibit smoking activity from med/surg patients and you face increased anxiety. The most popular meeting place for Vet patients is the smoke shack. They socialize and get physical activity. I used to tell my patients ‘the only one who ever got better in bed was Casanova.  Get out of bed.'”

Please help us add to this list of resources. Leave a comment on this blog, or contact us through the TLN website.

Veterans at Gardening Leave

Photo courtesy of Gardening Leave

Veterans Day, 2010 – Memorials as Healing Landscapes

Vietnam Veterans Memorial/Washington Monument. Photo by Naomi Sachs

It’s Veterans Day in the United States, and thousands of ceremonies will take place across the country to honor the people who have served. Some have come home as recently as last month. Many of those ceremonies will take place at memorials, including the Annual Veterans Day Observance at the Wall organized by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

Memorials act as catalysts for our individual and collective remembrance and grieving. They can also serve as historical reminders and teachers for future generations.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial/Washington Monument. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, finding the name. Photo by Naomi SachsOn my trip to Washington, D.C. in September, I visited the three Vietnam Veterans Memorials – Maya Lin’s Wall and the two more traditional representational sculptures (Glenna Goodacre’s Vietnam Women’s Memorial and Frederick Hart’s Three Servicemen). I also visited National World War II Memorial, which is more recent and very different in style.

Vietnam Women's Memorial sculpture by Glenna Goodacre. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Vietnam Women's Memorial sculpture by Glenna Goodacre

Each was powerful in its own way. I was struck at the Vietnam Veterans memorial site by the setting, which is very green and peaceful – a pastoral landscape of lawn and trees and sky. The volunteer at the Wall explained that they call it, including the grounds, a “landscape of healing,” and that Lin’s sculpture, sited in a large expanse of lawn, represents a wound that heals but leaves a scar.

What was most moving to me, though, were the people who were there to find a name, or reunite with fellow veterans, or get a sense of the enormity of loss. A site is a site, a sculpture is a sculpture. But people – family, friends, and visitors – give the place meaning and make it a true landscape of healing.

National World War II Memorial. Photo by Naomi Sachs

National World War II Memorial. Photo by Naomi Sachs

The Therapeutic Landscapes Network’s Memorials page provides information related to memorials as healing landscapes, and we welcome your suggestions about more built works, websites, and resources online or in print.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Photo by Naomi Sachs