Upcoming Event: Movie Night at the Portland Memory Garden

Senior Movie Night Portland Memory GardenSenior Movie Night, a benefit for the Portland Memory Garden

Join us for a night out in the park!
Bring your friends, family, blanket and a picnic basket to enjoy live entertainment, free popcorn, and an outdoor movie.

Featuring “That’s Entertainment”  with Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly and directed by Jack Haley Jr. as well as a resource fair, music, and raffle.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Resource Fair 5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Opening Act: The Sounds of Rayvis (Elvis) 7:00 p.m.
Raffle drawings 7:45 p.m.
Movie starts at dusk (approximately 8:00 p.m.)

Where: Portland Memory Garden
SE 104th Ave & Powell Blvd
Portland, OR

This event is Disability Friendly. Bring dinner and drinks, blankets and/or chairs for seating and make this an “oldfashioned outdoor movie” event.

For more information, visit

To view Portland Parks & Recreation’s complete FREE FOR ALL Summer 2010 schedule, visit and click on the summer free for all icon! We hope to see you there!

Portland Memory Garden Plan

Portland Memory Garden Landscape Plan

The Portland Memory Garden is located in Portland, Oregon off SE Powell at 104th Avenue in the southeast corner of Ed Benedict Park. This very special garden is open to the entire community, but was designed to meet the special needs of those with memory disorders (such as Alzheimer’s disease) and to provide respite for their caregivers. The garden was dedicated in May 2002 and is one of eight memory gardens in the U.S., and one of only two built on public land.

Upcoming Event: Senior Neighborhood Nature Walk in Portland, OR

Innisfree, Millbrook, NY photo by Naomi Sachs

Innisfree Garden in Millbrook, NY - photo by Naomi Sachs

I’m still figuring out all the bells and whistles on WordPress, and for some reason, the “events” bell is eluding me. Therefore, the next few posts will be listings and details about several interesting upcoming events. Once I get things straightened out (suggestions from WP folks are more than welcome!), events will then be added to a list in the blog’s sidebar.

Senior Neighborhood Nature Walks at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center’s award-winning Stenzel Healing Garden in Portland, OR
Thursdays, Aug 19,  Sept 16,  Oct 21,  Nov 18, 2010, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
FREE.  No sign-up required.
Meet at the walking map sign.  We begin with a 20-minute garden tour followed by
a 60-minute escorted walk in the neighborhood to observe interesting plants,
heritage trees, architecture and more.
Why We Need to Walk More:
1. Walking helps you stay strong and fit. It helps increase bone
density, improves joint health, and increases muscle strength so you can continue
to do your daily activities.
2.Walking can lower health care costs. A daily walk could save you
more than $300 a year in doctor visits, hospitalization, and prescription drugs.
3. Walking can help decrease weight, body and belly fat. Women
who increased activity by an additional 3,500 steps a day lost 5 lbs in a year; men
8.5 lbs.

You can see some images of the Stenzel Healing Garden in this article from the Portland Longevity Examiner, “Legacy’s Healing Gardens,” by Micheline Ronningen

Questions? Contact Teresia Hazen at 503-413-6507 or

Love our Echinacea Mascot? Do Some Shoppin’!

We get so many great comments about the photos on the TLN website, especially our Echinacea “mascot” by Henry Domke. If you love the image and want to see it even when you’re not on the computer, we have a wonderful assortment of t-shirts, tote bags, water bottles, and other stuff at the TLN Store. Your purchases help us and they also bring good cheer wherever you take them! Here’s a testimonial from a happy Therapeutic Landscapes Network member and customer:

“I wanted to let you know that I love my new TLN canvas bag! It is so roomy, and the image on the front is gorgeous.”

An Amazing Opportunity – TKF Foundation Capstone Awards

Summer Sky by Henry Domke

Photo by Henry Domke,

The TKF Foundation‘s mission is “to provide the opportunity for a deeper human experience by inspiring and supporting the creation of public greenspace that offers a temporary place of sanctuary, encourages reflection, provides solace, and engenders peace and well being.” TKF does amazing work. They have funded over 120 projects in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area, and now they are embarking on a new project, the National Demonstration Site and Research Challenge Awards Initiative. I hope that some of you will apply, and please also help spread the word. This really is an amazing opportunity, from which all of us will benefit.

TKF Announces New Capstone Awards

National Demonstration Site and Research Challenge Awards Initiative
We are living in a time of crisis when the press of urban congestion and technology threaten our human wellbeing.  In the 21st century, as the pace of life has accelerated, our relationship with the land, with each other and with our inner selves has diminished. TKF believes that a critical part of what today’s communities cry out for is the peace of a Walden Pond in every neighborhood and the awe-inspiring power of trees outside our windows. Through many years of involvement in environmental and public greening advocacy, we have found that the language of the spirit has been silenced. We seek to restore that voice to the public discourse.

While we know intuitively and anecdotally that nature heals, unifies and uplifts the human spirit, TKF believes there is a growing need to complement these insights with empirical evidence in order to gain wider acceptance, advance understanding, influence policy, and effect systems change.

Beginning in 2012, TKF will begin awarding challenge grants of up to $1 million to applicants who seek to create a new Open Space Sacred Place and to study aspects of the impact on the human spirit of the opportunity to be in nature.  Open to qualified applicants from across the United States, this program is designed to inspire non-profit organizations, professional associations, educational institutions, municipalities and community-based groups from a range of perspectives to come together in interdisciplinary teams to create new public green spaces and to implement a significant research or evaluation component. Through these awards and the ensuing research and communication of findings, we seek to build a body of useful information and evidence about the impact of Open Spaces Sacred Places on the human spirit that can be shared to create greater public understanding and support of the benefits of  nature to individual and community wellbeing. Our goal is to encourage all types of practitioners, policy makers and opinion leaders — from community activists to environmental advocates to city planners and including doctors, philosophers, journalists, social scientists and theologians among many others — to think broadly about the role and importance of nature in every life and to take concrete steps to make access to nature.

As a first step, later this year we will convene a National Advisory Panel, to help us better understand the kinds of questions from the field that need study and the ways that research could be most helpful in advancing a variety of missions that intersect in the realm of nature, spirit and individual and community wellbeing. We anticipate that the output of the panel’s work will provide important context and inspiration for the Demonstration Site and Research projects and for many others already working in related fields. For more information, click here.

Garden “woo-woo” – A Video from Margaret Roach

Hosta and European ginger

Hosta and European ginger in Margaret Roach's garden

Because mixing things up is always a good idea (okay, almost always), I’m interrupting my thesis on gardens in healthcare for some eye candy with a message: Margaret Roach’s first video, in which she explains the meaning of the “woo-woo” in her tagline, “horticultural how-to and woo-woo.” It’s a gorgeous video, with lots of images from Margaret’s garden that will make you feel good just to look at (unless you get jealous, but that’s a risk you’re just going to have to take). What really impressed me was what she has to say, which, if you’re reading this blog and are a member of the TLN, will almost certainly resonate . Gardening was Margaret’s first spiritual practice, and it’s often a humbling experience. I especially love her description of the picnics during the cherry blossom festival in Japan. People gather as the blossoms begin to shatter and fall, because it “reminds them of the ephemeral nature of everything beautiful and important, including our own human lives.” If you don’t yet know Margaret Roach, consider this your introduction. She was the garden editor and then editorial director at ‘Martha Stewart Magazine’ for 15 years, and now spends most of her time in upstate New York, gardening and writing. Her blog, A Way to Garden, is always a pleasure to see and read and often has great horticultural information as well. I had the pleasure of seeing this little piece of paradise in May at a “garden tweet-up” (Twitter meet-up, when a bunch of garden and horticulture geeks get together and ooh and aah and speak a lot of genus-and-species Latin), and these are a couple of the pictures that I took on that lovely day. You can view the video on Margaret’s blog – Enjoy!


Make it Pretty and They Will Come: The Role of Aesthetics in Patient Satisfaction

Woodwinds Health Campus

Garden bench at Woodwinds Health Campus, photo courtesy of Woodwinds Health Campus

Like most people, I’ve had my fair share of unpleasant experiences in doctors offices and hospitals. And looking back, I realize that many of my most worst memories had to do with the way the place looked. The one that took the cake was a doctor’s office in a windowless clinic with one potted plant in the waiting room. And that plant, a Poinsettia from Christmas-time (this was in February) was dead. Even if only on a subliminal level, we perceive that something is wrong with this picture: “If they can’t even take care of one houseplant, how the heck are they going to take care of me?” I have heard many people, when talking about the gardens in a hospital, clinic, or nursing home or other place of healing, express the opposite sentiment: “They take such good care of the gardens, and that reassures me that they will take good care of me, too.”

I’m reading an article from an old (2008) issue of Healthcare Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD), titled “Ambulatory Facility Design and Patients’ Perceptions of Healthcare Quality,” which completely reinforces what we all know in our hearts to be true: That places of healing work better when they look and feel like…places of healing. And I’m talking, of course, about a more holistic idea of healing than just “isolate, sterilize, and medicate.” Squeaky white linoleum floors that reflect buzzing fluorescent lights attached to low ceilings in long, windowless corridors is an old model that has been proven to be anything but good for our health.

So, let me just share a few nuggets from this article. First, its conclusion, as stated in the abstract: “This study is consistent with other studies that examined the relationship among the physical attractiveness of healthcare settings, patient satisfaction, and quality of care.” Patients reported better care, service, and staff and doctor interactions in the more attractive waiting rooms. The authors cite several other related studies about patient satisfaction: Leitner and colleagues (1998) found that “patients in hospital units where nurses felt that their work was meaningful were more satisfied with their hospital stay” and that “…patients on units where nurses felt more tired and more frequently expressed their intention to quit were less satisfied with their care.” Mallak, Lyth, Olsen, Ulshafer, and Sardone (2003) found that “…job satisfaction [among healthcare providers] and patient satisfaction were significantly and positively correlated with culture strength and ratings of the built environment.” They also cite interviews with patients and families about what they want. Douglas and Douglas (2004) “found that patients reported the need for personal space, a homey welcoming atmosphere, areas for visitors, access to external areas, and provision of facilities for recreation and leisure.” Gardens in places of healing can fulfill many of these criteria, and a well-designed garden should address all of them.

I once got an email from someone recommending that his local hospital’s healing gardens (Woodwinds Health Campus, pictured above) be added to the TLN’s list of exemplary gardens in healthcare facilities. The gardens made a strong positive impression on him, and influenced how he felt about the entire hospital. And it probably provided a great incentive for him to visit for regular check-ups rather than waiting for emergencies. Think about how much people’s health would improve if they adhered to the preventative care model!

The article mentioned above explores the role of the built environment in influencing patient (consumer) satisfaction. Another article, which I’ll blog about soon, discusses the role of the built environment in influencing patient health and safety. There are so many reasons for healthcare providers to focus not just on the medicines and the machines, but on the places that house what all that stuff is there for: The patients and their families. All of those places have outdoor space – be it a parking lot and drop-off area or a designed “healing garden,” and all of those outdoor spaces could and should be considered as part of the aesthetic package that influences patient satisfaction, health, and well-being.

Full citations:

Becker, Franklin, Bridget Sweeney, and Kelley Parsons (2008). “Ambulatory Facility Design and Patients’ Perceptions of Healthcare Quality.” Healthcare Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD), Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 35-54.

Douglas, C. H., and M. R. Douglas (2004). “Patient-friendly Hospital Environments: Exploring the Patient’s Perspective.” Health Expectations, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 61-73.

Leiter, M. P., P. Harvey, and C. Frizzell (1998). “The Correspondence of Patient Satisfaction and Nurse Burnout,” Social Science Medicine, Vol. 47, No. 10, pp. 1611-1617.

Mallak, L. A., D. M. Lyth, S. D. Olsen, S. M. Ulshafer, and F. F. Sardone (2003). “Culture, the Built Environment and Healthcare Organizational Performance.” Managing Service Quality, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 27-38.

“Therapy in the Desert” – Guest post by Brice Bradley: Three healing gardens in the Phoenix, AZ area

Banner Good Samaritan healing garden

Banner Good Samaritan healing garden, photo by Brice Bradley

This past winter, Brice Bradley, a landscape architect and member of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, posted a query on the TLN group page at Land8Lounge (the social networking site for Landscape Architects) asking for recommendations of healing gardens to visit in the Phoenix, AZ area. He got some good suggestions, and I also encouraged him to take notes and report back with his impressions. What we got was so much more! Brice took photographs and wrote a wonderful descriptive piece about his visits to three different gardens: Banner Estrella Medical Center in Phoenix; the Elsie McCarthy Sensory Garden in Glendale; and Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, also in Phoenix. This is a long post – one of the longest I’ve published! – but since it’s so good (and since I can’t figure out how to use the “more” tool with this blog platform), it’s here in full. To view the entire slideshow with the essay, visit Brice’s post on Land8Lounge. It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that these are Brice’s observations and opinions. I would love to feature more first-hand accounts of therapeutic gardens on the TLN Blog. If you have the ability to visit and report on one, or two, or more, we will all benefit. That’s what makes the Therapeutic Landscape Network so strong! A network of passionate, engaged people participating to connect with and educate each other about this exciting field. So, Brice, over to you:

Therapy in the Desert, by Brice Bradley

It was 8:00 in the morning in Tucson, and our Mazda 5 micro van was filled to capacity; my daughter (7) and son (5) were prepared for departure and were blowing their final kisses to Grandma. My wife and I weren’t necessarily looking forward to the drive back to chilly Colorado; why would we when the pleasantly mild Arizona temps were treating us like royalty? All that stood between us and our midway overnight stop in Albuquerque was my buried-in urge to visit a few of the many therapeutic gardens sprinkled throughout Phoenix.

As we made our way into the city, a sense of eagerness began to surface as I had surpassed the point of reading about the benefits of curative spaces and was primed to wholly experience them. I had the added benefit of having my children in attendance as I firmly believe that much can be gained by observing how an innocent child embraces a given space. All too often, I find it easy to put on my “professional” glasses and overlook key–yet subtle–elements within a space that make it attractive to a more diverse set of users. I have found that observing how my children respond to a space almost always leaves me with a stronger sense of whether or not it is successful.

Banner Estrella

Photo of Banner Estrella garden by Brice Bradley

We rolled into our first stop, Banner Estrella [Medical Center], around 9:45 am. As we approached the curative space, the first thing I noticed was a water feature pulled in tight to the building. Running along the outside face of a glass curtain wall spanning the length of the garden along the north side, this feature was a well-placed and welcome transitionary element, tying the interior and exterior spaces together. I soon discovered that my 5-year-old son also spotted the water as his laissez-faire saunter quickly found purpose.

We made our way into the garden where a diminutive sensation quickly set in. Upon entering the space from the west end, you find yourself surrounded by foundation-level planting and architecture on all but a portion of the east side. Other than receiving some early-to-mid-morning sun, this area looks like it sits in shade for much of the day. Due to its location in a desert environment, this isn’t a bad thing, but my initial thought was, “Who would want to sit in a space where they could be viewed from almost any direction–much like a fish in a fish bowl?” Some form of overhead canopy and partial screening would be beneficial toward making this area a more comfortable place to spend time.

As I walked eastward, I noticed a nonconventional wood-and-steel door system on casters at the corner of what I soon discovered was a meditation chapel. As with all the spaces I planned on visiting that day, I tried to focus all of my observations around the question, “What makes this a healing space?” Recognizing that many people find comfort through their faith during times of recovery or grief, I was pleased to see that the chapel was made a key part of the garden and that access to the outdoor space could be enhanced by opening these larger, statelier doors.

The sounds of falling water and New Age music filled the space–something I found to be quite pleasant. A bubbling spring fed an elevated runnel from the east end. Integrated within a seat wall, the runnel allowed room for individuals to sit beside the flowing water, providing an opportunity for them to personally engage with its flow. Needless to say, my kids welcomed the chance to play in the water. Understanding that many people find peace in watching others, I thought about how the innocence of a kid at play within this space could be viewed as an instrument for healing, as there are few things quite so therapeutic as the sound of honest laughter coming from a child fully engaged at play. Weirs and infinity edges also helped diversify the way water created white noise within the space.

Music emanated from faux stones positioned in under-planted, stone mulch planting beds along the back side of a series of concrete peninsulas. Considering the modern level of refinement found elsewhere on the site, I was a bit taken back by the use of these stones to deliver the tranquil sounds. Integrating some form of speaker system into the surrounding gabion walls, which were clad in small laser-cut metal fauna, would have been nice as the music could have been softly projected beyond the space offering passers-by a taste of the serenity that could be found within.

Although the Estrella healing garden possesses elements found in other more notable healing spaces, I believe it lacked refinement. The bench peninsulas could have been smaller and oriented so that the seating was facing east and west. Smaller concrete pads would make more room for plant material and would have realigned the benches so that they wouldn’t be facing a wall of windows. More seating options, including movable chairs, would be beneficial as they would allow people to easily position themselves as desired. Plant material–specifically ground cover–would have softened the space by hiding the disproportionate amount of river rock mulch as well as enhance the level of privacy, encourage wildlife, and keep the space cooler.

Elsie McCarthy Sensory Garden

Photo of Elsie McCarthy Sensory Garden by Brice Bradley

Now we were off to Glendale to visit the Elsie McCarthy Sensory Garden. Overall, it was a nice yet simple space that appeared to be municipally managed as it seems to have degraded a bit since its opening. As you make your way toward the garden from the parking lot, you come upon a pedestal-mounted, bronze scale model of the site; I found it to be a welcome addition as it is an admirable way to expand the maps accessibility to people with disabilities­­–particularly those with visual impairments.

Shortly after entering the garden, you arrive at what I found to be one of the most fascinating things I saw that day – a tile-clad sculpture entitled Seeing Beyond by artists Joan Baron and Robert Miley. As you approach the piece, you are drawn in by the sound of dripping water from within. As I stood there, I found myself–much like a child–wanting to interact with the water; fortunately, the artists provided opportunists like me with opportunities to physically engage with the art by way of creatively crafted openings on each of the sculpture’s four sides.

As I mentioned earlier, the overall layout of the site was relatively simple; although it wasn’t something I found overly inspiring, I can appreciate the simple, circulatory approach to the design. I found getting back where I started to be very straightforward and in no time I was unable to see the main entry. Encompassing the space was a crushed-gravel ellipse walk. While I made my way around the site, I welcomed the crackling resonance of displaced gravel beneath my feet–something I find inherently relaxing. It would have been nice to have a few benches along the perimeter for those inclined to people watch or simply rest.

At the four nodes of the ellipse were distinctive elements–each tied to water–whether it be a water-based feature or flowing, paving patterns. On the outside of the ellipse was a continuous planting bed comprised of natural massings of regional trees and shrubs. Within the ellipse lay two tree-lined walks dissecting the space into four equal lawn panels. Where the two walks intersected at the heart of the garden stood a small plaza with a bronze dome water feature–about a foot tall–representing the center of a flower. On the perimeter of the plaza stood four stone blocks, each etched with unique finger labyrinths.

I left the garden feeling somewhat indifferent about the space; albeit winter, I felt that it–much like Banner Estrella–lacked a significant amount of supporting plant material near the pathways to engage the senses. In the spring and summer this space might light up with a push of greenery that stimulates the senses, but shouldn’t a sensory garden successfully work to enhance the senses year round? Additionally, I tend to look at lawn in the desert as a bit of an oxymoron, especially a warm season grass that is dormant during cooler times of the year when people are more inclined to enjoy the outdoors. Using a different turf type or possibly over seeding during the winter would brighten this space up, creating an inviting area in which to have a picnic or just to walk shoeless in the cool grass.

Having spent a number of summers in Tucson as a kid, I know exactly how warm a garden in this part of the country can get. It wouldn’t surprise me to know that this space remains relatively vacant in the summer from mid-morning until sunset. The fact that the bronze map was shaded–presumably to prevent it from getting too hot to the touch–indicates that during the heat of day this space is unbearable. As the trees mature, you will see an increase in the amount of available shade, but it’s still pretty hot in the shade when temperatures are pushing 100 degrees or more.

It is understood that desert environments possess a unique set of design constraints that prevent some best-practice approaches found in other successful man-made healing spaces from being fully realized. All in all, I believe the size of space, ease of access, and visibility within the space were good but I felt that it lacked a regional distinctiveness and believe that this space, if placed in a cooler part of the county, would have proven to be more successful.

Banner Good Samaritan healing garden

Banner Good Samaritan healing garden, photo by Brice Bradley

Our final destination was the healing garden at Banner Good Samaritan Health Center. Accessing the space required us to enter the facility as the garden was internal to the campus. As you make your way to the main entry, you walk past the recently renovated Sunken Garden. I found this space to be more inspiring than the healing garden as the contrasting plant palate was simple yet bold. Yucca in full bloom against the ornamental grasses was a welcome site, although I could see that the shadow patterns from the surrounding buildings prevented a portion of the yucca from reaching full bloom; I could only imagine how it would have looked if all of it was in bloom simultaneously.

Water was the central focus of the space–much like an oasis. I enjoyed the primary-colored mosaic tiling on the main water feature; the sound of the water hitting the river rock below was simple yet soothing. A portion of the garden was enclosed–accessible by doors within the building. At the center of this section of the garden gurgled a short column of water from within an area covered in river rock–much like a spring. Surrounding the spring were trees and the yucca–grass mix. A guardrail separated the landscape from the patio, which was lined with a few benches and movable tables and chairs; it was clear that the landscape was meant for viewing only, which was unfortunate as it would have been nice to see some form of circulation route implemented that would allow users the opportunity to more actively engage with the space.

The fully enclosed healing garden was nice with mature plant material; water features; and plenty of movable tables, chairs, and curving seat walls, thus providing a multitude of seating options. I had a conversation with an employee regarding our purpose for being there, and she commented that the water elements were more extensive at one time but had now been reduced to three isolated features. Much like the water element I commented on in the Sunken Garden, these were designed to be looked at as they were located up and out of the way where little hands could not get at them. I believe providing an opportunity to touch the water would have been a nice way to enhance a user’s ability to engage with the space.

As I walked through the garden I noticed a number of pigeons, and pockets of bird droppings were prevalent throughout the space, which left me with an impression that this space wasn’t maintained as well as it could be. The employee I visited with acknowledged that this was an ongoing issue but that it has improved. Additionally, I found a couple areas where plant material with sharp needles was easily accessible to kids. Although I support providing children opportunities to explore differences in plant material through touch, in this environment I believe that buffering the sharper plants with softer ones would have been a safer option.

So, what made each of these gardens healing spaces? Having had a little over a month to think about this I have come to the conclusion that it’s not up to me to decide but the end users–those seeking a moment of release from an unexpected diagnosis or the loss of a loved one or simply those desiring to get outside and enjoy the day. As a design professional, it’s easy to be critical of other people’s work–finding things I wouldn’t have done based on my education and past experiences. I suppose that is the downside of being in this industry as we rarely can enter a space and not pick it apart. As I progressed through the writing of this article, I began to think about my purpose for visiting these spaces, and what I discovered was that if I want to have a continued impact on the lives of those seeking peace through nature, I need to be constantly seeking ways to sharpen my proficiency. I presume many of you reading this feel the same way. If iron sharpens iron, a cooperative approach to progressing the effectiveness of therapeutic spaces needs to be fostered. What I discovered in Arizona is that designing healing gardens in a desert environment is a niche within a niche, and I look forward to seeing how they will evolve as we continue to educate ourselves on nature’s healing qualities.

“Gardening is one of the most healing, beautiful things…”

Allison Vallin June chive bee

Photo courtesy of Allison Vallin at

That’s how this comment from Stacy on the My Garden Saved My Life post started, and as she put it so well, I’m sharing it here as another guest blog post:

“Gardening is one of the most healing, beautiful things I know of.  I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia and am only able to do a fraction of what I used to do.  But gardening is only partly about doing.  A lot of it is about being–being outside, watching the seasons unfold, smelling honeysuckle on the breeze, observing the lives of bumblebees and toads and birds.  (And flowers, of course.)  In addition to a small townhouse garden that has perennial beds, I have a 2′ x 4′ “micro-garden” that my Dad has built a frame for.  It stands at waist height so that I don’t even have to bend down to work in it, and I grow vegetables in it almost all year long.  I’ve never gotten over the awe of watching seedlings sprout–that sense of “Oh, my gosh, it worked again!”  To be given that gift of wonder and joy–it’s just priceless when you’re ill. (Or even when you’re well.) Isolation is one of the most difficult facets of chronic illness, and being in a garden reminds you that you really are a part of the world around you.”

Thank you, Stacy! Stacy has her own blog, which is here:

Planting the Healing Garden: Trees, Please!

American Basswood by Henry Domke

Photo of American Basswood by Henry Domke,

Here’s a simple but effective exercise: Go sit down.
Okay, a couple more details: First, at high noon, go sit somewhere in full sun for a minute or two (you actually don’t have to sit; this exercise can be accomplished standing as well). Now get up and go do the same thing (sit or stand for a minute or two) under a big shade tree. Notice anything different? Feel cooler? Feel a sense of ahhhhhhh? Now that you’re in the shade, maybe you don’t even want to get up!

Ever notice how, in the summer, all of the parking spaces near trees, even if they offer the skimpiest of shade patches, are taken? And how the shady park benches are always full? And so on. I like trees at all times of the year, but I am especially grateful for them in high summer. And particularly for healing gardens, whether public or private, where physical and emotional comfort are paramount, trees are a necessity. Sure, an umbrella or other shade structure can suffice, but they only do one thing, whereas a tree multitasks so nicely. In addition to giving shade, trees provide vertical and seasonal interest, wildlife habitat, and broader environmental benefits.

A few fun tree facts (these from the SavATree website):

  • The shade and wind buffering provided by trees reduces annual heating and cooling costs by 2.1 billion dollars.
  • One tree can absorb as much carbon in a year as a car produces while driving 26,000 miles.
  • A single tree produces ca. 260 lbs of oxygen a year. That means two mature trees can supply enough oxygen annually to support a family of four.
  • Over the course of its life, a single tree can absorb one ton of carbon dioxide.

As part of New York City’s Million Trees NYC campaign, posters with pictures of and facts about trees were spread throughout the city, especially in subways. I wasn’t able to get a decent picture of any of them, but here are excerpts from two that seem especially appropriate to the subject of restorative landscapes:

Zen Masters
Trees do more than you think. They promote relaxation and fitness, enhance our emotional and mental health, and even encourage us to drive a little slower.

Exercise Partners
Trees do more than you think. While protecting us from the sun, they encourage outdoor play and exercise – helping in our fight against obesity.

NYC is definitely on to something, and they are putting a lot of money into this effort. This from their website:

Why plant a million trees?

Trees enrich and improve our environment and dramatically increase the overall quality of life in New York City. The benefits provided by trees are numerous and diverse, making it important to quantify their value to our city and its residents. The primary benefits provided by New York City’s urban forest come in three key areas:

  • Environmental Benefits: Urban trees help offset climate change, capture rainfall, remove dust and other pollutants from the air, lower summer air temperature, reduce our use of fossil fuels, and provide habitat for wildlife.
  • Economic Benefits: Trees provide $5.60 in benefits for every dollar spent on tree planting and care, increase property values, and appeal to community and business investment.
  • Health and Lifestyle Benefits: There is growing evidence that trees help reduce air pollutants that can trigger asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Green spaces also encourage physical activity – a healthy habit for any New Yorker.

So if you’re designing you’re own residential garden, or a public park, or a garden for a hospital or nursing home, remember your trees. They are an investment that will give back for generations to come!

“My Garden Saved My Life.”

Lotus flower

Image courtesy of Henry Domke,

This is a really sweet sweet idea. Readers were asked to submit a paragraph about how “my garden saved my life,” with an accompanying image. Here are two excerpts:

In Tune with Nature
For me, it is simply the age-old connection to the earth itself. To dig in the ground, to watch new life spring forth, to reap the rewards of beautiful plants, flowers, maybe some edible fruits, vegetables, or herbs … that is all so enriching. And time spent in my garden is time spent away from every stressful thing in my life. I don’t think of it as me being in control of anything … I think of it as me being a PART of it all. Part of the earth, part of the plants, part of the seasons. Just in tune with nature, through and through.

Battling Breast Cancer
During my recent treatment for breast cancer, being in my garden helped me immensely. Although I couldn’t do much, just being outside and taking in the flowers, vegetables and all of the critters that go with a garden made me feel better. It also helped me not to feel sorry for myself and like I was accomplishing something, even if I just planted a couple of seeds that day.

Link to iVillage here to see all 15 slides. I’m sorry about all the annoying ads. Still, if you can work around those, it’s quite a nice post.

There’s also an essay titled “The Garden Saved My Life” by Barbara Blossom Ashmun, published in the anthology The Ultimate Gardener. Here’s the author’s blog post about it.

And what about you, dear reader? If you were asked the same question, what would your answer be? We’d love to hear from you, and others probably would, too! Leave a comment and let’s see what we have to say.