Lerner Garden of the Five Senses – A Sensory Garden Worth Visiting

Lerner Garden of the Five Senses

Now that summer is officially here (hurrah!), Maine is a big vacation destination. So it seems like a good time to publish this terrific guest blog post by Amy Wagenfeld about the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses. Amy consults and collaborates with architectural, design, and building professionals on design, installation, post occupancy programming, and evidence-based research of universally designed green spaces. In this post, she gives us a personal guided tour of this new and very successful example of a sensory garden. If you can go visit this summer, let this post be your inspiration (and if you can get there on Saturday, Amy’s giving a talk on ergonomic gardening). And if not, at least we get to go there now with Amy. The Therapeutic Landscapes Network is developing a page on sensory gardens, as the sensory experience is an important part of restorative landscapes. If you know of other good examples of sensory gardens, or have links to good websites, leave a comment below. Thank you, and thank you, Amy, for this post!

All photo for this post are by A. Wagenfeld and E. Kaye. To see more images of the garden, including the labyrinth, visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens website.

Lerner Garden of the Five Senses

There is a new sensory garden on the scene! For those of us intrigued and enchanted by – not to mention committed to – these spaces, The Lerner Garden of the Five Senses is a MUST see (hear, touch, smell, and taste!). Completed in June, 2009, and designed by Herb Schaal, FASLA of EDAW Inc., The Lerner Garden of the Five Senses is seamlessly nestled within the sprawling 248 acre waterfront Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Privately financed by Dan and Lyn Lerner, the scope of the project entailed design and construction of a world class universally designed sensory garden.

Lerner Garden of the Five Senses

Calling the Lerner Garden anything less than a gem is an understatement. Located adjacent to the entrance of the 20 acre main campus, each turn and curve along the wide and smooth, and most gentle of sloped paths – less than or equal to 5% grade length wise and less than or equal to 2% width wise, to be exact – of the 3/4 acre garden entices visitors of all ages and abilities to absorb all the garden has to offer. Striker stones border the main paths to assist the visually disabled, and a set of directional high-low stones indicate an entrance to a different garden area. Benches with backs and arm rests are located in each area so that visitors can rest and reflect on the jewels of the Lerner Garden. A 3-D bronze Braille and tactile map of the garden as well as a large pictorial representation of the garden are located at the entrance arch. The plantings and multitude of sculptural elements are labeled with large font signage. Resplendent with innovative sensory plantings, water features, sculpture, a bridge, and an open classroom pavilion, the Lerner Garden is arranged in five sectors that represent the five basic senses. Enough talk; let’s go on a tour!

lerner garden map

Come into the garden through an archway to the smell area resplendent with fragrant flowers and herbs, beckoning to be touched and smelled. Set into raised beds suitable for seated or standing users, the interactive taste area contains edible vegetables and herbs. The taste area also contains an accessible pavilion, unique vertical planters, and compost bins.

Lerner Garden of the Five Senses Located at the garden’s highest elevation is the sight area. The interior of the area contains several water features. One of many environmentally sustainable features, a stream flows from under a wooden bridge constructed from two native trees into the upper pond. A water fountain in the upper pond acts as a centralized focal point to see and listen. The fountain is cleverly located off-center to create gentle waves that pass over a stone veneer weir dam at a forty-five degree angle and flow through a series of parallel channels into the lower pond. The walkway between the ponds beckons visitors to view and touch the flowing water. The pathway level is particularly well suited for wheeled mobility users to gaze at the upper pond surface, and well, the entire Lerner Garden. A labyrinth constructed of raised river stones awaits you in the tactile area. Designed as a reflexology path, take off your shoes and socks and have a walk or place your bare feet on the raised stones. Touch the lamb’s ear, thyme, pineapple lily, and hobbit’s foot, strategically planted, just for you. Listen to the weir dam with its flowing water gently gliding over channels creating peaceful and soothing sounds. Two large vertical stones with recessed holes cut into one side – one at standing height and the other at sitting height – are another a unique feature of the garden. Place your head inside a hole and sing away – the opera singer in you will be captivated as your voice resonates as boisterous sound. Located in the breathtakingly beautiful rural region of Boothbay, Maine, The Costal Maine Botanical Gardens and its newest installation, the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses is a destination not to be missed.

Hurrah! ‘Access to Nature for Older Adults’ Wins ASLA Award

Access to Nature for Older Adults

Photo by Susan Rodiek

The 2010 ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) Awards have been announced, and one of the winners is the excellent new DVD series, “Access to Nature for Older Adults: Promoting Health Through Landscape Design.” Yea! We’ve blogged about this DVD series before, and we’re so pleased that ASLA agrees that it’s a valuable educational and design tool. Here’s what the jury had to say:

“Many of the features that were found beneficial, if included in all landscape design activity, would result in superior design and experience for us all. Improving our interactions with our world and better mental health all around! Talks about landscape design specific to an older population, proving a point of the importance of landscape architects. It sets up a design hypothesis that is in need of proving. Everything it applies to older population also applies to everyone. The research has a much broader application than just the elderly population.”
—2010 Professional Awards Jury

And to celebrate, TLN members get a 15% discount off any or all three Access to Nature DVDs. You don’t even need to be an official TLN member (though we’d love it if you were: Join online – it’s free!). If you are a designer, or an administrator, or a health and human service provider, or an educator, or a student, or someone with parents or grandparents (hm, that would be everybody), you should buy this award-winning DVD series.

To order your Access to Nature DVDs with the 15% discount, visit the Access to Nature website, ( and at the checkout, enter the promotional code TLNA2N. If for some reason that code doesn’t work, try TLNA2Na (same code but with a lower-case “a” at the end). The website is also chock-full of good information, so it’s a good one to bookmark.

Access to Nature DVDs

This is actually the fourth award for Access to Nature series: It received the 2009 Environment + Design Award from CEAL – The Center for Excellence in Assisted Living, and an early prototype of the Access to Nature program also won the Active Place Design Competition award in product design from EDRA, the Environmental Design Research Association, and a Viewer’s choice award from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Congratulations again to Susan Rodiek and her team at Texas A & M University; keep up the good work, and thanks for extending the discount to the Therapeutic Landscapes Network!

Next Month! National Children & Youth Garden Symposium

The Vitality of Gardens: Energizing the Learning Environment

That’s the theme for The American Horticultural Society‘s (18th!) annual National Children & Youth Garden Symposium, to be held July 22-24, 2010, in Pasadena, CA.

“The restoration we seek in gardens is more essential than ever, but gardens are also sources of healthy food, environmental protection and personal fulfillment. The garden can be an incubator for fostering engaged citizens. For children and youth, a garden can be a science lab, art studio, kitchen, gathering place, theater of the imagination, a special place to explore the world.

Come learn how to create and use gardens to provide dynamic environments for experimentation, social engagement, self-expression, and connection to the natural world. Hear from youth, the adults in their lives, and national experts about the vital role of gardens in the lives of today’s youth.”

Visit the AHS website for more details about tours, speakers, education sessions, and more.

Gratitude and Gardeners

Dogwood blossom photo by Naomi Sachs

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
~ Marcel Proust

Free Delivery! The TLN Blog, Emailed to You

Photo by Naomi Sachs

Silly me: After all this time since moving to the our TLN Blog url, I only just realized that I haven’t been getting TLN Blog posts emailed to me since the move. I thought it would be automatic, but I was wrong! So, if you, too, have been feeling a certain lack of lustre in your life, it’s probably because you haven’t been getting your usual TLN Blog posts, either. And it’s not because we haven’t been posting; it’s because you need to sign up at this new site. Just look for “Subscribe to the TLN Blog” in the column to your right, and sign up.* Easy, and you’ll once again start receiving posts delivered to your virtual doorstep. And of course, if you never signed up to begin with, perhaps this post will inspire you to do so. It’s easier than trying to remember to check the blog, and many people have commented to us that for the beautiful images alone, they enjoy seeing our posts appear in their email inbox.

*Please note that there are two sign-up forms. One is for the TLN Blog, mentioned above, and one is for the free TLN Newsletter. Why not sign up for both?

Sustainable AND Restorative Landscapes: Four To Watch from Sustainable Sites Initiative’s Pilot Projects

Sustainable Sites Initiative

Healing Garden at Cayuga Medical Center, one of SITES' case studies

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES™) has announced its 175 Pilot Projects, and here, from what I can tell, are the ones specifically related to therapeutic landscapes:

Alderwood Longterm Care Facility
Baddeck, Cape Breton
Project Type: Residential
Project Team: Highland Landscapes for Lifestyle; Ekistics Planning & Design; WHW Architects; Alderwood Corporation
Description: The Alderwood Rest Home is a greenfield development that is measuring and evaluating the sustainability goals and deliverables that will contribute to improvements in landscape design, construction and maintenance. Protection, restoration, environmental mitigation, orientation, plantings, walkways, outdoor rooms, and hardscape have been strategically combined to provide an environment that enhances resident wellness, optimizes resident’s outdoor usage and integrates the property’s diverse natural environment.

Health Village Fludir
Fludir, Iceland
Project Type: Commercial
Project Team: Health Village Fludir Ltd. and Vist & Vera ltd.
Description: This 16-acre greenfield project is associated with Iceland’s first health village. Site plans will focus on creating a walkable and ADA accessible environment including health paths, fitness zones, a series of natural open spaces, and a healing garden. Vehicular traffic will be limited and parking placed on the outer periphery. The project is seen as an opportunity to test SITES guidelines in Iceland and serve as a model for sustainable development in the country. (

The People’s Garden (USDA)
Washington, District of Columbia
Project Type: Governmental complex
Project Team: USDA-Office of Operations, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA- Forest Service
Description: The landscape outside USDA headquarters has been redesigned to showcase sustainability, nutrition, and healthy eating through rainwater harvesting, removal of invasives, and installation of working beehives, a vegetable garden, and a green roof among other design elements. This new landscape will support the agency’s educational mission while demonstrating to other public institutions that sustainable practices can be successfully implemented on a high profile, urban site with a rigorous aesthetic design requirement.

The Barn Raising Project
Millington, Tennessee
Project Type: Institutional/Educational
Project Team: Habitat for Hope, PLACE Alliance, archimania
Description: This non-profit organization exists to provide holistic care for families enduring the serious illness of a child. They will transform its 48-acre greenfield campus into a model for sustainability. The environmentally friendly development plan includes cabins, a village center, lodge, chapel, equestrian center, and staff residences. The team believes alignment with SITES will benefit the families that Habitat for Hope serves.

Several other pilot projects are for children, education, and public parks; you can view the entire list here:

These SITES Pilot Projects represent a diverse cross-section of project types, sizes and geographic locations in various stages of development from design to construction and maintenance. SITES Pilot Projects will be the first projects in the United States and abroad to demonstrate the application of The Sustainable Sites Initiative: Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009, released on November 5, 2009.

SITES has a Human Health and Well-Being component as well as those that are more strictly environmental, which is very exciting to those of us in this field.

For more information about the Sustainable Sites Initiative, visit their website, and here’s a good overview of the Pilot Projects from ASLA’s The Dirt.

The above image is from one of SITES’ Case Studies, the Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, NY.

Now online! Nature-Based Learning and Play for Children with Autism and Special Needs

Since Richard Louv began his No Child Left Inside campaign, we have seen a wonderful groundswell around the importance of children experiencing the natural world. And at the same time, sadly, we continue to see an alarming rise in children with autism and other related disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism now affects 1 in every 110 American children. This new number is a staggering 57% increase from 2002-2006. Clearly, we need more research on prevention and treatment options, but we also need more ways to help those children (and their families) on the “autism spectrum” who are coping on a daily basis.

One way that we can help is by designing environments that support children on the spectrum, including outdoor play and learning spaces. That’s why Tara Vincenta – Principal at Artemis Landscape Architects and creator of the SOL (Sequential Outdoor Learning) Environment –  and I were thrilled when KaBOOM! approached us about doing an online training on this very subject. We’ve had a great time collaborating and are happy to announce that the training is now available on the KaBOOM! website, and will soon be up on the SOL Environment and Therapeutic Landscapes Network websites as well.

The free online training is called “Prescription for Play: Nature-based Play and Learning for Autistic and Special Needs Children.” Here’s the description:

Join landscape architects Naomi Sachs, Director of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network and Tara Vincenta, creator of SOL (Sequential Outdoor Learning) Environment as they explore research and design considerations for creating outdoor, nature-based play and learning environments for autistic and special needs children. Many of the challenges faced by autistic children are shared with a broader community of special needs children, including motor, neuromuscular, cognitive, sensory and communication issues, and visual and auditory impairment. Sachs and Vincenta will share ideas for creating outdoor spaces that allow children to play at their own comfort level, overcoming common challenges in a safe, FUN, nature-based environment that is equally engaging for any child.

Go to KaBOOM’s Hot Topics in Play page to access the training, and if ours is not the first training, just scroll down until you see it. You’ll find other great topics there as well, and once you join KaBOOM (free, of course), you can access any and all. KaBOOM! is a wonderful non-profit organization whose mission is to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities, and whose vision is “a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.”

You can also download a pdf of the supplemental materials – a list resources in print and online about this topic – from the KaBOOM website, and we’ll have those on our respective websites soon, too.

Many, many thanks to KaBOOM! (and especially to Kiva) for this wonderful opportunity, and to you, dear reader, for spreading the word (yes, that’s a hint).

Healing the Neighborhood: The Power of Gardens

Nicola Allen in front of her North End Hartford home (photo courtesy Hartford Journal)

Nicola Allen knew that she had to do something to make her North End neighborhood in Hartford, CT safer and nicer. And after much thought and some time driving around suburban neighborhoods that seemed better, she arrived at the solution: Gardens. “Suburban homeowners took pride in their homes and landscapes. She decided to make her property look more like the landscapes she admired,” reports Theresa Sullivan Barger in a recent Hartford Courant article, Urban Flower Power: Gardens Turn Blighted Burton Street Area Into Oasis Of Color.” By working in her own garden, Allen has inspired others in the neighborhood to do the same, and their efforts have paid off: The neighborhood really has improved. Did she know that environmental psychologists have been researching this subject and coming up with similar findings?

Frances Kuo and others at the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory, University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana, have been documenting the importance of nature in the built environment, especially in urban areas with high crime rates. Again and again, they have found that the greener the surroundings, the healthier, happier, and safer the people are who live there. All of these papers can be accessed from the LHHL website, and you can link to them individually below:

Adding Trees Makes Life More Manageable: Trees ease poverty’s burden in inner city neighborhoods.
Kuo, F.E. (2001). Coping with poverty: Impacts of environment and attention in the inner city. Environment & Behavior, 33(1), 5-34.

Views of Greenery Help Girls Succeed: Girls with a home view of nature score higher on tests of concentration and self-discipline.
Faber Taylor, A., Kuo, F.E., & Sullivan, W.C. (2002). “Views of Nature and Self-Discipline: Evidence from Inner City Children.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22, 49-63.

Vegetation May Cut Crime in the Inner City: In an inner city neighborhood, the greener the residence, the lower the crime rate.
Kuo, F.E., & Sullivan, W.C. (2001). “Environment and crime in the inner city: Does vegetation reduce crime?” Environment and Behavior, 33(3), 343-367.

Trees Linked with [Less] Domestic Violence in the Inner City: Aggression and Violence are Reduced with Nature Nearby.
Kuo, F.E. & Sullivan W.C. (2001). Aggression and violence in the inner city: Impacts of environment via mental fatigue. Environment & Behavior, 33(4), 543-571.

Where Trees are Planted, Communities Grow: Green spaces entice neighbors outdoors on a regular basis, where they build friendship and ties to one another.
Kuo, F.E., Sullivan, W.C., Coley, R.L., & Brunson, L. (1998). Fertile ground for community: Inner-city neighborhood common spaces. American Journal of Community Psychology, 26(6), 823-851.

Rachel Carson ‘Sense of Wonder’ Contest

Rachel CarsonThis looks like a beautiful opportunity. I love the intergenerational aspect:

Rachel Carson Intergenerational Poetry, Essay, Photo and Dance Contest

Sponsored by US EPA, Generations United, the Rachel Carson Council, Inc. and the Dance Exchange

In 2007, the world celebrated the 100th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s life.  She was an American biologist who cared deeply about the natural world around her. In The Sense of  Wonder, Ms. Carson wrote “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after the night and spring after the winter.” And it is also important to remember how nature can serve as a source of strength, as she noted with the comment from the book, that, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

To honor this amazing woman, the EPA, Generations United, The Dance Exchange and the Rachel Carson Council, Inc., are sponsoring the Fourth Annual Rachel Carson Intergenerational photo, essay,  poetry and dance contest “that best expresses the Sense of Wonder that you feel for the sea, the night sky, forests, birds, wildlife, and all that is beautiful to your eyes.” We want you to share this love of nature with a child and others around you.  When we teach our eyes and ears and senses to focus on the wonders of nature, we open ourselves to the wonders around us.

Submissions are due June 16, 2010.  The finalists will be selected by a panel of judges. Then the public will be asked to vote for their favorites in each category: photography, essay, poetry and dance. Entries must be intergenerational projects involving persons from different ages and generations. The winners will be posted on our websites and announced in October. (this is the correct link now – sorry to those of you who tried it before, and ditto with the one below. Thanks to one of our readers for pointing this out!).

For more information please see:

If you know of someone who might be interested, please share this blog post!

ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design PPN Event: Informal Walking Tour in Washington, D.C.

Photo of the American Psychological Association's Rooftop Labyrinth by Lea Goode-Harris

Registration for the annual ASLA meeting (American Society of Landscape Architects) has begun, and it’ll be in Washington, D.C. this year, from September 10-13. But before you book your ticket, think about joining the Healthcare and Therapeutic Design (HTD) and Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Networks for a “meeting before the meeting” walking tour of some D.C. sites that relate to human health and well-being, on September 9th.

Here’s the write-up from the HTD PPN Therapeutic Landscapes Design social networking site (which is open to all):

“We plan to spend the day visiting sites on and along the Mall to generate discussions on how they relate to our common interest in Therapeutic Gardens.  We are considering several sites, including  the Vietnam Memorial, the Butterfly Garden, the Garden at the Native American Museum and the rooftop garden and labyrinth at the American Psychological Association.  After the site visits, we hope to gather and ‘debrief’ to share our thoughts.  The date is Sept. 9th, the day before the actual meeting. We will meet in the morning around 8:30 AM and continue through the day (you can join us in the afternoon, depending upon your travel plans.)  We will be sending out further information as we get closer to the date.  There is no cost and we will stop for lunch along the Mall. We will hope to continue the conversation at the PPN meeting on Saturday or Sunday.  We will be sending out further information in the coming weeks and asking you to RSVP for the event.”

If you’re interested in attending and don’t want to join the above-mentioned site, just leave a comment here and I’ll hook you up.

While researching for this blog post, I found a great post by Lea Goode-Harris about the APA’s rooftop garden and labyrinth on her blog Tales from the Labyrinth. Lots of good pictures! This is one of the many projects funded by the TKF Foundation; we’ve written about them in the past, and I’m sure we’ll be doing so again. They do great work. The APA labyrinth will be the first stop on our walking tour that day, and they are excited to show us around. In case you can’t make our “meeting before the meeting” but want to visit the green roof with labyrinth, it’s at 10 G Street, N.E., and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. You can get access by asking the guard at the front desk (this from the APA website).

And if you want more on labyrinths, check out the Therapeutic Landscapes Network’s Labyrinths page.