“Defiant Gardens” and Other Resources for Veterans

Image courtesy of Gardening Leave

For this post, on Veterans Day in the United States, I’d like to share some information about resources specifically for veterans.

While many veterans returning home from war have to deal with physical trauma, almost all suffer from emotional trauma and strain. On the extreme end is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can be debilitating for not just the individual veterans but for their entire family and community. More and more research has been coming out about gardening, exposure to nature in a safe setting, and horticultural therapy as effective tools for fighting PTSD and other stress-related problems.

Here are some resources about work that is being done around this issue:
Gardening Leave ( is a UK charity, founded by Anna Baker Cresswell, for ex-Servicemen and women with PTSD and other mental health troubles. 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).

The Acer Institute, founded and directed by P. Annie Kirk, teamed up with the ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Professional Practice Network in 2005 to host a day-long conference, “Therapeutic Garden Design and Veterans Affairs: Preparing for Future Needs” at the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center. You can download most of the presentations, see photos and movies, and even request the CD, on which all of the information is compiled, from Acer’s website. Since that conference, Annie has been creating a list of therapeutic (healing) gardens at VA Facilities. You can access this list from Acer website’s VA healthcare page (you just have to fill out a short form first). You can also add to the list, helping Acer to keep building this knowledge base.

Another great resource is the website Defiant Gardens, which came from Kenneth Helphand‘s book by the same name. I am so impressed with Helphand’s scholarship, and my admiration goes beyond his consistently good research and writing. In this case, it’s truly inspiring.

What are “defiant gardens?” They are, in the words of the author, “…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.” Helphand’s book focuses on “Trench Gardens” on the Western Front in WWI, “Ghetto Gardens” in Nazi Europe, “Barbed-Wire Gardens” created by allied prisoners of war and civilian internees in Europe and Asia in the World Wars, gardens in Japanese internment camps in the United States during WWII, and gardens following WWII.

What I appreciate most about the website is that it includes information from the book, but also keeps going from there, encompassing prison gardens, community gardens, and gardens in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and even Guantanamo. The most recent post is the text from a New York Times article on gardens in Afghanistan.
And here’s another really nice post by my fellow landscape architecture and blogger colleague Rochelle Greayer: “I Gardened for My Life: The Defiant Gardens of POWs on Veterans Day.” Thanks for the mention, Rochelle. Always happy to inspire:)
And finally, here’s a link from the Farmer-Veteran Coalition (Farmers helping veterans, veterans helping farmers”) to a post about Nadia McAffrey, a Gold Star Mother (she lost her son in the Iraq war) who founded Veterans Village “to provide compassionate healing and living environments for returning veterans damaged by their war experience.” They are expanding to sites in Minnesota and New York, “where land is available for farming and gardening – important components for both the healing and the livelihood for the communities.” Thanks so much to Sharon for these links!

Upcoming Conference: Healthcare Design 09

Image of dogwood leaves courtesy of Henry Domke
Healthcare Design 09 is probably the largest national conference addressing the intersection of healthcare and design. It is founded and produced by the Center for Health Design (CHD) in association with the American Institute for Architects (AIA) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). CHD’s focus is primarily for architects, but there’s plenty for landscape architects and designers to sink their teeth into. I can’t go this year, but if I could, here are some of the sessions I’d be attending:
  • A Practitioner’s Guide to Evidence-Based Design
  • Environmental Influences That Improve Outcomes: Biophilic Healthcare Design (Roger Ulrich)
  • Participatory Contextual Research for Ambient Experience Design of Healthcare Facilities
  • The Scandinavian Example – Four Different Projects and Patient Focus
  • Do Positive Distractions Influence Human Behavior? A Study of Pediatric Patients in Two Waiting Areas
  • Incorporating Labyrinths as Components of Optimal Healing Environments
  • An Overview of Recent Psycho-Social Research on Environments for Seniors
  • The Role of Sustainability in Creating Healing Environments
  • TAMU First Look Colloquium: Active Living Environments
  • Experiment to Study How Nature Images Impact Physiological and Psychological Responses to Pain
  • Green Roofs for Existing Hospitals – A Case Study
  • Healing Gardens and Horticultural Therapy – Creating Outdoor Environments for Healing
And these are Facility Tours I’d be interested in attending:
  • Tampa General Hospital Bayshore Health Pavilion: Hospital has a “landscaped internal courtyard.”
  • Shands Hospital – University of FL: “The hospital was designed around a ‘Central Park’-style healing garden, where a water feature leads patients and families to the main entry.”
  • Florida Hospital – Altamonte: “The new lobby and chapel are surrounded by a reflecting pool and haling garden.”
For those of you who are going, please report back! More landscape architects need to be involved with CHD, for our and their sake and – most importantly – for the benefit of patients, family members, and health practitioners who occupy the indoor and outdoor spaces we help design.

Upcoming Conference: AHTA’s “Sustaining Health & Wellness Through Horticultural Therapy.”

Fall is conference season, and the American Horticultural Therapy Association‘s 2009 “Sustaining Health & Wellness Through Horticultural Therapy,” in October, looks like one to attend, for sure. My only problem is that there are too many concurrent presentations that I want to attend. The AHTA is cruel to make me choose between, for example, “HT in a Rehabilitation Setting: A Case Study of the Royal Talbot Centre Horticultural Therapy Program” and “St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Motion Garden: An Innovative and Unique Garden Design,” both between 2:15-3:15 p.m. on Saturday. Sigh. Still, I’m looking forward to it.
We landscape architecture snobs don’t mix enough with horticultural therapists, and that is a shame, as these professionals are often doing more innovative research and work than we are (sorry, fellow LAs, no disrespect, but you know it’s sometimes true). That’s one of the goals of the TLN: To bring together professionals and laypeople, across disciplines and areas of interest, who care about gardens, landscapes, and other green spaces that facilitate health and well-being.
Click HERE for more information and access to the online registration form, and see you in Pasadena!

Upcoming Conference: ASLA’s “Beyond Sustainability: Regenerating Places and People.”

Photo of prairie in bloom courtesy Henry Domke Fine Art

It’s gonna be a good one! This year’s American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) 2009 Meeting and Expo, “Beyond Sustainability: Regenerating Places and People” looks to be one to attend, for sure. Chicago, with its myriad parks, and commitment to being a green city, has become a real a destination for landscape architects and designers. Heck, City Hall’s green roof and Millennium Park are reason enough to pay the windy city a visit. But Chicago also has lots of excellent examples of healing gardens and other therapeutic landscapes, and conference attendees will have the opportunity to see and experience several of those. Here are some conference highlights:
Okay, now for the promo: As Director of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, I’m excited to be moderating the Education Session on Saturday, “Healing Garden Evaluation and its Value to Professional Practice.” Two of the TLN’s Advisory Board members, Clare Cooper Marcus and Geoff Roehll will be presenting, as will landscape architect Marni Barnes, who worked with Clare on evaluating six of Hitchcock Design Group‘s healing gardens last year. Clare and Marni will present their evaluation methodology (which was basically a POE, or post-occupancy evaluation) and findings; Geoff will present how those findings have impacted the design of those and future spaces; and all four of us will talk about the implications of this kind of research for other healthcare design projects. Not to be missed!

Chicago is also home to the Chicago Botanic Garden, which boasts the Buehler Enabling Garden, a sensory garden, horticultural therapy programs, and one of the best Healthcare Garden Design certificate programs in the country.

See you in Chicago!

Alzheimer’s Association conference in Houston, May 1st

Image of hawthorne blossoms courtesy of Lotus Petal’s Flickr page
Hawthorne is considered to be a good herb to improve 
memory and mental alertness. Learn more on this website.

Mark your calendars for the Alzheimer’s Association‘s Schlicting Education Conference for Professionals, May 1st, 2009 in Houston, TX. This announcement came through someone who’s interested in therapeutic landscapes, so imagine the conference will have some component about outdoor space. Find out more by visiting this website.
Many thanks to Suzanne at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Houston & Southeast TX Chapter for the heads-up!

Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, 2009 – Hot Off the Press!

Well, they’ve gone and done it again. The American Horticultural Therapy Association has published another great volume of the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture. I swear, the journal alone makes the annual membership at AHTA worthwhile. Some of the articles are very specific to horticultural therapy (no big surprise there), but many of them are broad enough to pertain to the work that landscape architects and other designers do. I think any self-respecting healthcare-focused landscape designer/architect should also be a member of AHTA.

Here are some of the articles in this year’s issue (Volume XIX):

“Integrating Horticulture into the Vocational Rehabilitation Process of Individuals with Fatigue, Chronic Fatigue, and Burnout: A Theoretical Model.”

“Survey of Hort. Therapy Programs in Tennessee.”

“It’s More Than Seeing Green: Exploring the Senses Through Gardening.”

“A New Model for Hort. Therapy Documentation in a Clinical Setting.”

“A Theoretical Perspective for Using Hort. Therapy with Children.”

And then there are the 23 AHTA Annual Conference Abstracts from 2008, many of them compelling enough to make me want to contact the authors. And building on the last blog post about the importance of PLAY, many of these articles and abstracts have to do with connecting children and teenagers with nature. Good stuff!

Royal Society of Medicine Conference: Therapeutic Environments

Spotted parsley image courtesy Henry Domke Fine Art

Thanks to the folks at the Royal Society of Medicine for letting us know about their upcoming 
“Therapeutic Environments” conference, on Thursday, May 7 in Birmingham, U.K.

Here’s the scoop:

The aim of the conference is to introduce health professionals to the history, practice, range and clinical effectiveness of therapeutic communities. These are environments in which people of all ages are helped to work through emotional, and sometimes physical, trauma that has affected their ability to live productive and creative lives. Many repeatedly engage in self-defeating and damaging behaviour, and this approach enables them to find new and more successful ways of engaging in social relationships with others. It has application in a wide variety of problem areas, from emotional and behavioural disturbance in children and young people, to addiction and adult mental illness. 

The Darzi Report, advocating high quality services for people requiring care in the National Health Service, argues that patients should have “a greater degree of control and influence” over their care, “making services fit for everyone’s needs”, and “care that is personal to them”. Therapeutic Communities do exactly this, in a variety of settings.