Healing Garden

Design & Health Australasia 2012 Symposium

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

Photo by Henry Domke, www.henrydomke.com

Design & Health Australasia 2012
March 28-29, 2012
Sydney, Australia
Details here: www.events.designandhealth.com/events/australasia

This conference is through the International Academy for Design and Health

See their events page on their website for upcoming symposia in Europe (9/20-21) and Africa (November) as well as their Design & Health 8th World Congress and Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (6/27-7/1).

The health status of people living in Australasia is one of the highest in the world, with rising life expectancies, and falling mortality and morbidity rates. At the same time, however, the region is facing similar challenges to the rest of the developed world, characterised by rising costs pressures, an ageing population and a rise in the level of lifestyle diseases, most notably diabetes and obesity. In addition, Australasia faces the challenge of addressing the inequities in health outcomes of its poorer socio-economic groups, in particular its indigenous population and those living in more remote and rural areas. In recognition that a healthy population is the foundation for social development and economic growth, health reform in Australasia is undergoing a policy shift that is recognising the need to redesign its health systems to embrace health promotion and embed a preventative approach based on better education, evidence and research.


“Soft Touch For A Silent Voice: Therapeutic Gardens for Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” – Masters Thesis by Michelle Parkins

Photo by Michelle Parkins, Soft Touch For A Silent Voice

Photo by Michelle Parkins. "The response to the veterans survey about water really illustrated to me the connections veterans (and others) have with water as a healing aid."

I met Michelle Parkins last May when I was teaching at the Chicago Botanic Gardens Healthcare Garden Design Certificate Program, and was immediately impressed by her commitment to her MLA research project on gardens for veterans with PTSD and other combat-related issues. Since then, Michelle has completed her thesis, which is available as a beautifully bound book at www.lulu.com/product/paperback/soft-touch-for-a-silent-voice. Below is the thesis abstract and a bit about Michelle, a veteran herself.Therapeutic Gardens for Veterans. Michelle Parkins and Annie Kirk

Michelle (that’s her on the left in the red jacket), in collaboration with Annie Kirk, principal at Red Bird Design and founder of the Acer Institute, recently created Therapeutic Gardens for Veterans groups on Linked In and Facebook. These groups are a “Collaboratory to advance therapeutic garden environments as an extension of support and care for veterans & their families.” I encourage everyone interested in this subject to join in on the conversation.

Here is what Michelle writes about herself and her interest in this subject:

My adventures in life have seemed to always evolve around the military; growing up an ‘Army Brat’ triggered my interest. My time in the Navy consisted of great travel overseas and the education I received both in and out of Navy was invaluable. Due to an injury, my time in the Navy was cut short, however my respect for my fellow veterans and active duty military has never gone away. As a veteran using the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system, I saw first hand the need and potential benefits for utilizing the outdoor garden spaces as VA hospitals and clinics. Although I have completed my Master’s of Landscape Architecture I plan to pursue the research and possible consultation of gardens for veterans.


Nurture connection to nature by nurturing winter wildlife

Black-capped Chickadee. Photo by Henry Domke, http://henrydomke.com

Black-capped Chickadee. Photo by Henry Domke, www.henrydomke.com

The TLN Blog has published posts in the past on winter wildlife, and we will do so again in the coming year. But today I’m sharing this post from one of my favorite blogs, Beautiful Wildlife Garden:

Top 10 Tips for Your Winter Wildlife Garden

The article discusses the many rewards of creating a winter wildlife garden and offers tips on how to best provide food, water, and shelter for birds.

And speaking of which, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count is still on, through January 5th:

Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – and to help guide conservation action.

Thanks again to Beautiful Wildlife Garden for the heads up on this.

So whether you’re enjoying watching wildlife from the comfort of your warm, cozy home or outside braving the elements as a Citizen Scientist for the Bird Count, connecting with nature at this time of year will nurture and sustain you until spring returns.


A Masters thesis on Healing Gardens for Veterans with PTSD

Image courtesy of Care2.com

Image courtesy of Care2.com

It’s Veteran’s Day, 2011, a good time to highlight some new research on gardens for veterans with PTSD. This is such an important topic, and Brock Anderson decided to make it his Thesis for his Master of Landscape Architecture at Utah State University.

“An Exploration of the Potential Benefits of Healing Gardens on Veterans with PTSD,” by Brock Anderson, is now availalble online for download at http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/gradreports/50/.

Here’s the Abstract:

Healing gardens are places that facilitate in improving or restoring an individual’s mental or physical health. Today, therapeutic landscape design is a growing facet of landscape architecture. This study looks at the potential benefits of using healing gardens in addition to traditional methods of treatment for veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A reasonable amount of research has been done into the area of therapeutic landscapes and their influence on certain populations, but the potential positive effects these healing gardensmay hold for veterans suffering from PTSD seems to be unidentified. This study examines the history of healing gardens, problems facing veteran populations today, current treatment methods for PTSD, and how healing gardens could be beneficial to veterans with PTSD. A Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare facility that is in the process of implementing a healing garden was usedto determine how their PTSD patients will potentially use a healing garden space during treatment.

The purpose of this study was to describe some of the potential benefits that healing gardens could have on veterans suffering from PTSD. Other VA facilities can use this information in the future when implementing healing gardens for PTSD patients. This study is intended to increase awareness of the potential benefits healing gardens might hold for veterans suffering from PTSD and encourage further research into the area.

Recommended citation: Anderson, Brock Justin, “An Exploration of the Potential Benefits of Healing Gardens on Veterans with PTSD” (2011). All Graduate Reports and Creative Projects. Paper 50. http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/gradreports/50

Many thanks to Brock for sharing this with us!

And if that weren’t enough great stuff for one day, here’s an excellent article by Janet Brown, published recently in Healthcare Design Magazine, about a wonderful healing garden and horticultural therapy program at the East Orange NJ Veterans Affairs: http://www.healthcaredesignmagazine.com/article/va-campus-takes-healing-gardens.

Therapeutic Gardens in San Diego – Mesa Vista Psychiatric Hospital

Sharp Mesa Vista Psychiatric Hospital, Don Allen Memorial Garden. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Bridge over koi pond in the Don Allen Memorial Garden, Mesa Vista Psychiatric Hospital.

Our second stop on the “meeting before the meeting” tour of gardens at healthcare facilities in the San Diego area (with the ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Professional Practice Network, organized by Chris Garcia)  was the Don Allen Memorial Courtyard at the Sharp Mesa Vista Psychiatric Hospital. The garden was designed by Schmidt Design Group and was built in 2010.

Don Allen Memorial Garden, Mesa Vista Psychiatric Hospital, San Diego, CA.

Don Allen Memorial Garden, Mesa Vista Psychiatric Hospital, San Diego, CA.

This courtyard garden serves the part of the hospital devoted to substance abuse patients. I believe that some are in- and some are out-patients, but don’t quote me on that.


Therapeutic Gardens in San Diego – San Diego Hospice

San Diego Hospice, pergola at entrance. Photo by Naomi Sachs

San Diego Hospice, pergola at entrance. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Before the official start of the ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) conference last week, I had the good fortune of attending a “meeting before the meeting” tour of several gardens at healthcare facilities in the San Diego area with the ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Professional Practice Network. Chris Garcia did an amazing job of planning the tour and coordinating the entire day. Kudos to Chris and to all of the good people who opened their doors and let us tromp through their facilities, asking millions of questions and taking lots of pictures.

In the next couple of blog posts, I’ll share some impressions and photos from our tour, in chronological order of what we visited.

San Diego Hospice, resident rooms with balconies. Photo by Naomi Sachs

No, this is not a luxury hotel, these are the rooms, w/ balconies, at the San Diego Hospice. Photo by Naomi Sachs

San Diego Hospice

Garden type: Hospice “tribute garden”
Designers: Wimmer, Yamada and Caughey
Built: 2000
Visiting: As this is a hospice, you should definitely call first if you’d like to visit.

The following is an excerpt from the article “Hospital Gardens That Help Heal,” by E’Louise Ondash, RN

Peggy Lee, RN, a staff nurse for 15 years at the Inpatient Care Center at San Diego Hospice, has no doubt that its Tribute Garden serves as a place where patients, families and staff can rest and renew.


Updated LATIS Publication on Therapeutic Garden Design

Late-season bumble bee, Stonecrop Gardens, Cold Spring, NY. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Late-season bumble bee, Stonecrop Gardens, Cold Spring, NY. Photo by Naomi Sachs

From ASLA’s LAND e-news:

ASLA has released an updated version of a publication in the Landscape Architecture Technical Information Series (LATIS): the “LATIS Forum on Therapeutic Garden Design, 2nd Edition.” The paper highlights the benefits provided by therapeutic outdoor environments in a variety of settings and underscores their importance to people’s health and well-being at all stages of life.

The authors are Marni Barnes, ASLA; Jack Carman, FASLA; Nancy Carman; Nancy Chambers; Clare Cooper Marcus, Honorary ASLA; Nilda G. Cosco, Affiliate ASLA; Mark Epstein, ASLA; Sonja Johansson, FASLA; Jean Stephans Kavanagh, FASLA; Don Luymes; Patrick F. Mooney, ASLA; and Robin C. Moore, Affiliate ASLA.

In addition to updates provided by the authors, this LATIS has been evaluated for Professional Development Hours (PDH) under the guidelines of the LA CES (Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System) program. The update of this paper is part of an ongoing ASLA project to review content and reevaluate PDH of older LATIS publications. ASLA members and nonmembers can download LATIS papers at no charge from the ASLA website. Download is free for members [and the fee for non-members is $50] ; members and nonmembers pay a small fee to take an exam and receive PDH credit for each LATIS read.

Click on the ASLA LATIS page to download the publication.

As a teaser, here’s the Table of Contents:

PART ONE: Therapeutic Gardens in Healthcare Settings

  • A Thumbnail History of Therapeutic Gardens in Healthcare
  • The Role of Gardens in the Therapeutic Milieu of Healthcare Facilities
  • Gardens in Acute Care Settings: Principles and Practice
  • A Children’s PlayGarden at a Rehabilitation Hospital: A Successful Collaboration Produces a Successful Outcome

PART TWO: Environmental Sources of Wellbeing

  • Therapeutic Landscapes in the Public Realm: Foundations for Vancouver’s Wellness Walkways
  • Well-being by Nature: Therapeutic Gardens for Children
  • Therapeutic Gardens in Assisted Living Communities
  • The Power of Landscapes

Gimme Shelter! Shade in the healing garden

Ulfelder rooftop garden, Massachusetts General Hospital. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Ulfelder rooftop garden, Massachusetts General Hospital. Photo by Naomi Sachs

I’ve been meaning to write this post all summer, and of course now it’s fall and here in the northeast, shade doesn’t seem as important anymore. But plenty of the country is still baking (if not on fire), and half of the world is just now headed into summer. I asked the TLN Facebook group to rate the importance of shade, on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most important). Two people responded “11,” and one member, from TX, responded with 15. So here we go:

The importance of shade in the healing garden

I’m so tired of seeing “healing gardens” with no shade, or too little shade. I’ve seen many designs that are successful except for this one crucial element. I don’t know about you, but on a hot, bright day in August, the last place I want to be is outside in the sun, sweating and squinting. It’s gotten to the point where lack of shade doesn’t just make me sad, it makes me angry. Because while it’s a nice amenity in any public space, in the healthcare setting, shade truly is a matter of health.

Why provide shade?

1.  Sun protection, from UV exposure and glare
For burn patients; the elderly; people with cancer; AIDS; traumatic brain injuries (TBI); psychiatric illnesses which require medications that increase photosensitivity (sensitivity to the sun); and other conditions where direct sun (UV) exposure is hazardous, shade is paramount. In addition, colored concrete is often recommended for outdoor healthcare environments because it reduces glare. This is one of the reasons why we have embraced Scofield as a Wonderful Sponsor.

Photo by Naomi Sachs

2.  Heat mitigation
Shade provides a cooling effect, thus facilitating use of outdoor space for as much of the year as possible. This is particularly important in regions where high temperatures discourage people from venturing outdoors.


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

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

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

Just around the corner, with discounts for TLN members

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

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

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

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

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


Life and renewal in the garden – a cancer survivor’s story

Raised vegetable bed. Photo by Donna Helmes

Raised vegetable bed. Photo by Donna Helmes

Donna Helmes signed up for the Therapeutic Landscapes Network newsletter last week, and in the optional “tell us a little about yourself” box, she said that she was a cancer survivor. I asked whether she would share her story for the TLN Blog, and here it is.

In 2008, during a routine mammogram, an eagle-eyed radiologist discovered my invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. A double mastectomy and 4 rounds of chemotherapy followed.  I thought my life was over before it ever really began.  I was filled with regret over all my past missed opportunities and I grieved for things I believed that I would never have, such as a child of my own.  I struggled to find the strength to face my disease and endure treatment.

Donna Helmes during treatment

Donna Helmes during treatment

During my recuperation from surgery, my mother bought me a pack of seeds and a pink gardening kit.  I was unimpressed.  I lived in an apartment and I had cancer.  I wasn’t in the mood to take on a new hobby, especially one that might involve bugs! My mom would not be deterred. She planted the seeds in a tray and placed it in my laundry room.  She left me strict instructions about watering, and when and how to repot the seedlings when the plants were large enough.

Donna Helmes flowers. Photo by Donna Helmes

Annuals on the deck. Photo by Donna Helmes

So as not to disappoint her, I half-heartedly followed her instructions. I watered the tray of seeds and placed them in a sunny location.  I checked on them every day. After a few weeks, a funny thing started to happen.  I found myself looking forward to watching the progression of my little flower seedlings.  I was happy and more than a little excited when the plants were big enough to be transplanted.  After a few more weeks, as I neared the end of my chemo treatments, the flowers began to bloom.  I realized that the flowers symbolized so much for me about life and renewal and health.  I was transfixed by the lovely profusions of colors and textures and smells.  I rejoiced in the blossoms as much as I rejoiced at the end of chemotherapy.

From then on, the strength and beauty found in something so delicate inspired me.  I discovered that I felt calmer and could forget about cancer when I tended to my flowers. Each day brought a new discovery about the plants. I discovered that I loved digging in the dirt and caring for my plants (bugs be damned!).  I enjoyed learning about the rhythms of life and how a little sun, some water and lots of love can produce something wondrous.  It felt good to feel the warmth of the sun on my bald head and my arms felt more flexible after a few rounds of weeding.

Bella. Photo by Donna Helmes.

Bella, laughing

Today, I have my own house with a little backyard. I grow flowers, organic vegetables and all sorts of plants.  This year I even I added strawberries.  My beautiful baby girl, whom I adopted last fall, enjoys being next to me outside while I weed, water and tend to my garden.   We take pleasure in nature and our souls benefit from all the beauty around us.  And my mom? She couldn’t be happier for her daughter, the gardener.

Thank you so much, Donna, for your story and pictures!

Do you have a story to tell? Please share it with us, either here as a comment or by contacting us.