Interior Gardens and Atria

Notes from the Cleveland Botanical Garden Sustainability Symposium

Cleveland Botanical Garden Restorative Garden. Photo by Naomi Sachs

I learned so much and met so many great people last weekend at the Cleveland Botanical Garden Sustainability Symposium, and I’d like to share a few highlights while they’re still fresh in my mind.

First, the Cleveland Botanical Garden is beautiful, even in frigid, frozen February under five feet of…snow (okay, two feet, but I was on an alliteration roll there). I was delighted to finally meet Bob Rensler, whom I’ve known for many years through TLN correspondence. He gave me a tour of the whole garden, and while we skated and trudged and geeked out on plants (he even appreciated my love for the Latin name of the dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides), Bob told me a more about his work with restorative landscapes in homeless shelters. Talk about healing gardens. These are gardens for men who are homeless, often with serious medical issues as well. Here’s an article about one of the projects, Joseph’s Home.

David Kamp’s keynote on Friday about the Elizabeth and Nona Evans Restorative Garden was terrific, and it was such a treat to go be able to go out to the garden after the talk. I can imagine how beloved this space is in warmer months. The point that stayed with me most about David’s work in this garden was the way that he designed spaces for everyone to maintain dignity at all times. An example: One could design the standard ADA-compliant sloped path, which is 5% without a handrail. If you’re pushing a wheelchair – whether you’re in it or behind it – 5% is awfully steep and you’re going to get winded, and that can be embarrassing for everyone. Adding frequent flat landings – breaks in the slope – and perhaps something to look at, or a bench to sit on, in other words some excuse to pause and take a break, allows everyone to maintain dignity without calling attention. Or the horticultural therapy area as another example. This is in the garden, but off to one side and gently screened so that the people in the program don’t feel “on display” to passers-by, yet they are still part of the garden.

Cleveland Botanical Garden Restorative Garden. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Cleveland Botanical Garden Restorative Garden, horticultural therapy area. Photo by Naomi Sachs

A talk on the Cuyahogo Metropolitan Housing Authority was inspiring. How many other municipalities have a designated landscape person? Pardon me, I have left my notes at home and I’m writing this blog post at the JFK airport en route to Lima. But trust me, the woman who spoke was great, and she has a great title. She does amazing work, from meeting with residents about issues of safety – broken sidewalks, falling-over fences, etc. – to instigating new or breathing life back into old community gardens and allotment gardens. The most powerful example being a garden that was built on the site of a parking lot where two shootings, and two deaths from those shootings, had taken place. That’s what I call a healing landscape. And such a beautiful example, as the landscape is being healed right alongside the community.

There were all kinds of good examples of ways that nurturing the landscape, the earth, can nurture individuals and communities. Stormwater management, rain gardens, butterfly gardens, herb gardens…the list goes on, and the presentations were interesting and informative.

Cleveland Botanical Garden Costa Rica Animals. Images courtesy Cleveland Botanical Garden

And finally, I learned to slow down and take a healthy dose of my own medicine. I talk all the time – including during my presentation last Saturday – about the positive benefits of interaction with nature, about how connection with nature elicits what Stephen and Rachel Kaplan call “soft fascination,” sensory experiences that attract your attention without taxing it the way concentrating on work, or walking down a busy city street, can do. Their term for this salutary effect is “Attention Restoration Theory.” I had a few minutes before my talk, and since I was feeling a tad nervous, I decided to check out the Glasshouse Gardens. The CBG has two – Madagascar and Costa Rica. They are both beautiful, and what really drew my attention that day were the birds. They were so captivating, the red-legged honeycreepers (that gorgeous blue bird pictured above), the finches, and the ducks, all flitting about and making their sweet noises and just generally being magical. As I breathed the warm, earthy air and took in all of the green and sparks of color and myriad textures and the life all around me, I could feel myself slowing down, and calming down. Who needs beta blockers when you can go for a walk in the garden?

I hope people who heard my talk got as much out of the Sustainability Symposium as I did. I’m grateful to the Cleveland Botanical Garden for inviting me as Saturday’s keynote speaker. It’s a special place and I look forward to visiting again when the snow has melted and life in the garden is in full glory. Renata and Geri and Natalie and Bob and Joe are all fantastic people (thank you, Joe, for introducing me to the chameleon – wish I’d gotten a better picture). I will be back!

Peru, Here I Come! Healing Gardens for the Yantalo Clinic

Schematic sketch for Yantalo Clinic interior courtyard. Courtesy of Yantalo Foundation and the NewSchool of Architecture and Design

Schematic for Yantalo Clinic interior courtyard. Courtesy of Yantalo Foundation and the NewSchool

In 2005, Dr. Luis Vasquez visited Yantalo, Peru – his mother’s birthplace – for the first time. Though he had grown up in Lima, about 500 miles southwest of Yantalo, he had never seen his mother’s hometown. A retired cardiologist, Luis was struck by the need for medical care in the community. So Luis did what many of us dream of doing: He created the Yantalo Foundation, setting the wheels in motion to build a health clinic that would serve the people of the region.

Ground has now been broken, and work is well underway on the construction of the Adelina Soplin Yantalo Clinic & Diagnostic Center,  the first green clinic in South America. The 16-bed International Clinic will be equipped with telemedicine, solar power and intelligent water use to decrease negative environmental impact and to lower operating costs. The Clinic will serve everyone in the region, regardless of their ability to pay, while also serving as a training center for Peruvian medical students and physicians. International physicians, dentists and other health care professionals will examine and treat patients who otherwise have no access to proper medical attention.

Gina Cangialosi and Lauren Garza designed all work related to the architectural plans of the clinic. Principles of evidence-based design (EBD) were used throughout. The faculty, students and professional friends of the NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego, CA, donated their time and expertise to the Foundation (their renderings are pictured in this post).

And a week from today, I will be in Yantalo, doing the same – donating my time and expertise for landscape design of the clinic and surrounding site.

From a landscape perspective, there are some very exciting things about this project:

  • The clinic has been designed with several interior courtyards as well as exterior spaces for patients, visitors and staff. The opportunity to work on a design where access to nature as a restorative element is a “given” is very exciting.
  • The clinic is on land that was cleared a long time ago – the disappearing Amazon forest is a major problem in Peru, and the government has a strong REforestation program in place. The Yantalo Foundation is proud to be part of that program; they have planted almost 200 trees already, with plans to plant 3,000-4,000 by the end of the project.
  • A local association of retired senior citizens are very active with the project, and many of them have extensive horticultural knowledge – about what grows well where, and also what plants can be used medicinally. I’ll be working closely with them on the design of the healing gardens in and around the building.
  • We will definitely be exploring the use of medicinal plants, something we don’t often get to do in the United States. In Yantalo, one of the goals is to nurture and maintain cultural traditions. Whether medicinal plants are used symbolically or for actual harvesting and use, they will be part of the design.

I leave on Saturday and will be there for a week. Where is Yantalo, exactly? In the Amazon jungle, 648 miles (405 km) south of the Equator. Here’s a map. Bye-bye, winter, hello, summer! I’ll do my best to send updates while I’m there – the best way to keep track of goings-on will be through Twitter and the TLN’s Facebook page, and will go more into detail once I’m back home.

For more information, and to make a donation to the Yantalo Foundation, visit their website:

Rendering of Yantalo Clinic. Courtesy of Yantalo Foundation and the NewSchool of Architecture and Design

Rendering of Yantalo Clinic. Courtesy of Yantalo Foundation and the NewSchool of Architecture and Design

Surviving the Winter by Connecting with Nature…from Indoors (Part V)

Sometimes it’s best to stay indoors…

I’ve managed to string this series of posts out long enough that it feels like spring is just around the corner…and perhaps for some of you in milder areas, it is. Here in Zone 5 New York, we still have a good few inches of snow on the ground, and the wind is making what is technically an above-freezing day feel like it’s well below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. So, I’m enjoying writing this post from the comfort of my office, which overlooks part of the garden, including a witch hazel in full bloom. Seeing this harbinger of spring, with her strange beautiful blossoms, always lifts my spirits and gives me hope. For more on other early spring bloomers, take a look at this post.

witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

During this series on “surviving the winter by staying connected to nature,” I’ve mentioned those times when we just can’t get outside. Maybe the weather or the walking conditions are just too harsh or dangerous. Maybe our physical condition limits how much we can get out. Fortunately, there are still things that we can do, from the comfort of our homes, to keep us connected to nature until spring. That’s what this post is about: Connecting with nature, from indoors.

Watch the birds, and other wildlife, through your window
We covered birdwatching in a recent post (as well as other wildlife, if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where you can see it), and I hope that some of you were able to participate in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count. You can participate all year long with Project Feeder Watch – click on the link to learn more.

Enjoy your indoor plants
Did you know that people who work in places with live indoor plants have significantly higher levels of job satisfaction than those with no plants? It’s true! See this blog post for more on that. Another recent study found that postoperative patients with flowering and foliage plants in their rooms fared better than those with no plants, including needing less pain medication and recovering faster. So there’s a real scientific reason for taking flowers to people in the hospital. This TLN Blog post lists that and several other similar research studies. If indoor plants are good in the workplace and at the hospital, you can bet that they’re good for us at home, too. Indoor plants are also excellent air purifiers. Here are some more resources:

1. Plants That Heal: Indoor Therapeutic Gardens – An article by Planterra about one of their indoor hospital gardens, with great information about how plants purify the air.

2.’s list of the Top 5 Plants for Improving Indoor Air Quality.

3. Living on Earth’s list of “Ten Eco-Friendly House Plants.”

4. A really heartwarming story (also from Living on Earth) about students at Stuyvesant High School (above), which is just blocks away from Ground Zero, who received indoor plants from nurseries after the attacks on September 11, 2001, as a way to purify the air.

Image from

Force bulbs and branches
When spring just won’t hurry up and get here fast enough, we can do something to hurry it along called “forcing,” with bulbs and flowering branches of shrubs and trees. Putting these plants in water in the warmth of our homes fools them into thinking that spring has arrived, and they go about sending up shoots and flowers. I do this every year with forsythia, and this year I think I’ll try it with serviceberry as well. Here’s a good article on forcing bulbs, and here’s a nice article from Fine Gardening about forcing branches, including a list of some good trees and shrubs to use. The blog Heirloom Gardener has some really beautiful images of forced branches, along with a good forcing calendar.

Plan for next year’s winter garden
Now is a great time of year to look out onto your (or your clients’) garden and see what’s missing in the winter-time. Are you hungry for more color? Perhaps you should plan for some more evergreens, or shrubs with brightly-colored branches (such as red-twig dogwood, coral maple, and several willow species) or berries for next year. Or perhaps your garden needs more structure – what we designers call “the bones” of the garden. Maybe an unexpected tree or shrub form would help to add interest and even levity to the garden: For example, the Dr. Suess-like branches of Henry Lauder’s walking stick or corkscrew willow.

Start seeds
There’s something so promising about seeing little seedlings of herbs and vegetables nosing their way through the soil and emerging into the light and warmth of our homes. Lots of good information on the web, but two of my favorite sources are One Green Generation and Fine Gardening’ 10 Seed-Starting Tips. You’ll find some informative videos on that page as well.

Look at garden books and catalogs
Here’s one comment that I received from an earlier post in this series:

When I lived in Michigan, I took up cross country skiing to make winter bearable. Still found the long winters with flat gray sky day after day tough – I always felt starved for color. Looking at art books and garden books helped.

Curling up with a good, juicy garden book, or a plant or seed catalog, can be just what the Winter Doldrums Doctor ordered. And now is the time to do it, which leads me to my last suggestion:

Enjoy the down time

In some ways, winter forces us to slow down and turn inward. This can actually be a good thing, allowing us to rest, recharge our batteries, and emerge in the spring like new buds from recently dormant branches , rejuvenated and ready for a productive and fruitful growing season. So go ahead, for the remainder of the winter, allow yourself to revel in its quiet coziness: Curl up by the fire with a cup of hot something and a good garden book and allow yourself to dream…spring will be here before you know it.

Forcing spring

Image from House Beautiful, 2008

It’s the third warm, sunny day here in the Hudson Valley, and it really feels like spring. Today I celebrated by cutting some stems from our giant forsythia hedge to force indoors. Even though forsythia and magnolia are three of the earliest spring-blooming shrubs (but later than witch hazel – see this post), we’ve still got a few weeks before they really burst into full glory. By taking cuttings and bringing them inside, you can trick trees and shrubs into thinking spring is further along, hence the term “forcing.” I actually could have done this weeks ago, but I always forget! You can force lots of other shrubs and trees, too, including azalea, flowering quince, pussywillow, witch hazel, serviceberry, redbud, rhododendron, beautybush, crabapple, and other fruit trees such as cherry, apricot, pear, and apple. To see some really gorgeous examples, check out this blog post from Habitually Chic: “Forcing Spring.” 

Forcing trees and shrubs is also a nice idea in the healthcare setting, particularly in long-term care facilities like nursing homes and hospices. Think how nice it would be in a place where residents have been cooped up indoors all winter, if the horticultural therapist or another health care worker or a family member took some cuttings and brought them indoors for a little spring preview. Or better yet, went with the residents on a “field trip” to prune a few branches on the grounds. Most long-term care facilities have flowering trees and shrubs, and as long as they are pruned carefully and not too overzealously, no one will miss a few branches here and there. If you are letting residents help, make sure to oversee the use of sharp tools, and of course no matter who’s doing the cutting, make sure to prune so that the actual tree or shrub isn’t harmed. Here’s a good article from, that tells you when and how: “Forcing Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs.” A bouquet of twigs, then buds, then flowering branches becomes a great conversation piece and provides that joyful anticipation of spring’s arrival. 
Of course, people force bulbs, too. Paperwhites and hyacinths are the most popular two, but other spring bulbs work as well. Here’s a good article about that from “Forcing Flowering Bulbs for Winter Color.” 

The need for natural light, part III

Let’s see, which hospital room would you rather stay in? This one (A)?

Or this one (B)?

Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, Carson City, NV
As for me, I’d choose B. There are lots of reasons why I think B is better than the A, but high on the list is that B has lots of windows that not only look out onto a view that even homebuyers would pay good money for, but that let in copious natural light as well. 

And so we come to the Part III of “The need for natural light.” 

The benefits of natural light – at home, at work and school, and in the healthcare setting – have been well documented. People fare better when they have access to natural light. For example, a 1998 study found that sun exposure in the workplace environment increased worker satisfaction and performance, including lowering intention to quit and reducing fatigue (that same study, by Leather et al., found that providing views of nature also increased satisfaction, particularly in high-stress environments). A landmark “Daylighting in Schools” study found that students in classrooms with more natural light scored as much as 25% higher on standardized tests than other students in the same school district (see references below for full citation and to link to the condensed study). 

As for healthcare: Roger Ulrich and colleagues have found exposure to natural light to be an important factor in environments for healing. Exposure to sunlight can reduce depression, alleviate stress, and even reduce pain. In addition to providing essential dosages of Vitamin D, sunlight increases our levels of serotonin, which in turn inhibits pain. In their recent literature review of evidence-based healthcare design, Ulrich et al. cite a study by Walch and colleagues of post-operative spinal surgery patients. Patients with sunnier rooms reported less stress and took 22% less analgesic pain relief medication (see Ulrich et al, 2008, below). 

In her new, excellent book A Visual Reference for Evidence-Based Design, Jain Malkin lists daylight as one of the key ingredients in creating a successful Environment of Care: “There is a major focus on the importance of natural light and views, access to gardens, and clarity of wayfinding.” In Chapter 4, “Incorporating Research into Design Features,” lighting is first on the list: “Lighting–both natural and electric–is the most important component of an interior environment. Adequate exposure to natural light is essential for biological health and entrainment of circadian rhythm. Research indicates that patients in rooms that receive more sunlight are less depressed and have reduced length of stay.” Malkin also mentions benefits to staff members (pp. 63-65; see full citation below). 
So what does all of this have to do with therapeutic landscapes? 

Simple: Windows that let in natural light… 

The waiting room at Santa Fe Cancer Center at St. Vincent Hospital 
looks out onto the healing garden (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

…can also offer views to the outside world (even skylights can sometimes give us views of blue sky and/or clouds). As Ulrich et al. state in their most recent (2008) literature review, “Larger windows in patient rooms not only provide natural light, but they also have the potential benefit of offering views of nature and should be considered in the design process.” 

Healing garden at St. Vincent Hospital, Santa Fe, NM 
(note the mirrored windows – they provide privacy for those inside 
while also reflecting the garden to make it appear larger).

And as we know from Ulrich’s and other studies, window views to something more interesting than a brick wall, or the building’s air conditioning system, elicit better outcomes. And the research also suggests that more naturalistic the setting, the better the outcome (again, see Ulrich et al, 2008, below).

Lobby at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, Carson City, NV

All of this research notwithstanding, there are times when natural light can be too much of or not enough of a good thing.

Too much of a good thing

1. When light = sun = heat. In hot climates, keeping light out is one important way of regulating the temperature. Whether inside the building or out, people seek shade when temperatures rise above the human comfort zone. Though it’s beautiful and exemplary in many ways, I’m actually not sure how I’d feel in the above Carson City lobby on a hot day in August…but maybe they’ve got it all figured out with awnings, blinds, or some other technology (besides just more AC). 

2. When light = glare. For example, as I write this, the sun is starting to stream into my office, which would be lovely if it didn’t glance off of my computer screen. Time to draw the curtain. And glare can truly be a problem, especially for people like the elderly who are glare-sensitive. 

3. This last point isn’t so much to do with light as with privacy. The one drawback of a window, especially on a ground floor looking out onto a garden, is that if users inside can see out, then people outside can usually see in. Designers of hospitals with interior courtyards often grapple with the double challenge of the “fishbowl effect” (feeling like everyone can see you when you’re in the garden) and not wanting to violate the privacy of those indoors. Designers have found all sorts of clever ways to address this issue, including at St. Vincent Hospital, above, where mirrored windows allow users inside to see the garden whilst keeping their privacy intact, and users outside get the sense of an even larger and more verdant garden (yep, the old mirror trick can work in the landscape as well).

Window coverings: That 1998 workplace study I mentioned earlier also suggested providing users with ways to control the amount of light (curtains, etc.). As we also know from research, providing people with choices is another way to reduce stress and bolster a feeling of control over one’s environment. Whether those operable window coverings are used to control light for temperature regulation, glare, privacy, or just personal preference, they should be provided whenever possible.
Not enough of a good thing: Seasonal Affective Disorder and Sundowners Syndrome. Sometimes natural light has to be augmented or adjusted, as in these two examples below.

1. Another issue with natural light is that in the winter, there just isn’t enough of it. We’ve all heard of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder, and this is a real thing. Just as plants need grow-lights in the winter because even sitting in a sunny windowsill isn’t enough, some people need additional light, too. Full spectrum light therapy, at doses of 2500 – 10,000 lux, has been found to be as or even more effective than anti-depressants for some SAD sufferers. 

2. For people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, exposure to light and the color of light should be controlled and regulated to avoid mood changes and disruptive behaviors, particularly those brought on by “sundowners syndrome.” In two studies by Melinda La Garce, the effects of “Sundowner’s Syndrome” and other light-related problems were reduced by adding “full spectrum lighting to simulate daylight, shading devices to reduce sun angle change and shadows, and light monitors to keep the light intensity the same throughout the day and evening.” In the 2004 study, La Garce noted that the sun’s altitude, which changes over the course of the year, affects the color, intensity, and angle of daylight. She also found that the color of light seemed to play a stronger role than shadows and light intensity. 

As I’ve mentioned in the past (see, for example, “When the Weather Outside is Frightful”),  indoor atria are another great way to provide access to natural light and nature, even on days when going outside is not an option. This image is of the Fourth Floor Atrium at the University of Alberta Hospital in Canada. To see more examples, link to Shane Pliska’s article in Interiorscape Magazine.


Crockett, Jim (2004). “Healthy Daylight and Healthy Darkness: What our Bodies Need.” Consulting-Specifying Engineer. Click HERE to link to the article.

Darling, Tammy (1993). “Seeing the light: why your body needs regular doses of natural light.” American Fitness, Nov-Dec. Click HERE to link to the article.

Gross, Raz, Yehuda Sasson, Moshe Zarhy, and Joseph Zohar (1998). “Healing Environment in Psychiatric Hospital Design.” General Hospital Psychiatry, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 108-114. Read the summary by InformeDesign.

Heschong, Lisa and Heschong Mahone Group (1999). “Daylighting in Schools: An Investigation into the Relationships Between Daylighting and Human Performance.” Commissioned by California Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Click HERE to link to the condensed report.

Horowitz, Steven G., M.D. (1998). “Design Trends: Designing for Advanced Therapeutic Outcomes – Acute Care.” Journal of Healthcare Design, Vol. 7. Read the summary by InformeDesign.

La Garce, Melinda. (2004). “Daylight Interventions and Alzheimer’s Behaviors – A Twelve-Month Study.” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp. 257-269. Read the summary by InformeDesign.

La Garce, Melinda. (2002). “Lighting Affects Behavior of Alzheimer’s Patients.” Journal of Interior Design, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp. 15-25. Read the summary by InformeDesign.

Leather, Phil, Mike Pyrgas, Di Beale, and Claire Lawrence (1998). “Windows in the Workplace: Sunlight, View, and Occupational Stress.” Environment and Behavior, Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 739-762. Read the summary by InformeDesign.

Malkin, Jain (2008). A Visual Reference for Evidence-Based Design. The Center for Health Design

van Bommel, W. J. M. and G. J. van den Beld (2004). “Lighting for Work: A Review of Visual and Biological Effects.” Lighting Research and Technology, Volume 36, No. 4, pp. 255-269. Read the summary by InformeDesign. 

Ulrich, R. S., Craig Zimring, Xuemei Zhu, Jennifer DuBose, and Hyun-Bo Seo, Young-Seon Choi, Xiaobo Quan, and Anjali Joseph. (2008). A Review of the Research Literature on Evidence-Based Healthcare Design. Published in Health Environments Research & Design Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring, pp. 61-125. Click HERE to read the abstract. 

Ulrich, R. S., C. Zimring, A. Joseph, X. Quan, and R. Choudhary. (2004). The Role of the Physical Environment in the Hospital of the 21st Century: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity. Concord, CA: Center for Health Design. Read the summary and access the full report at the Center for Health Design.

Walch, J. M., B. S. Rabin, R. Day, J. N. Williams, K. Choi, and J. D. Kang. (2004). “The effect of sunlight on post-operative analgesic medication usage: A prospective study of patients undergoing spinal surgery.” Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 67, pp. 156-163.

“Isn’t every garden a healing garden?” Part I

According to my definition, a Landscape for Health could be a garden designed specifically for healing, like for a hospital or nursing home (see above), and it could also be any number of other landscapes, designed or “natural,” as long as they make people feel good (in technical terms, Landscapes for Health bring “positive outcomes” that reduce negative factors like stress, high blood pressure, and anti-social behavior, and instead encourage positive and restorative factors like fascination, wonder, healthy social interaction, relaxation and/or physical activity, and a general sense of well-being). A stretch of beach; a clearing in the woods; a park in a city (Central Park being a supreme example); a community garden; a backyard sanctuary; Francie’s fire escape in Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; a memorial; an indoor atrium that stays green and lush even when it’s -30 degrees and sleeting outside. Get the picture?  

Central Park, NY, NY

Couldn’t that be just about any landscape, the slightly vexed reporter asked? This is similar to my most-frequently-asked question, which is “isn’t every garden (or landscape) a healing garden?” to which I unfortunately have to answer no. There are plenty of landscapes, both designed and undesigned, that are not conducive to our health and well-being. A few examples that spring to mind would be (see below) most parking lots; many urban and suburban landscapes, including streetscapes; most quarries, clear-cut sections of forests, superfund sites, and other damaged landscapes (brownfields); most of New Mexico in March when the juniper pollen renders anyone even slightly allergic into a tired, sniffling, eye-watering, blubbering mess; and, sadly, many designed gardens, sometimes even ASLA award-winning, magazine-published spaces (yup, just because it looks good in print doesn’t mean it feels good to be there). 

Photo of California foothills housing by Alex Maclean – 

There are plenty of landscapes, and even gardens, that at best are not salutary, and at worst are actually harmful to our physical, emotional, and even spiritual health. So, smarty-pants, you may be wondering, how do you differentiate Landscapes for Health from “healing gardens?” Stay tuned, I’ll try to answer that one tomorrow.

Information needed, and a favorite children’s and rooftop garden

I got a request recently from someone who is looking for examples of children’s hospital gardens with rooftop conservatories (in other words, an enclosed space on a rooftop at a children’s hospital). I’ve found many examples of children’s gardens, rooftop gardens, and conservatories, but so far haven’t found all three in one. Anyone out there know of an example? If so, please share by posting a comment! 

In the meantime, here’s an image of one of my favorite children’s gardens that is also one of my favorite rooftop hospital gardens, the Olson Family Garden at the Children’s Hospital, St. Louis, MO (got the image from the Waymarking website:

Landscape Architecture Magazine did a nice article on the garden in 2002, which you can read online:

Also, here’s a video clip about it:  

I visited this garden a few years ago during the ASLA annual meeting with Roger Ulrich, Virginia Burt, Jack Carman, and other colleagues and we were all so impressed. While we were there, a nurse led a small child–who was recovering from severe burns–around the garden. We were moved to see this young patient, wrapped in bandages, maneuvering about the garden, touching the fountains, looking at the flowers, and generally interacting with the world despite the pain. For me, it was one of those “ah-hah” moments when what you do moves beyond the realm of the theoretical and academic. Yes, gardens really are important, especially in hospitals, and they really do make a difference in people’s lives.

I’ll be in Maine for a week starting Monday, with limited internet access, so this is my last post until next week. When I return, I hope to see lots of comments in response to this blog post!

I Demand Satisfaction! The Role of Nature in Job Satisfaction

Photo by Naomi Sachs

Not the dueling kind, but the kind that involves psychological well-being.

The next time you need a reason for investing in a garden, or windows that look out onto an interesting view, or even some indoor plants, you can cite this new study which has linked job satisfaction to views of live plants or windows:

Individuals working in spaces with live interior plants or window views have significantly higher levels of job satisfaction than people who work in spaces without live plants or windows: “Findings indicated that individuals who worked in offices with plants and windows reported that they felt better about their job and the work they performed. This study also provided evidence that those employees who worked in offices that had plants or windows reported higher overall quality-of-life scores.” Live plants in an office, even without the window views, lead to more positive psychological states.”

Andrea Dravigne, Tina Waliczek, R. Lineberger, and J. Zajicek. 2008. “The Effect of Live Plants and Window Views of Green Spaces on Employee Perceptions of Job Satisfaction.” HortScience, vol. 43, p. 279.

I found this study listed on Research Design Connections, an excellent resource for anyone in the design and healthcare fields.

This is the view out my office door, so I have no excuses for not loving my work!

Winter Landscapes: Planting for Winter Interest

The view from my office window during an ice storm in February
(trees are Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’)

It’s finally March, which means winter is almost over, and spring is almost here. In some parts of the country and world, this means a lot. But before winter comes to a close and we forget about it until next year, some thoughts on designing outdoor spaces that hold your or your clients’ interest, even on the darkest, coldest days.

1. Use plant material that offers winter interest.
a. Evergreens such as pines, junipers, holly, bamboo, and ivy, to name just a few, offer glimpses of much-needed green at this time of year.

b. Berries that linger throughout the winter give us something colorful for us to look at (two of my favorites are winterberry holly (
Ilex verticillata) and hawthorne (Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’), and also provide much-needed food for birds and other wildlife. Some fruit, such as rosehips from Rosa species, can be harvested by us, too, for medicinal purposes (rosehips contain a huge amount of Vitamin C; note that care should be taken when harvesting any plant for medicinal purposes – research how to do it before just plucking and eating!)
c. Bark on trees can sometimes be even more beautiful than foliage. London plane trees and
sycamores, Stewartias, alligator junipers, and several types of dogwood shrubs are just a few examples.
d. Attract wildlife. Even if the plant itself doesn’t look like much at this time of year, if it’s providing food or shelter for wildlife, then we have plenty to watch through the window from the warmth of inside. Of course, there are other ways to attract wildlife as well (see the previous couple posts) such as adding bird feeders, baths (you can even get heated ones), and houses. Even if your “
garden” is a fire escape or a window ledge, you can install a bird feeder.
e. Plant early bloomers. Remember that witch hazel I mentioned on 1/21 ( She bloomed about two weeks ago, and is still going strong:

Spice bush (Lindera benzoin) is another early spring bloomer, and of course bulbs such as snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodils are delightful harbingers of warmer and brighter days to come. There are a number of good books out there now on planting for the seasons, as well as for texture, bark, berries, etc. I’ve listed a few on the Therapeutic Landscapes Database Plants page; if you buy these or any books from by clicking on the Amazon Associates logo in the left-hand column, a percentage of the sale goes to support the Therapeutic Landscapes Resource Center.

When the Weather Outside is Frightful: Interior Healing Gardens

For those of us not in Florida or Phoenix, this time of year doesn’t allow for as much interaction with nature, especially if we are in a wheelchair or just not so sure of foot. Many healthcare facilities (and many corporate offices, too) offer indoor gardens, atria, or greenhouses for those months when going outside is not an appealing or safe option. Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, MI (above) is one of the healthcare facilities featured in this article: