Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Newsletter, chock-full of good stuff

Photo of oak leaves in spring by Henry Domke

The most recent ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design* newsletter has just been published, and as usual, it’s full of all sorts of good information.

The newsletter gets a mention in this week’s LANDOnline, especially Nancy Gerlach-Spriggs and Vince Healy’s piece, “The Therapeutic Garden: A Definition.” It’s a good article, and brings up a lot of the issues that we often discuss here at the Therapeutic Landscapes Network. Defining terms like Therapeutic Gardens and Landscapes, Restorative Landscapes, Healing Gardens and so on is a challenge, and Nancy and Vince do a thoughtful investigation.**

Other articles in the newsletter include:
Whether you read the full newsletter or just the articles that speak to you, it’s an excellent contribution to this field. Many thanks and congratulations to all who made it happen!
* The American Society of Landscape Architects has several Professional Practice Networks, one of which is Healthcare and Therapeutic Design.
**I take slight issue with the assertion that only landscape architects are able design Therapeutic Gardens. I believe that landscape designers, with the proper training, are just as capable. I’d much rather have a well-trained, committed LD be on the team of designing a healthcare facility’s outdoor environment than an LA who has no expertise in this particular area. In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that though I have an MLA (Master of Landscape Architecture), I have not yet attained certification as a landscape architect, so for now I practice as a landscape designer.

Watching the Birds – Connecting with Nature in Winter, Part III

Photo courtesy of Kelly Riccetti at Red and the Peanut

Continuing our series on “Surviving the Winter by Staying Connected to Nature,” today’s post is about enjoying nature from inside, and in particular, feeding and watching the birds.

It’s true that one of the keys to making it through the winter is getting outside (more on that in the next post). But let’s face it: Even if we do venture forth, we’re probably not going to be out very long. So what is a “healing garden” in winter? One that we can gaze upon and enjoy from indoors. And what better way to hold our attention than watching the birds? It’s certainly been keeping me going this winter. This is the first year that I’ve noticed white-breasted nuthatches flitting back and forth from the bird feeder to the white oak. And in addition to the usual sparrows, crows, dark-eyed juncos, starlings, and cardinals, we seem to have more chickadees and tufted titmice (titmouses?) this year as well. Such a delight!

I want to especially encourage nurses, administrators, volunteers and family members who care for seniors to do more to attract birds. Place bird feeders and baths (you can even buy heated ones) outside of private and community windows. Watching, identifying, and counting birds can bring a great deal of meaning (and social interaction) into people’s lives. Bird-watching is an excellent antidote to the common problems of boredom, loneliness, and isolation.

No matter what your age, here are some resources to get you started. There are two primary ways to attract birds to the garden. First, plant things that birds are attracted to for food and habitat. The following books and websites will help you choose what to plant and how to keep a garden that’s bird-friendly throughout the year:

Second to providing natural food and habitat in your garden, supplement with birdfeeders and bird baths. The National Bird-Feeding Society is a great place to start. Learn about bird feed and feeder preference; how to prevent disease at bird feeders; best backyard bird-feeding practices, and more. And many of the websites listed above also provide information about this aspect of backyard bird-care as well.

All of these resources, plus a few more, are on the Therapeutic Landscapes Network’s Sensory & Wildlife Plants page. Stop on by, and if you have other recommendations, let us know.

Photo by Henry Domke,

Photo courtesy of Henry Domke

New Research Summary on Outdoor Play Spaces at Childcare Centers

Image of Buffalo PS90 courtesy Joy Kuebler

If you’re relatively new to this blog, then you may not yet have heard me rave (in a positive way) about InformeDesign. This is one of the best resources for evidence-based design (EBD), and it’s still free, and you can sign up to have new research summaries emailed to you.

One summary this week that seems particularly appropriate to the Therapeutic Landscapes Network is of an article by Susan Harrington, “Perspectives from the Ground: Early Childhood Educators’ Perceptions of Outdoor Play Spaces at Child Care Centers.”

Previous studies have indicated that outdoor play spaces have the potential to support physical, emotional, and social growth in children, and the author chose to focus on Canadian outdoor splay spaces, from the point of view of Early Childhood Educators (ECEs).

The finding that most interested me was that outdoor play spaces with plants got more positive comments than those with no or little vegetation. Furthermore, ECEs working at centers with vegetation tended to make more positive comments about seasonal change (fall color, plant cycles, etc.) than those in centers with no vegetation, where comments regarding seasonal change were more negative (hot asphalt and slides, wet equipment, etc.). Cue all landscape architects, designers, and plant-lovers whispering “yes!” in victorious unison.

And for those of you who are especially interested in children’s play environments, I’ll also call your attention to a recent blog post by Shawna Coronado on creating gardens for children: “Fantasizing About Spring: A Garden Built for a Child.” Lots more information on the TLN’s Get Out and Play! page as well.

Full citation: Harrington, Susan (2008). “Perspectives from the Ground: Early Childhood Educators’ Perceptions of Outdoor Play Spaces at Child Care Centers.” Children, Youth and Environments, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 64-87.

The image above is of Buffalo (NY) Public School 90 Early Childhood Science Center Magnet, designed by Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect. It was featured last month on Playscapes, a great blog about playground design.

A New Way to Improve Quality of Life for Seniors: Excellent DVD Series (with a discount for us!)

Five years ago, Susan Rodiek embarked on a project to create a series of DVDs about providing better access to nature for older adults. Rodiek, a professor at Texas A & M University’s Center for Health Systems & Design, specializes in senior populations, and access to nature has long been a focus for her research and teaching.

Those years of hard work have paid off. I received my “Access to Nature for Older Adults” DVDs last week and I’m truly impressed. The three-DVD series is not just instructional – it’s downright inspiring. With beautiful imagery, compelling research and interviews, easily digestible information, and a lot of real, practical solutions to common problems, it’s a must-watch and a must-have for architects, landscape architects, planners, educators, and any care provider who works with seniors in continuing care retirement communities, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospices, as well as acute care general hospitals.

Session One, The Value of Nature, describes how access to nature may benefit the health of seniors, from the perspective of experts and available research – addressing the role of programs, policies, and design issues.

Session Two, Improving Outdoor Access, explores how the layout of the building itself can either encourage or discourage outdoor access, and how specific areas – such as indoor-outdoor connections – can be successfully developed.

Session Three, Safe and Usable Outdoor Spaces, highlights the main outdoor features that are reported by residents to impact their outdoor usage, and how these can be improved. Seating, shade, and walkways are among the outdoor elements illustrated.

The Access to Nature website is also chock-full of good information. Some of it is accessible to everyone, and some of it is only accessible if you have the DVDs. So go ahead and buy them! You won’t be sorry.

Receive a 10% discount: Between now and the end of January 2010, Therapeutic Landscapes Network members and readers of this blog will receive a 10% a discount when you buy any or all of the Access to Nature DVDs. Just enter this promotional code in the checkout section on the Access to Nature website: TLNA2N.

Live! Therapeutic Landscapes Network Launches New Site,

Our Echinacea “mascot” image, courtesy of Henry Domke

The Therapeutic Landscapes Network is pleased to announce the launch of our new website.

Same url,, same great content (actually we’ve added more), and many new features, including:

  • Search function within the site;
  • Blog and site under one virtual roof;
  • Larger, richer images, with more on the way;
  • Updated Designers and Consultants Directory with a map for geographic as well as alphabetical search (contact us if you’d like to be added to our Directory);
  • Expanded Therapeutic Gardens Directory (map coming soon, too);
  • Sponsors who help fund the work that we do (individual donations are also most welcome);
  • Sound! Click on “play birdsong audio” on the left-hand side of the home page;
  • And coming soon, a Network Forum within the site for members to share information and ideas.
And that’s just the beginning. We’re pretty happy with our new site, and we hope you will be, too. Take a spin around, and let us know what you think.

Sign up for our (free) newsletter to join the Therapeutic Landscapes Network.

Many thanks to our “early adopter” Sponsors Landscape Forms, Imagine Childhood, and Lee Anne White Photography. Contact us if you would like to become one of our Wonderful Sponsors.

And many thanks to Wayne William Creative for their beautiful design and to Randy Caruso for his technical magicianship. Please visit our Credits and Thanks page to see all of the talented people who helped us get off the ground.

The Therapeutic Landscapes Network is the leading resource for information, education, and inspiration about healing gardens, restorative landscapes, and other green spaces that promote health and well-being. We are a knowledge base and gathering space for a global community of designers, health and human service providers, scholars, gardeners, and nature enthusiasts. Connecting people with information…people…nature.

Almost there! Therapeutic Landscapes Network gears up to launch new website

The Therapeutic Landscapes Network is working feverishly to launch our new website in time for the annual American Society of Landscape Architects Meeting and Expo next week (and the American Horticultural Therapy Association and Healthcare Design 09 conferences soon after that).

Above is a sneak peek at our beautiful homepage. Oooh. Ahhh.

This isn’t just a superficial makeover. We’ve reconfigured the TLN site to offer
  • improved searchability and richer imagery;
  • an expanded Designers and Consultants Directory;
  • an expanded Directory of Therapeutic Gardens;
  • sponsorship opportunities for businesses and organizations to promote their products, services, and expertise;
  • an integrated blog (website and blog all under one virtual roof);
  • an interactive Network Forum where members can meet and share information and ideas;
  • and more information than ever before on gardens, landscapes, and other green spaces that facilitate health and well-being, for an even broader global community of designers, health and human service providers, educators, students, gardeners, and nature enthusiasts.
Want to get in on the action before the launch? Easy:
  • Email us at if you’d like to list in our Designers and Consultants Directory or be one of our fabulous sponsors.
  • Sign up here (or with the form in the right-hand column – same thing, different look) to become a member and get on our mailing list. It’s free, and we’ll put you on our newsletter list so we can tell you right away when we launch the new site.
Oh, and if you aren’t following us on twitter yet, join us there, too! We’ve got 2,000 followers so far, with more coming every day.

First Children’s Outdoor Environments Newsletter

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.”
– Joseph Chilton Pierce

The ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (PPN) has published its first newsletter, and it’s an indicator of many more good things to come from this group, formed last year by Jena Ponti (the Chair), Robin Moore*, and others. To link to the newsletter, click HERE.

Encouraging children and teens to play outside, to interact with nature, is so important. Our future – and more importantly, their future – depends on it. I’ve blogged about Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, his organization the Children & Nature Network, and his work on passing “No Child Left Inside” Legislation (sign the petition HERE!).

If you’re interested in this topic, here are some other really good organizations, websites, and blogs to get you started (have other suggestions? Leave comment and we’ll add it to this list).

Robin Moore’s Natural Learning Initiative
The National Institute for Play
The Green Hour
The Grass Stain Guru
The Child & Nature Alliance
Playscapes: A Blog About Playground Design

What’s Out There

Our ASLA conference is coming up in a little over a week, and several education sessions focus on children’s outdoor environments and play. See this blog post to learn more about those.

*Robin C. Moore is also the author of my favorite book about plants for children’s gardens, titled – aptly – Plants for Play. In addition to an extensive list of ideas about what to plant, he also provides a good list of what not to plant – plants that are potentially harmful. Good to know!

Thanks, Aryeh, for the picture!

Guest Blog Post: Book Review of Esther Sternberg’s ‘Healing Spaces.’

I’m not sure if this counts as a “guest blog post,” because I didn’t actually ask Jason King, our guest, if he wanted to contribute. But I have just read his post about Dr. Esther Sternberg’s new book Healing Spaces: The Science and Place of Well-Being, which I’ve been meaning to review as well. Jason’s review is so thoughtful and well-written that I’d rather just turn the spotlight over to him. Jason King is a landscape architect and a colleague who has been interested in this field of health and landscape architecture for a long time. His own blog, Landscape + Urbanism, is an excellent resource. So, click HERE to link to Jason King’s review of Healing Spaces on his blog, Landscape + Urbanism; you get a bonus video of Sternberg discussing the book in her own words.
Postscript: I’ve just been in touch with Dr. Sternberg and will be interviewing her on Friday, so check back for that on the blog sometime next week.

Picture of Health – Great new book on healthcare art, with many references to nature

My friend and colleague Henry Domke recently sent me a hard copy of his new book, Picture of Health: Handbook for Healthcare Art. If you think that the subject of art for healthcare may not seem all that closely related to the subject of therapeutic landscapes, think again!

After serving his community in Missouri as a family physician for almost thirty years, Henry decided in 2007 to pursue his passion as a nature photographer full-time. You can see his beautiful images on his website, Henry Domke Fine Art, and if you’re a follower of this blog, you will see some familiar pictures. Henry has always been generous with allowing me to use his images since he believes in what we’re doing here at the TLN. He also has his own excellent blog, Healthcare Fine Art, in which he explores the connection between art and healthcare. The two years of blog entries form the basis of this very informative book; I’ve already referred to it several times, and I refer to the blog often.

Henry believes strongly in a few things. One is the power of nature, and nature imagery, to make people feel good and to to even help sick people feel better. Second is the importance of being a steward of nature: His parents started the Prairie Garden Trust, a 500-acre restoration project on their own land, in the 1970s, and Henry and his wife are dwellers and caretakers of the land and the Trust. Many photographs are taken on the Trusts’ grounds. And last but not least, Henry believes in making decisions that are based not just on intuition, but on facts. This is called Evidence-Based Design (EBD), in which researched and documented evidence about such things as patient outcomes, staff turnover, and hospital safety are used to inform design decisions such as the healthcare facility’s architecture, gardens, programming, and artwork. Many of Henry’s posts deal with this issue, and his blog (and now book) is one of the best resources for healthcare art. It’s also a pretty darn good resource for all designers, artists, and healthcare providers who are trying to introduce more nature into healthcare.

Here’s one quote that illustrates Henry’s motivation for his artwork and his writing:

“As a doctor, I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals, and I know how stressful they can be. Even in the best of circumstances, such as having a baby, it can be a scary and anxious time. But when you’re experiencing something truly life-threatening, being in a clinical environment can make you feel even worse. What if, instead of that cold space, you could look at images that triggered thoughts of happy times in nature, scenes that transported you mentally to a better place?”

Landscape architects and designers agree with this statement 100%, and we work hard to get real gardens into the healthcare setting. If a picture can make someone feel better, imagine what an escape into a real garden can do! Henry discusses “real vs. represented” in at least two posts, Nature vs. Virtual, and Real Nature vs. Pictures of Nature, which are also published in the book.

I recently discovered another way that Healthcare Fine Art and Picture of Health can useful to landscape designers: Art in the garden. Many healing gardens integrate artwork – tiles, or sculptures, or murals – and it’s often up to the landscape architect/designer to figure out how the art, the hardscape, and the plant material will interact. Henry’s work serves as an excellent guide. Stay tuned for a blog posting on this very subject coming soon to a Therapeutic Landscapes Network Blog near you.

You can order a hard copy, or download a free pdf version, of the book from the Henry Domke Fine Art website.

“Can Pastoral Beauty Heal the Mind?” Therapeutic Landscapes in Psychiatric Hospitals

Image of Naumkeg Orchard courtesy Henry Domke Fine Art

Jane Roy Brown’s article, “Can Pastoral Beauty Heal the Mind” in this year’s Library of American Landscape History‘s annual journal, View, caught my eye last week. In two pithy pages (pp. 11-12), Brown provides an overview of the history of Northern State Hospital in Washington, a psychiatric hospital built at the turn of the twentieth century. The 227-acre hospital campus, as well as the adjacent 720-acre farm, were designed by John Charles Olmsted (yes, son of Frederick Law) and James Frederick Dawson of the Olmsted Brothers firm between 1910 and 1913.

The landscape architects designed several institutional landscapes, and Northern State Hospital was but one example of the ethos of the time in sanitoria and psychiatric institutions, when fresh air, proximity to and contact with nature, and gardening and farming were thought to be not only beneficial to the patient but in many cases a vital part of treatment. Brown says that “…the property is a rare intact example of an institutional landscape that reflected a Reform-era therapeutic approach to illness and disability, emphasizing the spiritual and moral benefits of nature,” (p. 12).

In researching the historic section of my chapter on psychiatric hospitals for Clare Cooper Marcus and Marni Barnes’ Healing Gardens: Therapeutic Benefits and Design Recommendations, I came across many such examples, and was intrigued by the cyclical nature of how people view, value, and utilize “nature.” Fortunately, we seem to be in another age where people see nature, and the environment (hello, green movement) as something worth working with and fighting for. I do worry sometimes that history will repeat itself and we’ll one day turn out backs on nature again, but I’m hoping that perhaps for once, history will not repeat itself, or if it does, it won’t be for a long, long time.

In addition to the chapter above, here are a few more good resources; some are already on the Therapeutic Landscapes Network‘s site (re-launch of new site coming soon!) and some will be added in the near future:

Barnhart, S., N. H. Perkins, and J. FitzSimons (1998). “Behavioural and Setting Preferences at a Psychiatric Hospital.” Landscape and Urban Planning, Vol. 42, Nos. 2-4, pp. 147-157.

Gerlach-Spriggs, Nancy, Richard Enoch Kaufmann and Sam Bass Warner, Jr. (1998). Restorative Gardens. See especially the chapter on Friends Hospital

Frangipani’s fascinating and beautifully illustrated Flickr post on the Oriental Gardens at Callan Park (or Rozelle Hospital, near Lilyfield, Australia – see this Wikipedia entry for more information).

Hickman, Clare (2006). “Therapeutic Gardens: An Overview of the History of Hospital Gardens in England from 1800.” Bristol University, UK. Paper Presented at the Forum UNESCO University and Heritage 10th International Seminar “Cultural Landscapes in the 21st Century.”

Kovary, Myra M. (1999). “Healing Landscapes: Design Guidelines for Mental Health Facilities.” Master of Landscape Architecture Thesis, Cornell University.
A similar version of Kovary’s thesis was published with the same title as Chapter 12 of Shoemaker, Candice A. (Ed.) (2002). Interaction by Design: Bringing People and Plants Together for Health and Well-Being. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State Press.
If you’d like an electronic copy of this thesis, contact the author:

Neuberger, Konrad R. “Horticultural Therapy in a Psychiatric Hospital: Picking the Fruit.” Note: I found this pdf on the web, and it’s Chapter 34 of ??? Need to do a little digging – no pun intended – to find out what it’s Ch. 34 of. If anyone knows, please help me out!

Regnier, Victor (2002). Design for Assisted Living: Guidelines for Housing the Physically and Mentally Ill. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

And as always, if you know of other good references or resources, please leave a comment.