Wendy Meyer, a recent MLA graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington left such an informative comment on the last blog post, on scent as an emotional memory trigger, that I thought it was worth printing in its entirety, especially since she provides a link to her thesis, “Persistence of Memory: Scent Gardens for Therapeutic Life Review in Communities for the Elderly.”
Aha, I finally figured out how to post a comment! I wrote my master’s thesis in landscape architecture on this subject–specifically, on using fragrant plants in gardens for elderly people to help conduct reminiscence therapy. There is a ton of new brain science being done on the links between smells, emotions and memories. It turns out that early, emotional autobiographical memories are strongly related to smells, because of the way the brain evolved. I looked at how reminiscence helps older people come to terms with their lives, historic use of scent in gardens as well as history of therapeutic gardens. I also interviewed a group of practitioners for their advice and insights on using scent for therapy in gardens. I got different perspectives from landscape architects who design therapeutic gardens, nurses/therapists who work with elderly populations and horticultural therapists who work in all kinds of settings. One of the recurring themes was the need for everyone involved to work together in creating these gardens–not just garden designers and hospital/nursing home administrators, but the therapy staff, families, patients and (not to be forgotten!) the maintenance staff. I spent two and a half years reading and could have spent lots longer (but I needed to graduate)! You can see the thesis at this link:
http://dspace.uta.edu/bitstream/10106/550/1/umi-uta-1697.pdf. Or if that doesn’t work, I’m sending a PDF to the Therapeutic Landscapes Network website.
When I asked Wendy for permission to post this, and mentioned I might use a rose for the image, here’s what she had to say:
“Roses were probably the flower that came up the most–particularly rugosas, because the hips have a distinctive scent–but also lavender, gardenias, rosemary and lilac. People mentioned a lot of scents outside the garden as well–firs in the Northwest, sagebrush after a thunderstorm in the Southwest, crabapple blossoms in Wisconsin. I have a bunch of plant lists in the appendices–that was one of the fun parts to put together!”
Thanks so much, Wendy!