Community gardens

Children & Youth Garden Symposium: Register by 7/23!

July 11-13, 2013! Children and Youth Garden Symposium

The American Horticultural Society’s 2013 National Children & Youth Garden Symposium takes place at the Denver Botanic Gardens July 11-13, 2013, with pre-symposium garden tours on July 10 and 11.

In addition to a host of seminars, attendees will have the chance to participate in tours of the Denver Urban Gardens, The Gardens on Spring Creek (Fort Collins, CO) and Cheyenne Botanic Gardens (Cheyenne, WY). The event’s prime sponsor, The American Horticultural Society, has organized more than 50 workshops in six categories including Curriculum, Garden Design and Maintenance, Horticultural Science, Horticutural Therapy, Literature, and Policy.

Keynote speakers
The first of three keynote speakers is environmental psychologist Louise Chawla, Professor of Environmental Design at the University of Colorado.
As Associate Director of the Children, Youth and Environments Center for Community Engagement. Marcia Eames-Sheavly is a senior lecturer as well as children and youth program leader for Cornell Garden-Based Learning in Ithaca, NY.
David Sobel, Senior Faculty in the Education Department at Antioch University in Keene, NH. He is the author of seven books and more than 60 articles focused on children and nature for educators, parents, environmentalists and school administrators.

Pre-symposium garden tours July 10 and 11
Denver Urban Gardens supports one of the largest school garden networks in the United States. In this tour you will see three school gardens and learn how they foster community, health, and education. A youth-led farmer’s market at Fairview School Community Garden, a schoolyard farm at Denver Green School Community Garden supplying the cafeteria salad bar managed by Sprout City Farms, and integrated nutrition and science classes at Bradley International School’s Heather Regan Memorial Garden will be some of the dynamic aspects of youth gardening we will encounter.

The Gardens on Spring Creek and Cheyenne Botanic Gardens are public gardens that serve as models for children’s gardening due to their dedicated interest in making gardens a safe, enjoyable, and educational environment for children and youth. Staff at each location will give personalized tours while highlighting the history and development of these children’s gardens, as well as their hands-on methods of educational programming.

A sampler of symposium workshops

  • Benefits of School Gardens
  • Cross-Curricular Cooking
  • Slow Food in the Garden
  • Little Budget, Big Impact! Hands-on Lessons, Few Supplies
  • Sensory Gardens that Maximize Play
  • Learning Gardens: Making Outdoor Education Irresistible, Relevant and Resilient
  • Your Garden Toolkit: The Right Tools for a Children’s Garden
  • Lessons for Today’s Children’s Garden Educators
  • Discover Fun and Interesting Fruits and Veggies for the Garden
  • Teachable Landscapes: Using Gardens for Informal Science Learning

The symposium is also offering three Horticultural Therapy sessions:

  • Operating a Greenhouse with Special Needs Students
  • Horticultural Therapy and Junior Master Gardeners
  • Horticultural Therapy: Gardening with Pediatric Patients in a Hospital Environment

In 1993 the American Horticultural Society saw a need to reconnect children with nature, and  created the first Children & Youth Garden Symposium. If you wish to register the July 2013 conference, visit the registration page. Learn more details by visiting the overview page which offers a day-by-day schedule of workshops and activities. If you have specific queries, contact the American Horticultural Society,  703.768.5700 or


“From Motown to Growtown!” – Documentary ‘Urban Roots’ on farms, community gardens, and food justice in Detroit, MI

Urban Roots poster by Shepard Fairy,

Urban Roots poster by Shepard Fairy

Last night I watched the excellent and inspiring documentary ‘Urban Roots‘ at the Horticultural Society of New York.  It’s a film about urban farmers, gardeners, and food and community activists who are taking over the hundreds (thousands?) of acres of vacant lots in Detroit, MI and making them into productive landscapes that address ecological and economic problems at the same time – in other words, healing Detroit by healing and cultivating the earth. Or as one young woman said, “turning Motown into Growtown!” And it’s happening elsewhere, too. For example, at the Healing Landscapes Sustainability Symposium in Cleveland, OH this past February, I learned of several similar projects in the Cleveland area, and even in my own city of Beacon, NY, we have the Green Teen program, which “empowers urban youth to be effective community change-agents by immersing them in the local food system” and the CSA (community-supported agriculture) Common Ground Farm.

What impressed me about the movement in Detroit is individuals working at a grass-roots level (no pun intended…) to solve deep economic, social, and environmental problems for themselves instead of waiting for someone to give them a hand and do it for them. In other words, self-determination.

Some of the projects and places in the film: Brother Nature Produce, D-Town Farms, Field of Dreams (FOOD), Grown in Detroit, Eastern Market, Farnsworth Community Garden, Elmhurst, and Earthworks Urban Farm.

At the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, we focus on gardens and landscapes in the healthcare setting and on research and evidence-based design, because no other organization is doing this kind of work on an interdisciplinary level. But our mission is to serve as a “knowledge base and gathering space about healing gardens, restorative landscapes, and other green spaces that promote health and well-being.” That means any landscape, wild or designed, urban or suburban or rural, large or small, that facilitates health. And preferably the health of not just humans but animals and the planet as a whole.

For information on these broader topics, visit our website’s Other Healing Landscapes section. We’re still adding to this, but right now we have pages on community gardens, gardens in prisons, and memorial gardens. Input and suggestions are always welcome.

Thanks to the Horticultural Society of New York for screening the film, to Mark McInnis for making the film, and most of all, to the people of Detroit for their inspiring work. Keep on growing!

Allotment Therapy: More empirical evidence on the salutary benefits of gardening

    Warrenville Lakes Homeowners Community Garden. Photo by Shawna Coronado,

Warrenville Lakes Homeowners Community Garden. Photo by Shawna Coronado,

Speaking of allotment gardens (see our 1/13 post about Charlie Hopkinson’s photography of allotment gardens), here’s an interesting study:

30 allotment gardeners were assigned to do a stressful task (not related to gardening). Immediately after, half of the gardeners worked in their own allotment plot and half read indoors, both for 30 minutes. With both groups, cortisol (a stress indicator) and self-reported stress levels went down, but they decreased significantly more in the group that gardened. I think I’m going to build me a greenhouse…

And here’s a moving blog by someone who struggles with depression and finds solace in her allotment garden. The blog is Allotment Therapy: A personal view of Ecotherapy, and the post is “The Wisdom of Plants.”

Stay tuned for another article on this topic, coming very soon!

Full abstract (link to the Journal of Health Psychology website to access the abstract and to buy the article): Stress-relieving effects of gardening were hypothesized and tested in a field experiment. Thirty allotment gardeners performed a stressful Stroop task and were then randomly assigned to 30 minutes of outdoor gardening or indoor reading on their own allotment plot. Salivary cortisol levels and self-reported mood were repeatedly measured. Gardening and reading each led to decreases in cortisol during the recovery period, but decreases were significantly stronger in the gardening group. Positive mood was fully restored after gardening, but further deteriorated during reading. These findings provide the first experimental evidence that gardening can promote relief from acute stress.

Full citation: Van Den Berg, Agnes and Custers, Mariëtte H.G. (2011). “Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress.” Journal of Health Psychology, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 3-11.

The Allure of Allotment Gardens: An interview with photographer Charlie Hopkinson

Walworth Community Garden, UK. Photo by Charlie Hopkinson,

Walworth Community Garden, UK. Photo by Charlie Hopkinson,

Charlie Hopkinson, a photographer based in the UK, has two primary subjects: People and gardens. Among many other things, he shoots portraits for Gardens Illustrated, which is how I met him, on an uncharacteristically sunny day at Kew Gardens in London. We talked about all sorts of things, but his interest in shooting allotment gardens (akin to community gardens in the U.S.) intrigued me. I asked him to send me some images, and then invited him to do this short interview.

Allotment garden, UK. Photo by Charlie Hopkinson,

Photo by Charlie Hopkinson,

NS: You have photographed some pretty high-profile people, from John Malkovich and Angelica Houston to Beth Chatto and Dan Pearson. And your landscape and botanical photographs are beautiful, though somewhat more formal than this series (is it officially a series?). What interests you about allotment gardens?
CH: I’m interested in photographing allotments because they almost always reflect the personality of the gardener. Many of the formal gardens I photograph reflect the personality of the garden designer. Allotment gardens are often pretty unstructured, which I like, purely functional as opposed to decorative which I like, and they are usually arranged in straight lines, which I find far more visually interesting that clever curves and so on. I love straight lines in photographs.

Do you have an allotment garden?
I don’t, but I’m making a garden at the moment, and allotments are the principle inspiration, especially function over decoration, straight lines, and a certain unstructured approach!

Allotment garden, UK. Photo by Charlie Hopkinson,

Photo by Charlie Hopkinson,

If money were no object, would you travel the world shooting allotment gardens, or is there something special about them being in the UK?
I would travel the world doing just that. I recently went to Kenya, and came across the odd allotment here and there, and photographed them. They were fairly scruffy and unkempt. There’s nothing special about UK allotments as far as I’m concerned. Up to now, this has been an idle thing I have done here and there. I would, given time, make a more studied effort, but it would have to include the allotment gardener being photographed too.

Many thanks to Charlie Hopkinson for his beautiful photographs and this interview. Brief bio: Charlie has been a butcher, paint maker, artist, and soldier before he taught himself photography. Based in South London, he spends most of his time on location photographing well known subjects for a wide variety of magazines. Much of his personal work is centred around things that grow or once grew. His gardening hero is Henk Gerritsen, and his bible, is Henk’s Essay on Gardening. Photographic heroes include Jacques Henri Lartigue, and Diane Arbus. You can see more of Charlie’s work at his website,

To learn more about community and allotment gardens, visit the Therapeutic Landscapes Network website’s Community Gardens page.