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!

‘Healing Landscapes’ is this year’s topic at Cleveland Botanical Garden’s Sustainability Symposium

Cleveland Botanical Garden Sustainability Symposium 2011

Next weekend, on Friday and Saturday February 4-5, the Cleveland Botanical Garden will hold it’s 6th annual Sustainability Symposium, and the topic this year is “Healing Spaces.” The Symposium, geared toward landscape professionals and home gardeners, will feature an action-packed and continuing-education-credit-filled roster of speakers.

Friday’s keynote speaker is renowned landscape architect David Kamp, founding principal of Dirtworks Landscape Architecture, PC. David will speak about “Collaboration in the Garden: Creating Restorative Environments.” David/Dirtworks designed the beautiful and Elizabeth and Nona Evans Restorative Garden at the CBG, and I’m sure he will talk about the design process in his keynote address. Dirtworks, based in New York City, is a member of the TLN’s Designers and Consultants Directory.

Saturday’s keynote speaker is Naomi Sachs, founding Director of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network and principal at Naomi Sachs Design. The title of her (my) talk is “Green Healing: Landscapes for Health and Well-Being.”

Other speakers for Friday and Saturday (see program for details) include

  • Landscape artist David Slawson on “The Art of Evoking the Natural World in Restorative Gardens.”
  • Cleveland Botanical Garden Glasshouse Specialist Joe Mehalik on “Water in the Garden.”
  • Western Reserve Herb Society’s Carolyn Borsini on “Sustaining Ourselves and Others with Herbs.”
  • Cleveland Botanical Garden Director of Horticulture Cynthia Druckenbrod on “Bringing Butterflies to Your Yard.”
  • Amy Roskilly, Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District Conservation Education Coordinator, on “Rain Gardens as Environmental Protection.”
  • And a member of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority on “Planting a Vision, Growing a Community: the Future of Public Housing.”

Hope to see you there!

On the Horizon – Conferences with Calls for Proposals

Konza Prairie panorama. Photo by Henry Domke,

Konza Prairie Panorama by Henry Domke,

Many of the design and health conferences are held in the fall, which means that many proposals are due soon – in less than month, in fact! Here’s a list of conferences that you might want to submit proposals for, as well as a couple where proposal deadlines are either past or not yet posted but that you should mark on your calendar. Conferences are listed in order in which proposals are due:

USGBC Greenbuild Conference and Expo, October 4-7, 2011, Toronto, Canada. Submission deadline is Friday, January 14, 2011. Register to submit on the USGBC website.

ASLA – American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting and EXPO, October 30-November 2, 2011, San Diego, CA. Education session proposal deadline is January 21, 2011. Surveys show that the top reason attendees register for the annual meeting is the education program. Visit our web site to submit your online proposal:

HCD11 – HealthcareDesign 2011, November 13–16, 2011, Nashville, TN.
Presentation proposal deadline is January 21, 2011 at 5 pm Pacific time.
HealthcareDesign is a four-day event that provides expert insight into the design, architecture, and engineering of healthcare environments, delivering authoritative and timely content to inform, engage, and shape the industry. Submit your presentation online at

Open Space People Space Conference, June 27-29, 2011, Edinburgh, Scotland. Abstracts due no later than January, 31, 2011.
The theme this year is “Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors,” a conference on research into inclusive outdoor environments for all. Stay tuned for another blog post with more information about this conference, but in the meantime, visit their website,

9th Biennial Conference on Environmental Psychology, September 26-28, 2011, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Abstract submission deadline is March 20, 2011. Early bird registration deadline is May 15, 2011. See for more information.
Contributions from all areas of environmental psychology are welcome. Key topics include the built and natural environment, conservation behavior and sustainability, environmental perception and decision making, environmental risks and stress, methods and theories in environment-behavior research, and restoration and health.

EDRA (Environmental Design Research Association), May 25-28, 2011, Chicago, IL.
Deadline for proposals has passed, but there’s still plenty of time to register. Visit the EDRA website ( for details.

AHTA – American Horticultural Therapy Association, October 20-21, Asheville, NC. No information up yet on on their website,, but we’ll announce it when we find out more.

Know of another conference that we should be announcing? Leave a comment on this post, or contact us!

Environments for Aging Conference – Register now and save

St. Francis Country House, Darby, PA. Photo courtesy of Jack Carman, Design for Generations

St. Francis Country House, Darby, PA. Photo courtesy of Jack Carman, Design for Generations

In the year 2000, there were 35 million older people (ages 65 and over) in the United States. In 2030, that number will be to 70 million. That’s a lot of millions. How are we going to prepare for this “gray tsunami”? One answer is designing environments that better serve an aging population, one that includes baby boomers who want to remain independent and active as they grow older.

Environments for Aging is the foremost conference on design of the built environment, including residential and long-term care, for older people. It will take place March 20-22, 2011 in Atlanta, GA. Attendees can earn up to 15 CEUs, and save up to $440, by registering before January 7th. Who should attend: Architects; owners; developers; facilities managers; design professionals; product manufacturers; government officials; gerontologists & other aging experts.

Therapeutic Landscapes Network folks will be especially interested in the following:

  • Tour of Wesley Woods Center, Emory University Hospital’s specialty geriatric component of Emory Healthcare. Located on a 64-acre woodland campus, Wesley Woods boasts walking trails, horticultural therapy and other ways to connect older adults with nature.
  • Walking and Independence – Design and Planning for Seniors, with presenter Zhe Wang (see Monday education sessions and scroll down for description)
  • Increasing Physical Activity through Access to Nature, with presenter Susan Rodiek (get the DVD series that this presentation will be based on! Read this TLN Blog post about it and use the special access code for a discount on the DVDs).

Read on for more information from the Environments for Aging website… (more…)

Call for Papers! Environmental Design Research Association

I had such a good time at the ASLA conference last week. Saw many beautiful and moving landscapes, learned a ton, and met lots of great people. Two of those great people were from the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA), an organization that I’ve long admired. In a nutshell, they undertake and share research on all kinds of environmental design (see their full mission statement below). Their next conference will be in May in Chicago, and the call for papers is still open. But not for much longer, so get in gear and submit! And even if you don’t submit a paper, mark the conference as one to attend. Thanks to Executive Director Kate O’Donnell for this write-up:

The Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) is currently accepting proposals for paper and display presentations for its 42nd Annual Conference—but hurry, the deadline to submit is Friday, October 1. Click here for the official Call for Papers.  Don’t miss your opportunity to join the world’s leading place-focused researchers and practitioners for new knowledge and tools, information on funding sources, and partnerships with design practitioners.

When EDRA meets in Chicago next May, the ideas of tomorrow will be identified, discussed and disseminated. EDRA members focus professionally on how forms of physical environments affect our lives and work to answer questions such as:

  • What is the psychological experience of working in a green building?
  • How do natural pastoral settings impact the lives of people living with dementia?
  • What classroom design features enhance elementary school age children’s academic performance?
  • What makes a home welcoming?  Supportive?  Culturally appropriate?
  • How can urban designers create places where individuals and groups flourish?
  • Why do we travel through forests or parks the way that we do?  Why does how we navigate through a space matter?
  • How should place experiences be investigated and how should knowledge gained be reflected in physical forms?

At EDRA, researchers and practitioners work together to create places where people thrive. For more information, visit

EDRA Mission Statement: The Environmental Design Research Association is an international, interdisciplinary organization founded in 1968 by design professionals, social scientists, students, educators, and facility managers. The purpose of edra is the advancement and dissemination of environmental design research, thereby improving understanding of the interrelationships between people, their built and natural surroundings, and helping to create environments responsive to human needs.

Upcoming Conferences on Environments for Aging

Image courtesy of Henry Domke

Though they’re about 4,000 miles away from each other, both of these upcoming conferences look really good. If you’re looking to learn more about this subject, connect with others in this field, or earn CEUs, here are two excellent opportunities.

Elderly Care By Design International Symposium and Workshop
London, England, Feb 18, 2010

“Examining how investment in the design of environments for older people, from hospitals to residential facilities, nursing homes and facilities for the end of life, can support independent living, health and wellbeing, the event will be attended by an interdisciplinary mix of researchers and practitioners from government, academia, health and social care providers, and private industry.”

Environments for Aging .10
San Diego, CA, March 21-23, 2010
Founded and produced by Long-Term Living magazine and the Center for Health Design.

“Environments for Aging is a comprehensive, three-day experience to explore new ideas for creating appealing and supportive places for people as they age. The program will enable you to share common goals, innovations and best practices, and to gain inspiration through a gathering of like-minded individuals who have a vision for the future and who will be instrumental in shaping it.”

If you register by 12/31, you save $

Know of other good conferences that our members would want to know about? Leave a comment, or contact us through the TLN website.