Archive for the ‘Backyard Sanctuary’ Category

The healing garden down the street: Guest blog post by Joan Vorderbruggen and Lisa Overby-Blosser

Friday, August 22nd, 2014
Joan Vorderbruggen's garden patio. All photos by  Joan Vorderbruggen

Joan Vorderbruggen’s garden patio. All photos by Joan Vorderbruggen

I first met Joan Vorderbruggen at the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) meeting in 2013 in Providence, RI. She presented an expanded version of this lovely post, and I was very moved. Sometimes we researchers and designers get so bogged down in trying to analyze and quantify everything that we forget the more human and – dare I say it? – even the spiritual dimension. Joan’s and Lisa’s words, along with images from Joan’s garden, get to the heart of it. Many thanks to both of them for sharing here.

The healing garden down the street
By Joan Vorderbruggen and Lisa Overby-Blosser

The spring of 2012 held little hope for my neighbor, Lisa, wife and mother of four teenagers.  Lisa had just been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and was given a year or less to live. Asking me if she could spend time in my backyard garden, she felt time in a peaceful setting would help her deal with the upcoming chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and other stresses.

Over that summer, Lisa spent a great deal of time walking the 5-house distance to my yard, sometimes barely able to put one foot in front of the other.  Still, she persevered, settling in to journal, sketch, and just be in the moment.  While I encouraged her to come and go as she pleased, I was happy that at times, she would join me on my deck and, without any prompting, speak of how the garden and natural world supported her during that time. I asked if I could share her words with others.

Lisa’s words (italicized) fit neatly within the framework of Stephen Kellert’s Biophillic Design Elements (below). According to Kellert, these elements stem from an intuitive human-nature connection, where people feel that spending time in nature can help them heal mentally, physically and spiritually. The Biophilia hypothesis assertion is that because humans evolved with nature, they feel comforted by nature (Kellert and Wilson, The Biophilia Hypothesis, 1993).

PROSPECT
The idea of prospect is primarily about being able to control your view, to scan the horizon and understand where you are in relationship to your surroundings.
In the garden you have control – of where you sit, where you look, what you choose to focus on – whether it’s a wide view or something really small…  There are so many choices available to you.  The fact that you can make a choice of something can be healing.

Prospect. Photo by Joan Vorderbruggen

Prospect and Refuge

 

REFUGE
Refuge allows us to feel safe, sheltered and protected.  In my garden, Lisa chose to sit under a grapevine trellis.  She speaks more in metaphor of her feelings of refuge.
The garden is always welcoming; no plants fall over or trees drop their leaves in disgust or empathy when I took my hat off exposing my baldness….  The garden accepts where your body and emotions are at that moment in time.

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Nurture connection to nature by nurturing winter wildlife

Thursday, December 29th, 2011
Black-capped Chickadee. Photo by Henry Domke, http://henrydomke.com

Black-capped Chickadee. Photo by Henry Domke, www.henrydomke.com

The TLN Blog has published posts in the past on winter wildlife, and we will do so again in the coming year. But today I’m sharing this post from one of my favorite blogs, Beautiful Wildlife Garden:

Top 10 Tips for Your Winter Wildlife Garden

The article discusses the many rewards of creating a winter wildlife garden and offers tips on how to best provide food, water, and shelter for birds.

And speaking of which, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count is still on, through January 5th:

Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – and to help guide conservation action.

Thanks again to Beautiful Wildlife Garden for the heads up on this.

So whether you’re enjoying watching wildlife from the comfort of your warm, cozy home or outside braving the elements as a Citizen Scientist for the Bird Count, connecting with nature at this time of year will nurture and sustain you until spring returns.

 

Maintaining the healing garden – An essential design element

Monday, August 8th, 2011
Photo by Naomi Sachs

Higher maintenance. Photo by Naomi Sachs

There’s gardening, and then there’s maintenance. Things have been so busy this year, and for the first time in my life, my garden has felt like a chore. I don’t have time to be in it – relaxing or gardening – and I barely have time to maintain it. Maintenance isn’t the sexiest of garden topics, but it’s part of life, so let’s talk about it.

As a designer, especially one who loves plants and gardening and who knows about the myriad benefits thereof, I used to be so disapproving when clients wanted a “low-maintenance” landscape. How boring! Nevertheless, I would try to sympathize and design accordingly. A low-maintenance landscape can still be beautiful and rewarding. For example, one Santa Fe client had a sweet little backyard but was not a gardener and was away about half the time, traveling for work. When she was home, she didn’t want to worry about weeding and pruning and deadheading and mowing; she wanted to sit in her garden with a cup of tea, or meditate under her favorite tree, or hang out with friends. She was very happy with the design, a xeric, “zen-like” garden.

"Sanctuary garden" designed by Naomi Sachs. Photo by Lee Anne White, www.leeannewhite.com

"Sanctuary garden" by Naomi Sachs. Photo by Lee Anne White, www.leeannewhite.com

In presentations on restorative landscapes, I talk a lot about stress reduction, and I do touch on maintenance. If you’re not a gardener, or if you don’t have time to garden, or if your climate doesn’t allow for gardening (think Texas in the summer), or you don’t have the budget to pay a gardener, a high-maintenance garden is going to cause more stress than joy. You don’t want to look out your window and think about out all the work that needs doing, or be sad when your plants die because they are not being tended to. Where’s the pleasure in that?

For private home healing or sanctuary gardens, you have to know yourself and your limitations (preferences, time, funds). Whether you’re designing and planting for yourself or hiring a designer and installers, be honest with yourself, and only bite off what you can chew.

Photo by Naomi Sachs

A mailbox at a home for people with dementia is a wonderful idea...as long as the roses are kept pruned! Photo by Naomi Sachs

And the same thing goes for gardens in healthcare facilities and other public spaces. There’s a garden nearby that was so beautiful when it was installed a few years ago. A very interesting design, with a rich variety of native plants, around a really cool building. But the organization that owns that property lacks the funding and the volunteers to maintain the landscape. It needs more TLC than it gets, and is no longer the best reflection of the organization.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful the design is, or how successful it would be in an ideal world. If it’s not maintained, it doesn’t serve the facility or the users of the space – the patients, clients, the visitors, the staff. Maintenance should always be budgeted in from the start, and a plan should be provided to the facility so that things can be kept looking good and working well. Having a horticultural therapist on staff certainly helps, as they work with patients in the garden and can really keep an eye on things. A good designer will know and understand the limitations and the strengths of the facility and design with that in mind.

There’s no such thing as no maintenance (and believe me, I’ve had requests!). But there’s a big range in how much a landscape needs to stay healthy and beautiful. If you keep in mind the reality of what can and cannot be done, the garden – for yourself or for clients – has the best chance of being a true source of healing and inspiration.

Note: We’ve been having a good discussion (http://lnkd.in/mfJzKu) on this topic in our Therapeutic Landscapes Network LinkedIn group. Come join us!

If you can only plant one thing, plant a tree

Friday, May 27th, 2011

White oak. Photo by Henry Domke, http://henrydomke.com

White oak. Photo by Henry Domke, henrydomke.com

The best friend of earth of man is the tree.  When we use the tree respectfully and economically, we have one of the greatest resources on the earth.
–   Frank Lloyd Wright

Let’s say you are designing a healing garden – for a client or yourself – and you only have 10 square feet of planting space. You could plant a few shrubs, or a few more perennials, or a bunch of annuals. Or you could plant a tree. If there’s enough vertical space, and there usually is, go for the tree. Why? Here are some reasons:

Shade
Shade is one of the most important components of any therapeutic landscape, and yet it is overlooked so often that sometimes I just want to cry. I’ve seen countless designs that might be successful if enough shade were provided for people to actually enjoy the garden even on hot, sunny days. I’m going to do a whole post on this soon, but I’ll point out a couple key things here. Especially in the healthcare setting, shade is crucial. Many people are “photosensitive” – sensitive to sun and bright light, either because of their condition or from the medication that they’re on. Imagine a garden in a cancer center without shade. I’ve seen those! If you include trees in your design, make sure they are big enough when they go in to provide shade right away. See that mother who is visiting her sick child and wants to sit with him under a nice, shady tree for a few minutes? Look her in the eye and tell her to come back in five years when the tree will be big enough to provide adequate shade. Or plant a big tree and watch as people gravitate to and gather under its soothing, protective boughs. Speaking of which…

Symbolism
You can’t beat trees for symbolism. They are so strong and resilient, and yet so graceful, flexible, and nurturing. And they can live for hundreds of years. Pretty inspiring. Furthermore, lots of trees are used for medicinal purposes. Even if a willow isn’t actually harvested for its analgesic properties, it can still be a good symbol of pain relief in a setting where healing is the goal.

Alone with myself
The trees bend to caress me
The shade hugs my heart.
~Candy Polgar

Sensory engagement
Sight is the most obvious sense, and we can appreciate a tree from a distance, from below looking up at the leaves and the patterns of light filtered through them, from above looking down through a window onto green rather than brown or grey. Remember Roger Ulrich’s seminal study* of patients recovering from surgery? The view that the patients had who recovered faster and needed pain medication was of a grove of trees. (more…)

Planting the Healing Garden: Joys of Early Spring (Redux)

Thursday, April 21st, 2011
Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) in bloom. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) in bloom. Photo by Naomi Sachs

I wrote a post last year on this subject, and as it’s April again and I still feel the same way about the wonders of early spring (in my neck of the woods, anyway – I realize that down south things are much further along, and that things are way different in other parts of the country and world), I’m pointing you to that post from last year. Lots of pretty pictures in addition to my usual words of wisdom:) Planting the Healing Garden: The Quiet Joys of Early Spring. Enjoy!