Archive for the ‘Interior Gardens and Atria’ Category

"Isn’t every garden a healing garden?" Part I

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

According to my definition, a Landscape for Health could be a garden designed specifically for healing, like for a hospital or nursing home (see above), and it could also be any number of other landscapes, designed or “natural,” as long as they make people feel good (in technical terms, Landscapes for Health bring “positive outcomes” that reduce negative factors like stress, high blood pressure, and anti-social behavior, and instead encourage positive and restorative factors like fascination, wonder, healthy social interaction, relaxation and/or physical activity, and a general sense of well-being). A stretch of beach; a clearing in the woods; a park in a city (Central Park being a supreme example); a community garden; a backyard sanctuary; Francie’s fire escape in Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; a memorial; an indoor atrium that stays green and lush even when it’s -30 degrees and sleeting outside. Get the picture?  

Central Park, NY, NY

Couldn’t that be just about any landscape, the slightly vexed reporter asked? This is similar to my most-frequently-asked question, which is “isn’t every garden (or landscape) a healing garden?” to which I unfortunately have to answer no. There are plenty of landscapes, both designed and undesigned, that are not conducive to our health and well-being. A few examples that spring to mind would be (see below) most parking lots; many urban and suburban landscapes, including streetscapes; most quarries, clear-cut sections of forests, superfund sites, and other damaged landscapes (brownfields); most of New Mexico in March when the juniper pollen renders anyone even slightly allergic into a tired, sniffling, eye-watering, blubbering mess; and, sadly, many designed gardens, sometimes even ASLA award-winning, magazine-published spaces (yup, just because it looks good in print doesn’t mean it feels good to be there). 

Photo of California foothills housing by Alex Maclean – 

There are plenty of landscapes, and even gardens, that at best are not salutary, and at worst are actually harmful to our physical, emotional, and even spiritual health. So, smarty-pants, you may be wondering, how do you differentiate Landscapes for Health from “healing gardens?” Stay tuned, I’ll try to answer that one tomorrow.

Information needed, and a favorite children’s and rooftop garden

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

I got a request recently from someone who is looking for examples of children’s hospital gardens with rooftop conservatories (in other words, an enclosed space on a rooftop at a children’s hospital). I’ve found many examples of children’s gardens, rooftop gardens, and conservatories, but so far haven’t found all three in one. Anyone out there know of an example? If so, please share by posting a comment! 

In the meantime, here’s an image of one of my favorite children’s gardens that is also one of my favorite rooftop hospital gardens, the Olson Family Garden at the Children’s Hospital, St. Louis, MO (got the image from the Waymarking website:

Landscape Architecture Magazine did a nice article on the garden in 2002, which you can read online:

Also, here’s a video clip about it:  

I visited this garden a few years ago during the ASLA annual meeting with Roger Ulrich, Virginia Burt, Jack Carman, and other colleagues and we were all so impressed. While we were there, a nurse led a small child–who was recovering from severe burns–around the garden. We were moved to see this young patient, wrapped in bandages, maneuvering about the garden, touching the fountains, looking at the flowers, and generally interacting with the world despite the pain. For me, it was one of those “ah-hah” moments when what you do moves beyond the realm of the theoretical and academic. Yes, gardens really are important, especially in hospitals, and they really do make a difference in people’s lives.

I’ll be in Maine for a week starting Monday, with limited internet access, so this is my last post until next week. When I return, I hope to see lots of comments in response to this blog post!

I Demand Satisfaction! The Role of Nature in Job Satisfaction

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Photo by Naomi Sachs

Not the dueling kind, but the kind that involves psychological well-being.

The next time you need a reason for investing in a garden, or windows that look out onto an interesting view, or even some indoor plants, you can cite this new study which has linked job satisfaction to views of live plants or windows:

Individuals working in spaces with live interior plants or window views have significantly higher levels of job satisfaction than people who work in spaces without live plants or windows: “Findings indicated that individuals who worked in offices with plants and windows reported that they felt better about their job and the work they performed. This study also provided evidence that those employees who worked in offices that had plants or windows reported higher overall quality-of-life scores.” Live plants in an office, even without the window views, lead to more positive psychological states.”

Andrea Dravigne, Tina Waliczek, R. Lineberger, and J. Zajicek. 2008. “The Effect of Live Plants and Window Views of Green Spaces on Employee Perceptions of Job Satisfaction.” HortScience, vol. 43, p. 279.

I found this study listed on Research Design Connections, an excellent resource for anyone in the design and healthcare fields.

This is the view out my office door, so I have no excuses for not loving my work!

Winter Landscapes: Planting for Winter Interest

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008
The view from my office window during an ice storm in February
(trees are Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’)

It’s finally March, which means winter is almost over, and spring is almost here. In some parts of the country and world, this means a lot. But before winter comes to a close and we forget about it until next year, some thoughts on designing outdoor spaces that hold your or your clients’ interest, even on the darkest, coldest days.

1. Use plant material that offers winter interest.
a. Evergreens such as pines, junipers, holly, bamboo, and ivy, to name just a few, offer glimpses of much-needed green at this time of year.

b. Berries that linger throughout the winter give us something colorful for us to look at (two of my favorites are winterberry holly (
Ilex verticillata) and hawthorne (Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’), and also provide much-needed food for birds and other wildlife. Some fruit, such as rosehips from Rosa species, can be harvested by us, too, for medicinal purposes (rosehips contain a huge amount of Vitamin C; note that care should be taken when harvesting any plant for medicinal purposes – research how to do it before just plucking and eating!)
c. Bark on trees can sometimes be even more beautiful than foliage. London plane trees and
sycamores, Stewartias, alligator junipers, and several types of dogwood shrubs are just a few examples.
d. Attract wildlife. Even if the plant itself doesn’t look like much at this time of year, if it’s providing food or shelter for wildlife, then we have plenty to watch through the window from the warmth of inside. Of course, there are other ways to attract wildlife as well (see the previous couple posts) such as adding bird feeders, baths (you can even get heated ones), and houses. Even if your “
garden” is a fire escape or a window ledge, you can install a bird feeder.
e. Plant early bloomers. Remember that witch hazel I mentioned on 1/21 ( She bloomed about two weeks ago, and is still going strong:

Spice bush (Lindera benzoin) is another early spring bloomer, and of course bulbs such as snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodils are delightful harbingers of warmer and brighter days to come. There are a number of good books out there now on planting for the seasons, as well as for texture, bark, berries, etc. I’ve listed a few on the Therapeutic Landscapes Database Plants page; if you buy these or any books from by clicking on the Amazon Associates logo in the left-hand column, a percentage of the sale goes to support the Therapeutic Landscapes Resource Center.

When the Weather Outside is Frightful: Interior Healing Gardens

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

For those of us not in Florida or Phoenix, this time of year doesn’t allow for as much interaction with nature, especially if we are in a wheelchair or just not so sure of foot. Many healthcare facilities (and many corporate offices, too) offer indoor gardens, atria, or greenhouses for those months when going outside is not an appealing or safe option. Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, MI (above) is one of the healthcare facilities featured in this article: