Despite the long history in the health care, only in recent periods the impact of the natural environments on the health was studied systematically. In the mid-1980s, a holistic approach in medicine reappeared this believe that gardens have an important role in treatment. Perhaps the best example of this study was conducted in 1984 by Roger Ulrich. These studies showed the relationship between the period of treatment, drug usage and access to the nature landscape from the window. According to Ulrich, patients who have a sight to nature, recover faster and need to use less drugs.
“Healing Gardens” is a term which refers to the gardens that are designed to improve diseases and “Healing” in the context of health care is a broad term and concept that does not necessarily refer to a specific disease and the purpose of healing is the improvement in the mental conditions just the same as physical one. At the moment it is difficult to offer a detailed theory for the comprehensive and precise design of perspective for the health and healing promotion. Also the needs of specific patients are unknown. Whether a design will cure all diseases or different designs for different conditions are required? Moreover, which designing elements have positive impact on the patients’ outcome?
What is a Healing Garden?
According to the researches of Ulrich and others there exists a theory that each garden is a healing one. In order to have a better perception of this sentence a definition is mentioned here: “a garden, a healing station, designed to give people a better feeling”. Traditional healing gardens were within or nearby the medical locations. Healing gardens can be found in mental hospitals, schools and centers for the disabled peoples, nursing homes and clinics. Although a famous example of the healing garden can be found inside or near the hospitals and Alzheimer’s Care Facilities.
The usefulness of the healing garden which is built for patients and the disabled ones is a function of the amount of physical or visual access of the users of these spaces, though even in the therapeutic centers a larger population of employees and visitors, such as the patients or residents of that place use the healing garden. On a larger scale, some believe that any garden can be a healing one and the public can use the healing benefits of these spaces. In this scale green spaces with healing effect should be easily accessible for all the people who are in the countryside.
Principles of a Successful Garden
Healing gardens are effective if they have the following conditions:
1. The sense of control
Patients should easily find the garden and have access to it and use its spaces in active or passive way. The various types of spaces allow users to have a choice and sense of control can be created by engaging users in the design of the garden.
2. Promoting Green Materials
Minimizing the harsh spaces and the dominance of the plant material in the garden, the goal is that harsh spaces contain the one third of the occupied space thus with a soft and pleasant view; patient have an improvements in his good sense.
3. Physical movement and exercise
With a proper design, can encourage the patients to do light exercises and design spaces like walking loops and consider some spaces for children in order to reduce the psychological stress and increase physical activities and games.
4. Access to the Nature and Natural Attractions
Various medicinal herbs that get all the senses are the perfect choice for designing the plant parts. (Figure1) Prickly, poisonous plants and the ones attract annoying insects should not be used. Especially for the gardens that will be used for the children and patients with mental illness.
Forrest McDowell and Tricia Clark-McDowell in the book called The Sanctuary Garden: “the key to a (healing garden) is to honor and celebrate our broader human relationshipwith nature and spirit, not just plants” the nature and spirit, not just plants. This book proposes seven design elements as the strategy for design and as a means of identifying and the space.
- • Special entrance which invites visitors to the garden.
- • An element for the water and psychological, emotional and physical impacts
- • Creative use of color and light (to stir emotion or surprise visitor)
- • Garden integrity to enhance the spirit of garden
- • The shape and composition of the garden that will attracts birds and the settlement provides a settlement for the variety of birds.
Designing Healing Garden
In order to design healing garden the considerations that are used for other gardens is taken into account design that can be used for other applications. But, the following considerations are used for certain healing environments.
- • It is essential that the space should be functional because the garden should adapt itself with the of space limitations of the users.
- • It is important that the design of garden should be in such a way that its physical health and therapeutic benefits can be maintained especially in an organization like a hospital, the maintainability of the garden is important since poor maintenance can reduce patients’ trust to this issue that they are not nursed well.
- • Healing gardens are created to provide a refreshing environment and to have a restoration impact on the users. If garden is not visually appealing it would not be successful.
Also below designing principles are necessary for the design of healing garden and to create an integrated environment
- • Simplicity in design of healing garden is an essential element, thus the space is perceived easily. Many people, who use the healing garden, are dealing with great stresses, thus the space should be in a way that does not add to the stress. It should be designed in a variety of shapes, textures, colors and should also have seasonal variations to stir up the feelings. In the case of not providing sufficient relish for the users of space, confusion and distress can be caused.
- • Creating balance is important, no difference whether symmetric or asymmetric one. So the space can be as a sustained whole.
- • Use of evidence, emphasis, sample, group planting, in order to emphasize on the importance of space which provides a focal point to help the people in navigation.
Create a hierarchy or a smooth transition from one area to another. This is especially good for creating a good and easy moving stream from a public to privacy place which is important to create a more private place.
In addition to the design principles, the following list of suggestions is provided for roads and levels in the healing garden, which are actually guidelines.
- • At least 5 feet wide sidewalks for one-sided pass to match up with the rotation angle of wheelchairs. Two wheelchairs to pass, at least 7 feet wide is needed.
- • make a difference in the texture of the pavement edge to help people who have low- vision, in order to notice the edges of pavement. The raised edges of sidewalks can be dangerous.
- • The materials that make up much radiation should be avoided. Concrete can cause difficulty for the elderly people. It’s better to use colored concrete.
- • Pavement slope should not exceed 5%. Transverse slope should not be more than 2%.
Healing garden designed for specific users
- • Entries that are pleasant and welcomed by children
- • providing separate spaces for preadolescent / adolescent groups, if appropriate.
- • Create a comfortable social environment with large spaces, for families and staff, to spend time with the kids.
• Where possible, provide great choices for kids thus they can have reaction with nature through the senses and activities.
Garden for treating Alzheimer’s
- • Sidewalks should be a continuous loop without dead-end.
- • Create a non-toxic ways.
- • using herbs and other elements which stimulate, memory, conversations and activity
- • The use of color, texture and shapes to create a calm environment.
- • Use of clue such as statues, flowers, water combines to help the navigation of spaces.
- • create a natural relaxing space in the garden (Figure2)
- • Create a quiet space to sit and ponder
- • To encourage people to touch things in the garden, use the plants and structures with different textures
- • Create a view of window for the people who cannot go out.
- • Creating the water combinations. Water is a soothing agent. Water also creates a place for contemplation, thinking or meditation. (see below)
garden for dreams and thinking
Garden for the low- vision and blind people
- • In order to help them for finding their way the edges of the garden should be smooth and should be layout with right angles. Complex patterns and curves should be avoided.
- • Use signs to help with navigation. Some guiding examples can be tactile plants or aromatic ones, decorations or furniture, sound factor like the sound of the falling water or wind, pavement materials such as gravel or tree bark.
- • Use vivid colors and rough materials for the reference point for partially sighted people.
- • Spreading fragrance in different places of the garden and at different times of the year. Many fragrances can also cause dizziness and prevent the navigation.
- • Use tissue changes, to represent changes in pavement. (Figure4)
Therapeutic landscape designed for people with vision loss, outside London, England
According to the above mentioned issues it can be perceived that the people’ preferences of scenery emphasize that natural landscapes have qualities which satisfy the biological needs of humans. The innate linkage of human with nature can cause some contacts with the natural world to directly affect the health. In healing garden, activities should also be considered as much as the perception and feeling. Although it is extremely difficult to achieve a balance between experience in the garden and work in the garden but to achieve this balance, the designer should consider that the garden is designed for which group of people and should be aware of their mental abilities. Healing garden should be able to establish a positive relationship with the visitor depending on the stress level of visitors; garden should have different areas with different characteristics: relaxed, wild, diverse with various plants, public space, happy and cultural spaces. Finally, a healing garden, like all parks and gardens should be accessible to all the people.
Betsy Severtsen, “Healing garden”, available on the internet: zallio.hollosite.com
Cooper Marcus and Marni Barnes, 1999,”Healing Garden, Therapeutic benefit and design recommendation.”
Jean Larson, Mary Jo Kreitzer, “Healing by Design: Healing Gardens and Therapeutic Landscapes”, InformeDesign, VOL. 02 ISSUE 10
Ulrika A. Stigsdotter and Patrik Grahn, 2003, “Experiencing a Garden: A Healing Garden for People Suffering from Burnout Diseases, JOURNAL OF THERAPEUTIC HORTICULTURE
Ulrika A. Stigsdotter and Patrik Grahn, “What Makes a Garden a Healing Garden?”, Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture
Terry Hartig, Clare Cooper Marcus, 2006, “Healing gardens—places for nature in health care”.