For a long time, people in high-stress jobs and situations have been encouraged to go to a quiet place, shut the door, close their eyes, and let their minds wander to a beautiful and safe place. Studies have shown that even a few moments of mental respite reduces blood pressure, heart rate and allows muscles to relax. In recent years, this type of personal stress reduction has become even easier and more accessible as therapy gardens have been created to provide a physical place to reflect and relieve stress.
Initially, “healing” gardens were created at hospitals and other health care facilities to give patients a place to go to get away from the sterile environment of the hospital setting. The benefits were dramatic. Since then, the concept of landscape therapy gardens has grown in importance and popularity. Stress is rampant in this country, and the importance of having a place to “get away from it all” has grown accordingly. Commercially, resort facilities have tried to fill this need for those who can afford to go.
However, a healing garden does not need to be an expensive place in an exotic location. It can be a thoughtfully designed garden at a company or school or in a public garden in a neighborhood. It can even be a quiet spot in a nook in the backyard of a home. Many backyards gardens have served his purpose in the past without actually being recognized for their long-term benefits.
The key to a practical landscape therapy garden is a lack of drama. A dramatic waterfall feature is a wonder to look at, but a simple reflecting pool or a small babbling stream can bring a greater sense of peace and calm. Space should include comfortable seating areas that encourage a person to stay and develop a sense of calm and reflection. The garden environment should be soothing and relaxing and should include plants that are relaxing to the mind, including those that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Bird feeders, watering stations, and perches become points of focus and playful points of interest. The aroma should also be part of the garden. Many modern plants have been bred for beauty but have lost the smell of the heirloom varieties. Antique roses, along with herbs, can provide a gentle, peaceful aroma throughout the space.
Surrounding the garden should be some form of barrier to the stressful outside world. A raw fence doesn’t enhance the desired mood, but an ivy-covered one can. A bamboo screen or a trellis of climbing roses can also create this sense of being away from the world. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to isolate the garden from the sounds of daily life, but if the visual appeal is strong, the mind can block out the sounds, even if only for a while.
As the world becomes more stressful, places of calm and respite are becoming more necessary, whether in the workplace or at home.