Designforgenerations’s Blog


The current issue of Garden Design magazine (Jul/Aug 2010) has a great article on Healing Gardens and the work of Clare Cooper Marcus.  This is a definite read for anyone who has an interest in the healing powers of gardens and why nature can play an important role in the healing process.  The article chronicles the work of Ms. Cooper

Sunflowers in the garden

A burst of sunshine in the garden

Marcus and how she has been a leader in helping to define how these spacial gardens should be designed.

Ms. Cooper Marcus talks about how healing gardens should be as much, if not more, about plants and less about creating abstract designs.  The gardens should “provide a sense that you are in a garden and not a plaza or indoors.”  The garden, as Clare explains in the article, should be designed to include four essential elements: exercise, social support, a sense of control and a distraction of nature.  These and other important design ideas are discussed in the article.

The article may be found in the magazine starting on page 73 and additional information at the web site


Benefits of Nature
Walking in nature

Walking along the nature trails

British researchers looked at ten various studies on the effects of activities performed outside in nature.  Activities such as walking, cycling and gardening had positive effects on the 1,200 people surveyed. According to Jo Barton, co-author of the study, “There would be a large potential benefit if people were to self-medicate more with green exercise.” The largest positive health changes occurred when people exercised in the outdoors.

The article, “What is the Beat Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health” can be found at the link


There are special collectors for all kinds of items, such as rare coins, subway tokens, Pez dispensers and cow creamers.  Well, it should come as no surprise that there are people who collect the seeds from plants.  And, there are seed exchanges that you can join too swap the seeds that you have collected.

This is a great hobby for the gardener who would like to grow an unusual variety of tomato or other vegetables and perennials.  These plants are not the ones you would typically find in plant catalogs.  They are special seeds that have been traded to the seed exchanges.  There is typically a fee to join a seed exchange.



This may be just the gift to give for an avid gardener for Valentine’s Day, a birthday or other special occasion.  It is a perfect gift for elders in a senior community who have a garden and would like to grow special plants this year.

Today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal contains an article on the subject –


Even though the temperatures may deter us from venturing outside for any great length of time, there are breaks that give us a short window to escape outside to start to plan and dream of spring. There are chores to do like picking up fallen branches, cutting back the ornamental grasses and pruning the trees and shrubs while they are dormant.  It is also a  good time to look at your vegetable garden.  This is a good time to expand the garden or reorganize what you planted last year.

So, on the colder days, we can retreat indoors and forage through the seed catalogs and gardening web sites.  This is the time to plan what vegetables you want to plant for the coming year.  What has worked well and what new varieties do you want ti try in 2010?  Some of the ‘new’ varieties may actually be vegetable plants that have been around for years and just forgotten until recently.  They are the ‘Heirloom’ plants that offer more flavor and are interesting to grow because of their unusual colors.  There are green tomatoes such as Aunt Ruby’s German Cherry and Emerald Green.  The Rattlesnake pole beans are fun to grow because of their green pods with purple streaks.

Be adventurous and include these or other heirloom varieties in your garden this year.  The results will surely make your garden the talk of the neighborhood.  Not only will you have some fum new vegetables to try at dinner, they will make the meal look more interesting.


Taking a walk in nature can help improve a persons short term memory.  We know that nature can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure.  Well, being exposed to natural settings can help to ‘restore’ our ability to concentrate and reflect.  A recent research study, “The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting with Nature” by Berman, Jonides & Kaplan  (Association for Psychological Science, Vol. 19 – No. 12,

Restorative places

Interacting with Nature

2008), indicates that natural areas are restorative.

When we are emersed in a natural area, such as a park, the woods, on the beach or similiar places, we can get lost in our surroundings.  We do not have to look both ways before crossing the street or if a car is coming in our direction.  Our senses focus on the sound of the babbling brook or the birds singing in the trees.  The feeling of a cool breeze on our face or the warmth of the sunlight on our back can help us to forget about lifes demands.

Spending time in a natural environment will positively affect our memory and attention.  The concept of  ‘attention restoration theory’ offers the idea that natural settings can help us to be able to relax.  When our stress levels are reduced, we can concentrate better and our memory improves.  This is especially important if we removed from contact with nature.  Taking advantage of a neighborhood park or other natural settings is good for our health and well being.


We keep reading more and more about how important sunshine is for our health.  Low levels of vitamin D double the risk of a heart attack and stroke.  Low levels of the sunshine vitamin can increase the chance of developing high blood pressure and chronic blood vessel inflammation.  As many as 75% of Americans may not be getting enough vitamin D for optimal health.  People who are 50 years or older are more susceptible to this deficiency.

Vitamin D is found in foods, such as sardines, salmon, fortified milk and cereals.  Another solution is to sit in the sun for a short time.  Some doctors are recommending 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week, depending upon a persons skin pigmentation.

A Harvard study discovered that men with the highest level of vitamin D were least likely to have heart attacks.  Another study has found that increasing Vitamin D reduces the risk of colorectal cancer, hip fractures, tooth loss and increases muscle strength.

A good way to help increase levels of vitamin D is to spend time in the garden.  A Therapeutic Garden that has been specifically designed to encourage people to spend time outside will help people increase their levels of vitamin D.  These gardens can encourage socialization and people will want to be outside enjoying each others company and taking in the suns healing rays.  This is especially important for older adults who may have lower levels of this important vitamin.

Enjoying nature in the garden

Enjoying nature in the garden

Like your mother said – ‘Eat your vegetables and go play outside.’


We know that our interactions with nature can lead to positive results.  And public gardens are often discussed as being healing spaces.  This thinking has been validated in a recent research study at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, FL.  Dr. Ruth G. McCaffrey at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University conducted the research project “The Effect of Public Garden Visitation on Mild Depression in the Elderly.”

The results of the study led to the development of a booklet and program called “A Stroll for Well-Being:  Garden Walks at the Morikami”.  The booklet contains 12 themed guided imagery walks as well as blank pages for journaling.  The booklet, in combination with the involvement of a trained therapist, can elevate the use of the healing garden to a higher level.  Gardens in senior retirement communities, as well as public gardens, can make great use of this activity.

The link to the study is at:

Spring at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Spring at the Chicago Botanic Garden