BACKGROUND: The belief that plants and gardens are beneficial for patients in healthcare environments is more than one thousand years old. During the Middle Ages in Europe, for example, monasteries created elaborate gardens to bring pleasant, soothing distractions to the sick. During the 19th century, European and American hospitals commonly contained gardens and plants as prominent features. (SOURCE: http://directory.leadmaverick.com/Southern-Botanical)
HEALING GARDENS: The term healing gardens is most often applied to green spaces in hospitals and other healthcare facilities that specifically aim to improve health outcomes. Healing gardens provide a place of refuge for patients, families, and staff. These gardens also promote:
- Relief from symptoms
- Stress reduction
- Improvement in overall sense of wellbeing and hopefulness
HEALING GARDENS VS. THERAPEUTIC LANDSCAPES: Healing gardens differ somewhat from therapeutic landscapes, which is another term used in healthcare. Therapeutic landscapes or gardens are designed to meet the particular needs of a specific patient population. They often engage that population actively and deliberately. Healing gardens, on the other hand, generally aim for a more passive involvement and are designed to provide benefits to a diverse population with different needs. (SOURCE: http://takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices)
WHY DO WE FIND NATURE SO RESTORATIVE? Over the last 30 years a convincing body of research has demonstrated the beneficial effects of gardens in hospitals on both patients and staff. Professor Roger Ulrich, a leading researcher in healing gardens, at Texas A & M University writes:
“Well-designed hospital gardens not only provide calming and pleasant nature views, but can also reduce stress and improve clinical outcomes through other mechanisms, for instance, fostering access to social support and privacy, and providing opportunities for escape from stressful clinical settings. He also says, that the reason why humans find nature restorative is because, "we have a kind of biologically prepared disposition to respond favorably to nature because we evolved in nature. Nature was good to us, and we tend to respond positively to environments that were favorable to us."