In our humble opinion, a backyard pond, waterfall, and/or stream is essential to include in a healing garden. It must, however, be well-built, sustainable, and easy to maintain, or it will have the exact opposite effect. Healing gardens, like Liberty gardens, are making a comeback. In our hectic techno-filled daily life, we humans need a little breather. And there’s no better relief from high tech than a little low tech.
Studies show that nearly all visitors to a healing garden feel a significant positive change of mood during and after their visit, contributing to their overall well-being. Nature is referred to as a ‘positive distraction’ by Roger Ulrich, Ph.D., Texas A&M University. We couldn’t agree more! We hear from clients often that their backyard pond "feeds the soul."
With a backyard pond, the action of a waterfall represents life; as the water falls down to the calm surface of the pond, you feel and see the serenity of the backyard pond. Add goldfish & Koi, and the mere observance of their slow, graceful movements will slow you down, too.
What is a Healing Garden?
A healing garden is a place to meditate, alleviate stress, and promote natural healing. It is an outdoor garden space that has been specifically designed to meet the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of the people using the garden, as well as their caregivers, family members, and friends.
Healing gardens can be found in a variety of settings, including hospitals, skilled nursing homes, assisted living residences, continuing care retirement communities, out-patient cancer centers, hospice residences, and other related healthcare and residential environments.
The focus of the gardens is primarily on incorporating plants and friendly wildlife into the space. The settings can be designed to include active uses such as raised planters for horticultural therapy activities, or programmed for passive uses such as quiet private sitting areas next to a backyard pond with a trickling waterfall or babbling brook.
What are the Essential Elements of a Healing Garden?
The bottom line is that a healing garden should center around YOU. What do YOU like? What colors, sights, and sounds evoke a feeling of wellbeing for YOU?
The majority of elements in a healing garden should be plant related, such as perennials that attract hummingbirds, shrubs that attract butterflies, and a backyard pond for goldfish and Koi. Plants in the healing garden need to be non-toxic and non-injurious. Issues related to sustainability of the garden, such as using native plants and rainwater harvesting, should also be considered in the overall design. Attracting nature, such as butterflies, hummingbirds, and native and migratory birds into the healing garden, is important. Believe it or not, a backyard pond can incorporate all of these elements. Talk about multi-tasking!
Other considerations include providing ample shade, movable furniture, smooth and level walking surfaces, and year-round interest. Consideration should also be given to maintenance and upkeep of the healing garden, as safety is an important consideration.
Who Benefits from a Healing Garden?
Hospitals have used natural landscaping, gardens, and fresh air as components of healing for centuries. The healing garden at St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor, WA, for example, was created to continue with this tradition and provide patients, visitors, and staff with a place of healing and peace. It represents the hospital's dedication to healing mind, body and spirit of its patients and to offer a comforting backdrop for them, as well as visitors.
Here in town, we installed a backyard pond at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in 2006 thanks to a generous donor who appreciated the hospital’s treatment of their child. This particular healing garden is in the PICU ward, and outside visitors are severely restricted for security purposes. The children, doctors, and staff enjoy it every day, though.
How Can I Get my Own Healing Garden?
Your entire landscape can be a healing garden, if you so desire. On the other hand, you can divide your space up: a place for entertaining, a place for the children to play, a place for relaxing, etc. Make a list of colors, sights, and sounds that you find relaxing. You can even tear out pictures from magazines that evoke this feeling and study them to decipher what about it, specifically, that you like. Then contact us to plan and install the backyard pond portion of the area!
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Barbi Holdeman, co-owner of The Pond Gnome, enjoys sharing their 17+ years of education & experience with you! She writes about Phoenix Ecosystem Pond Installation, Pond Maintenance, Wildlife around the Pond, Koi and Goldfish in the Pond, and the Pond Lifestyle. If you enjoy what she writes, please share it!