A Positive Distraction

One should identify the plants that bloom at different times of the year, and plant accordingly so there is constant color and something blooming throughout the growing season.

In a healing garden, Roehl relates, visual elements can enhance the experience by providing a “positive distraction.” But sometimes this type of distraction can become a negative. The secret, he adds, is to design elements that don’t make you think.

“People who are ill interpret things differently than those who are healthy,” he explains.

He recalls a particular healing garden that featured a large abstract sculpture. To casual observers, the sculpture depicted a whale diving into the ocean. But ill patients saw the artwork much differently. They interpreted the diving whale as a sign of dying or death. The sculpture, he says, was eventually removed.

As a landscape architect in the Midwest, Roehll agrees that the biggest drawback is the seasonal nature of these gardens. In Chicago, for example, optimal garden conditions are available only six months out of the year.

But that doesn’t seem to deter most visitors.

That’s why he says that a healing garden’s elements should be coordinated not only with summer in mind, but for the other months, as well.

“You have to remember,” he says with a smile, “that people aren’t only sick when the weather is nice.”

Joe White is a freelance writer from Des Plaines, Ill. He can be reached via e-mail at jwhite@silbarpr.com.

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