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Creating Restorative Gardens for Your Home

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We are learning more and more daily about the healing and restorative qualities of nature. Healing gardens, as they are often referred to, are becoming much more of an integrated component of our medical facility designs. The value these gardens bring to improving patient, staff and faculty outcomes is powerful, real and measurable. So, why not have a restorative space where you spend most of your time away from your work – you own home?

Recognizing the need or desire to find such a restorative garden space is the first step in this process. Restorative gardens do not have a need for the obvious with a sign or a label. Often they are most effective if they simply exist with the proper combination of elements to tempt you to enter and explore the mystery.

Restorative gardens do not have to be complicated, large in scale or expensive to build. They do need to contain certain elements. These elements could be:

▶ Quiet space, free from outside noise and daily interference
▶ Protection from the sun, wind and rain
▶ Comfortable place to sit or recline
▶ Degree of privacy – to be alone with your thoughts
▶ Feeling of safety
▶ Interesting combination of plant materials with a variety of colors, textures, sizes and fragrances
▶ Soft, quiet path to enter and leave on
▶ Some element of water and its associated natural music
▶ Any personal items you may want to contribute to the environment

Restorative gardens are not limited to these elements alone, but should include most.

Finding the best possible location for this garden will be your next part of the challenge. Remember, the size is not always important. Large enough for one or two will usually suffice. Most of us have some small leftover spaces in our gardens that demand little attention. Some space, out of the way, perhaps in a far corner of the back yard. Side yards, often shady, can be easily developed into comfortable gardens to stroll through. An entry garden that connects the front door to your street can offer brief pause for a moment to refresh. Often, a brief moment is all that is needed.

Phasing the installation of your garden can be fun and spreads the cost out over longer periods. Having new phases to look forward to and to think about is healthy and keeps you engaged in the garden’s development.

Lighting for your garden can be one of the most challenging and enjoyable for any garden development. Lights bring the garden to life at night and help to remove shadows. You may not use your garden at night, so having a view to this personal space may be all that you need. Night lighting can change a dark corner into an inviting vignette, bringing the outside in and extends the useable hours of restorative space. Soft, warm and indirect light is often preferred.

Landscape architects are the best choice for any garden design. They are educated and trained in the design and construction of gardens and people spaces. They will be the most qualified in delivering quality design for restorative and healing garden experiences.

Bill Henkel is owner and partner of Henkel Denmark of Lexington. He can be reached at (859) 455 9577 or