Medicinal and Therapeutic Gardens

By Michelle Domocol

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One of my first major landscape design requests was Healing Present’s Yoga Area.

Photo 1. Healing Present’s Yoga Garden

Healing Present has many themed gardens and forest patches designated for past retreat activities. One of my first major landscape design requests was Healing Present’s Yoga Area. The Yoga Area’s landscape was a vibrant and unique outdoor garden around of Healing Present’s two-storey retreat house. After a collaborative and thoughtful design process, I proposed a calming design theme, outdoor furniture, plant selection, pergolas and other features. My proposals stayed true to the medicinal and therapeutic qualities requested by Healing Present’s founder.

Most groundcovers and shrubs I chose were ingredients from Healing Present’s menus or their health products. The proposed trees attracted local songbirds, butterflies and other beneficial wildlife. Many of the plants exuded a modest or calming aroma for visitors to enjoy. Photo 1A-C shows the selection of medicinal and edible plants thrilled visitors during Healing Present’s organic product demos and botanical tours.

Photo 2. Healing Present’s Yoga garden seating was my custom design; grown with lemongrass and citronella to repel mosquitos.

This is all well and good. Hooray for Healing Present. But the reality is Healing Present is closed to the public because of this pandemic. So can we still have a piece of therapeutic paradise close to home?

Potentially, yes! During this pandemic, many of us discovered the safest spot to travel was your backyard or a space near your home. So how do we transform a safe space into a therapeutic sanctuary? Let’s brainstorm. First, your sanctuary should be a reflection of your preferred method relaxation. Make moodboards to investigate how you want to relax. Look at the sample moodboard.

Your moodboard can be a collection of images that help you organize relaxation ideas, color motifs, garden architecture, comfy furniture, natural flooring and other elements you envision. Make multiple moodboards to help you refine your ideas.

How do you relax, de-stress, or rejuvenate? Breathing exercises? Do you relax with yoga? Reading? Arts and crafts? Aroma therapy? Cooking? Sleeping? Then build a garden that accommodates your specific technique and enjoyment. For instance, if you enjoy naps, then maybe incorporate a hammock or cabana with flowing fabrics and mosquito nets. Or add tall hedges that act as soundbarriers. If you like cooking, incorporate simple kitchen garden with your favorite herbs. Or a firepit where you can cook or grill.

Photo 3. A Powerful Vista in Healing Present. Sometimes creating a meditative space starts with site observation.

Here are design ideas to create you own sanctuary or healing outdoor space.

Create A Powerful Vista. Is there are view around your house or apartment you love? Is there vista you could create with a new balcony, a renovated deck or a tree house? Observe your surroundings from different areas of your house. Change your normal eye level by using a ladder around your house. You might discover an amazingly peaceful view.

Loving an abandoned space. Sometimes there are abandoned or neglected spaces that can transform into sanctuaries. I’ve seen this makeover happen with apartment rooftops, community gardens, or a backyard. A meditation garden in a community space or residential backyard does not have to be huge. You can create your a humble, small-scale retreat to suit your preferences. With the right seating, platform and plants you can make a space of recovery and stress relief. Though the example (Photo 4) has in-ground plants, you can easily build a peaceful container garden instead. Use cheap pots, re-use buckets or buy fancy ceramic planters from a flea market. Tall or short. Just choose plants and garden elements that will make you relax. This is a time to cater to your needs. This could mean comfortable seating or tall container gardens so you don’t have to bend and strain your back. Or maybe relaxing means designing a more minimalist garden. You can choose a small amount of large, low-maintenance feature plants. Perhaps a grand agave or dwarf, sprawling fruit tree. Then add pebble or gravel flooring with gorgeous stone statuary. This reduces maintenance, provides calming beauty, and still incorporates therapeutic plants.

Photo 4. Diagram of a small, personalized, and relaxing yoga garden.

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