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  • Jennifer Jewell


Photos Courtesy of Frailty Myths, All rights reserved.

In our second episode in a series around the healing power of plants and gardens in our world, we get an overview of the professional field of Horticultural Therapy and Healing Garden Design on an institutional basis with one of the field’s leading spokeswomen and researchers, Dr. Naomi Sachs, founder of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, a knowledge base and gathering space that provides information, education, advocacy, and inspiration about landscapes that promote health and well-being. The network serves a global, interdisciplinary network of designers, health and human service providers, scholars, and garden and nature enthusiasts.

Naomi is co-author with Dr. Clare Cooper Marcus of Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces (2014), and now on faculty at University of Maryland as an Assistant Professor in Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture. Naomi joined us from her home and office in Maryland.

"When I named the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, I wanted it to have more gravitas, and little more of an academic feel - when I founded this in 1999, the field was still young and anything out the doors of a healthcare facility was seen as frivolous and frou frou and the icing on the cake. I wanted it to be taken seriously.”

Dr. Naomi Sachs, Founder Therapeutic Landscaps Network

Of course landscapes and plants have been healing as long as we have been a living species on this planet, there is no question this is not a new field per se, but rather that the codifying of these fields into their various subjects and looking at them scientifically and trying to analyze how and why they work better or worse was in its infancy in our country when Naomi was doing her graduate work at Berkeley, fortuitously with Clare Cooper Marcus.

In our conversation, Naomi shares with us more about how her early work with Clare led to the Therapeutic Landscapes book, to further research and to the Therapeutic Landscapes Network where professionals across the globe share knowledge and passion in the field.

She also shares how eventually the Therapeutic Landscapes Database became the Network and their tag line became “connecting people with info, people, nature."

Just 20 years old now, but with a lot of evolution and innovation in the field in those 20 years, the importance of therapeutic landscapes and horticultural therapy is increasingly needed and important - especially in light of the climate crisis bringing to bear on a whole other level of need, of grief and stress and loss. As Naomi and I both agreed in our conversation, the gardeners of the world have an important role to play in terms of healing for our communities, our environments, our economies and our selves. Started in a workshop break, the TLN is now an international group convening to share knowledge and support - including past guests such as Jinny Blom, who sits on the board of the TLN. She also came to the from a very personal need, which speaks again of this universal need to NOT lose our nature, not lose our connection to the other more-than-human beings with whom we cultivate our places.

Now, where once there was little information, there is often so much that the challenge becomes vetting that information and the discernment to know the good from the marginal - this is the work of the network and other researchers and practitioners in the field. Having been a Postdoctoral Associate at Cornell University in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, Naomi is now in her first year of a tenure track position in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland. shares her perspective on the current state of the field throughout the interview

Follow Naomi and the work of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network:

Join us again next week when we we continue our multi week series on healing and the garden when we’re joined by Perla Curbelo, a plantswoman and gardener in Puerto Rico, who has recently completed her Horticultural Therapy Certificate through the Chicago Botanic Garden.

UPCOMING CULTIVATING PLACE LIVE EVENTS: click green title links for more info or to register!

- SPRING FEVER Feb 26th & 27th (12:30 pm each day) Northwest Flower & Garden Show Seattle, WA

- MRS. DALLOWAY'S BOOKS - FEBRUARY 28, Berkeley, CA 7:30 - 9 pm

- CHICO WOMEN'S CLUB - SUNDAY MARCH 1, 1 - 3:30 pm Book signing, refreshment, home-town celebration! RSVP required for FREE event JOIN US!

Mark your calendars - I hope to meet you wherever you cultivate your place in the coming year



Thinking out Loud this week...


I was born and raised with plant awareness and appreciation – my mother being a gardener and my father a wildlife biologist. I grew up surrounded by rural open space and the stillness and fragrance of relatively high elevation ponderosa pine forests at just about 8,000 feet. But I was still blind when it came to the importance of my landscape to my well-being, when I went off to Barnard College in New York City and suffered from temporarily intractable depression, I had no thought it could be related to my surroundings and my loss of touch with and access to green plant friends and community. I had enough instinct to know to get my butt to central park whenever I could, run around the reservoir, buy flowers when I could afford them, but I not put the depression together with nature deficit until much later in life. Now granted I was a young 20 something, that nebulous and insecure coming of age period of time in most people’s lives feels unstable and the city and the big world presented me with new information that was bound to be depressing and thought provoking – but even so, my ability to cope, my innate resilience was compromised by this deficit and more and more research shows that anyone’s is.

The importance of safe, accessible, healthy green space is not nice – it is a necessity to us as a species who has co-evolved to rely on it and who now – at its peril – often fails to protect that very source of its own well-being. Protect your own greenspace, protect the green friends and family of your immediate neighboring community – protect it for those who cannot protect it for themselves – the sick, the sad, the tired, the lonely.

Everyone will feel better the more we care for and protect our green spaces. The outlook right now can be grief-ridden, ager and depression inducing – but do not succumb – start where you are – get out in your garden, in your park, on your city green sidewalks and breath deep. And then encourage and enable everyone you possibly can to do the same. The plants are there – you need them. We all do.

This is one of those conversations where I hear something and I think – YES that’s it – that is the pull out vocab word of the week! And I wish you all were actually. Here with me in person to play along in real time. Can you guess it? I bet you can. Did you hear it? Maybe I should just make Matt play the game as a stand in for the rest of you……

Yep – I know a lot of you got it – heard it, marked it - salutogenesis – a medical approach focusing on factors that support human health and well-being, rather than on factors that cause disease. More specifically, the "salutogenic model" is concerned with the relationship between health, stress, and coping.

Naomi did a very good job allowing this idea the importance it deserves but it’s so good I had to take us back to it: Salutogenesis. It’s a good word to say.

In the 2005 Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health the salutogenic theory sense of coherence coined by America-Israeli medical sociologist Aaron Antonovsky is glossed in great depth – as the authors advocate that: “the salutogenic approach could have a more central position in public health and health promotion research and practice. Furthermore, it could contribute to the solution of some of the most urgent public health problems of our time such as the question of mental health promotion.”

Some of the key concepts that I took away: salutogenesis as a theory and approach is remarkable for its “strength of adaptability and universal use. It is a major life orientation always focusing on problem solving. It reflects a person’s view of life and capacity to respond to stressful situations. It is a global orientation to view the life as structured, manageable, and meaningful or coherent.”

And anyone who has listened to me for any length of time could quite easily predict what I will say next – and that is: Gardening and daily interactions as well as life long committed and loving relationships with the plants around us Salutogenesis embodied.

So eat your greens, play with your greens, smell and touch your greens. Better Problem solving, more effective coping mechanisms, and improved mental health are bound to follow. Gardening is good for your body, mind and soul. From there, anything is possible.

Together we grow.

Hoping to share and cultivate place with many of you!

UPCOMING CULTIVATING PLACE LIVE EVENTS: click green title links for more info or to register!

- SPRING FEVER Feb 26th & 27th (12:30 pm each day) Northwest Flower & Garden Show Seattle, WA

- MRS. DALLOWAY'S BOOKS - FEBRUARY 28, Berkeley, CA 7:30 - 9 pm

- CHICO WOMEN'S CLUB - SUNDAY MARCH 1, 1 - 3:30 pm Book signing, refreshment, home-town celebration! RSVP required for FREE event JOIN US!

Mark your calendars - I hope to meet you wherever you cultivate your place in the coming year




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