Cultivate - the Horticultural Therapy Society of NSW

27 Oct 2017

Book Review

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Therapeutic Gardens - Design for Healing Spaces
By Daniel Winterbottom, Amy Wagenfield (Editor)

304 pages, Timber Press 2015, Hardcover RRP $69.99.

Book review by Nieve Smyth, Soul Sister Garden Design, Perth
Available through Amazon and Booktopia

I must admit when I first received the book I did the customary ‘quick flick’ through before it was destined to be alongside the many design ‘reference books’ in my study. 

However, luckily, it piqued my interest and I’ve read it thoroughly. What sets this book apart is that it is the collaboration between a occupational therapist (who understands what is really needed) and a landscape architect (who knows how to execute those needs).

The book is American and reference is often made to the requirements ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) but in Australia these are covered in AS1428 Design for access and mobility Set. 

There is a great gap in landscape architecture and design when it comes to therapeutic gardens – the normal thought pattern is tactile plants, a water feature and gravel underfoot and she’ll be right – WRONG! It’s not the students fault it’s just that it’s not cool, sexy or taught as part of the courses. You only have to look at the grounds of Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth to see yep, from a landscape architects view, it is stunning to look at BUT for patients and staff “how many shades of grey can you see (building and plantings) - it needs colour and life?”(Question from a patient I met in the coffee shop). 

The book puts into perspective clear concise requirements – considerations and contraindications that unless you were in the field you would not even think about. The gravel path mentioned above is a classic example. Yes, to many the crunch is sensory but to others, as the book points out “those sensitive to touch and sound may find the crunching feel and the sound distressing as well”.

It is broad scale in the fact that there are designs for lots of different types of gardens but that is a great starting point – it gets the thought patterns mobilised and a serves as a solid base, but I would not advise them to be taken as gospel as each situation and clientele are different and there is the chance that designs are perceived as ‘exclusive’ e.g. Gardens for Children with Obesity.

What is great is that there are so many ideas that can be incorporated into a fusion of concepts – how great to have a community garden with ‘rooms’ for intergenerational learning, memorial and peace gardens etc. (especially important to those who live in apartments etc.).  Also a lot of the ideas for children’s gardens can be incorporated into the mainstream school playgrounds – maximum ‘inclusivity’.

In an ideal world, therapeutic gardens would be a compulsory unit in both the Landscape Architecture and Landscape Design courses and this book would be a mandatory read, but until then the best we can do is raise awareness of it’s existence. Bit like Horticultural Therapy actually………….

Cultivate - the Horticultural Therapy Society of NSW
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