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Archives for August 22, 2013

Good thing husband can cook — I can’t

My husband does most of the cooking around my house. He is a better cook than me. Sure, I have a few recipes that are absolutely delicious that I can make with my eyes closed. I am a hit at potlucks. However, for the day-to-day meal planning, I am lost.

Being able to plan and shop for meals for a whole week at a time is not a skill I possess. How on earth am I supposed to know on Sunday what sounds good for dinner Tuesday?

Thankfully, I don’t have to. My husband and I go to the store together and he picks out the necessities and I pick out the snacks.

This system is not for everybody, but it works for us.

I thought I could overcome my limitations in the kitchen with the purchase of some cookbooks. I figured I just needed some help coming up with ideas, a little inspiration.

This plan was flawed. I bought the cookbooks and even got a recipes app for my phone, but the only time I have used the cookbooks or the app is to find dessert recipes.

I can bake like nobody’s business. Unfortunately, it would be incredibly unhealthy to serve cookies or cake for dinner every night.

My family, especially the older women, constantly tease me about my lack of domesticity. In their generation, a woman who wasn’t a master in the kitchen would have been highly frowned upon.

My grandmother and her sister were shocked when I brought them a plate of food my husband had prepared. They were impressed by his cooking skills, but quite disappointed in mine. They asked me if I realized how “spoiled” I am.

Actually, I do. I rather enjoy listening to my husband whistling in the kitchen as he prepares me a delicious meal. Love is definitely his secret ingredient. He enjoys cooking and likes watching me try out his new creations. I enjoy eating without having to plan out meals or slave over a hot stove. It’s a win-win.

My sisters think I married the perfect man and I tend to agree. When sitting around having “table talk” and commiserating about husbands who don’t help with the cooking and cleaning, I am at a loss of complaints. Not only does Eric cook, but he also helps with laundry and other chores.

My sisters often tease that I should let Eric take my place at the table because they are certain he could add to the conversation. I don’t doubt it — I give Eric plenty to complain about. For starters, I am messy.

Like with cooking, Eric is better with the day-to-day upkeep of the house. When I clean house, I do a great job. In fact, with my attention to detail, I can clean the house even better than Eric can. However, I am a slob and Eric keeps things neat.

I like to clean the house top to bottom every weekend, but throughout the week I can’t be bothered to even put my dirty clothes in the hamper.

Housework is about the last thing Eric wants to do with his time off, but he will pick up after himself and me every day.

I think my only saving grace is the fact I help with the landscaping. I love being outdoors, especially with the weather we’ve had recently. I don’t mind doing outside chores such as mowing and pulling weeds and Eric certainly doesn’t mind the help.

Jeanette Anderton can be contacted at

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Pink Robots at the Gate

Now, Santa’s Battle Wagon and a team of 12 robot reindeer occupy a patch of lawn near the pool, while a 50-foot-tall, 54-ton robot made partly of junked electronics diverts attention from the tasteful desert landscaping.

And forget about playing a few sets on the tennis court.

“Now it’s elf village, with post-apocalyptic extraterrestrial nuclear elves,” Kenny Jr. said, leading a visitor on a walk through a landscape resembling the set of a Tim Burton film. Wearing a beige shalwar kameez and a long, untrimmed beard (he became a Muslim a decade ago), Kenny Jr., 39, had the gleeful smile of a child given a very large sandbox to play in.

Georgia Eisner, his older sister, recalled how, years before he took over the backyard, he would appropriate her possessions as material for his art while she was away at boarding school. “It was clear my typewriter ended up in one of his structures,” she said. “My shell collection disappeared. He glued it to the wall.”

Remembering her exasperation, she added: “I would think, can’t I have a normal brother who plays sports? He was the weirdo that was always off playing by himself and talking about outer space.”

Kenny Jr.’s ideas come in a geyserlike rush, he explained, inspired by vivid dreams of aliens and distant planets. His main challenge is keeping up with them. “The amount of energy that goes through me is absolutely, utterly relentless,” he said. “Think of it as the floodgates are unleashed and the flood doesn’t ever stop. It’s been that way my whole life.”

For several years, his creative energy has been channeled into Robo Lights, the ever-expanding holiday display he began in 1986, at age 12. Last year, 20,000 people visited the sprawling installation, which features Santa’s Pink Robot Store and a manger scene with baby Jesus wearing a Sumo-style topknot and wise men bearing gifts of toy microwaves.

Twin Palms, the estate Frank Sinatra owned one block over, grows paler as a neighborhood attraction every year.

In October, an indoor version of Robo Lights will be on display at the American Visionary Art Museum, or AVAM, in Baltimore, said Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, the museum’s director and founder. Kenny Jr.’s work will be part of an exhibit on technology called “Human, Soul and Machine: The Coming Singularity.”

“Kenny is one of a handful of people who continue to fascinate me,” Ms. Hoffberger said. “There’s a lot of sci-fi work out there, and it tends to look alike. His work looks like no one else’s.”

LIKE A ONE-MAN RECYCLING CENTER, Kenny Jr. collects old phones, cassette tapes, wood, the innards of slot machines, garbage can lids, pool filters, a neighbor’s wrecked glider, an air compressor from a commercial building — anything he can get his hands on, basically — and using multiple cans of Touch ’n Foam sealant, gives form to his visions.

His sculptures have a Seurat-like quality: a pink Clydesdale looks monumental from a distance; up close, its hooves are revealed as boxy computer monitors, its noble head a printer and fax machine glued together, its mane a tangle of power cords.

Aliens, robots and monsters appear in Kenny Jr.’s work with obsessive frequency. But he maintains that his inspiration doesn’t come from comic books or B-movies. His robot sculptures are “instantaneously generated creations that go through my mind,” he said. “I know exactly what they look like, and I make them.” (An interest in the far-out is perhaps hereditary: Kenny Jr.’s paternal grandmother was a singer and bandleader whose 1969 album, “Into Outer Space with Lucia Pamela,” a jazzy account of her “trip” to the moon, is a cult classic for its wacky naïveté. Tony Kushner wrote a play about her called “Flip Flop Fly.”)

Kenny Jr. beamed into the larger culture briefly in 2010, when Conan O’Brien asked him to design the holiday set for his talk show. The host appeared delighted with the results (Godzilla wielding a candy cane; a Christmas U.F.O.), though it was hard to tell if the creator was in on the joke. In a backstage interview, Kenny Jr. answered Mr. O’Brien’s sardonic questions about “Mr. and Mrs. Sanmagnetron Claus” with deadpan sincerity, seemingly oblivious to the incongruity of a man in full Islamic dress designing Christmas decorations.

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A creative drive


His truck is a think tank. The time spent stalled at a red light is sometimes used to scrawl down a note or two. Great designs happen on the move. Joe Pavlovicz, owner of JTS Landscaping in Seville, Ohio, says, “I’m thinking of ideas all day long – and I feel like 90 percent of my ideas come when I’m driving around in my truck.”

Or lying in bed. Or walking the properties while his installation crews are practicing their craft, laying intricate outdoor living spaces using interlocking paver systems or creating organic-feeling gardens the freestyle way, using natural stone.

For the love of design, Pavlovicz began this business as a high-school graduate living in his parents’ house, and he has grown it over 25 years into a firm with 15 employees, and a portfolio of work that speaks to this flair for creativity. JTS built the displays at Unilock headquarters in Rittman, Ohio.

Craftsmanship and client service separate JTS Landscaping from the pack. “A lot of people can put plants down,” says Pavlovicz, who was working in a garden center after school, long before he had a driver’s license. He has grown a team of experts who have helped cultivate JTS Landscaping into a strong and growing business.

“I’ve always looked at the business this way,” Pavlovicz says. “If our employees are happy and continue to do good work, our customers are happy, our guys get more work, we get different opportunities and everyone is happy – it keeps going ‘round and ‘round. So, as long as you can keep that going…”

Growing his own. “You’re not going to work for me the rest of your life – what are you going to do?”
That’s what the owner of the garden center where Pavlovicz had worked since grade school asked him one day. Pavlovicz replied, “Well, I don’t know.” His mentor planted the seed: Why don’t you do your own thing?
“He gave me a tip to start my own business,” says Pavlovicz, who was 18 when this conversation happened. “He bought a truck and said I could use it and just make the payments on it. Within three months, I bought the truck off of him.”

Pavlovicz started working for this owner when he was 8 years old, essentially working as a farm hand before the guy ever opened a garden center. The little outfit raised produce and perennials, so young Pavlovicz picked veggies and did whatever else was necessary to keep the plants growing.

When the owner opened a garden center, Pavlovicz carried potted plants out to customers’ cars, and eventually he worked in the nursery selling plant material. “I can remember having a Dirr’s book, and people would come to the garden center and ask what a plant does, and I’d read the book to them,” he says. “That is how I learned about plants – by selling them.”

Pavlovicz continued to work at the garden center through high school before starting his own company out of his parent’s house with three guys and two trucks. He took classes at the The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio, during winters for the first couple of seasons he was in business.

But the housing boom in Medina, Ohio soon sucked up all Pavlovicz’s extra time – in a good way. It was the mid-1990s and Medina wasrapidly developing county. “There was more work around here to do than you could really perform,” Pavlovicz recalls.

JTS Landscaping embraced the boom.

And at the same time, Pavlovicz and the firm sought out opportunities to make a mark in the industry. One of those is at the Unilock plant that was built close to where JTS is based. “Our business was evolving at the same time that interlocking concrete pavers were coming out,” he says. JTS just last year completed Unilock’s corporate displays.
The company is known for its hardscape designs, Pavlovicz says. “There are two parts to a hardscape,” he says.

“There is the precision aspect where a patio might be 16 by 16 feet with (interlocking paver) design work.” And there is side of this type of work that involves using natural stone and designing as you go.

JTS is equipped with two craftsmen who are accomplished at each technique. “One is like a carpenter and the other is more of an artist – he doesn’t know what (the job) will look like until it’s done,” Pavlovicz says.

“A lot of times, a job begins with a pile of dirt and rocks – the (competitor) may have the same pile, but will he be able to do the same craftsmanship?” he continues. “It’s all about what you do with the materials and how you put it all together in a landscape.”

Cultivating a team. “The green industry is still green, in my opinion,” Pavlovicz says. He’s talking about business acumen and the constant need to learn new skills to keep up with product introductions and emerging trends.
“We have all seen landscaping evolve from a couple of shrubs to all of this hardscape and structures and pergolas and low-voltage lighting and artwork – the industry is growing,” Pavlovicz says.

Pavlovicz invests in training by sending employees to trade shows and taking advantage of vendor education opportunities. And, there is a big focus on recruiting talent. Three key managers at JTS have been with the firm for the last 10 years. “They are the backbone of the company,” Pavlovicz says.

Danny Rutherford came to Pavlovicz after graduating from high school. He told Pavlovicz, “I’m graduating in June, can I come work for you?” Pavlovicz said, “Sure.” Sixteen years later, Rutherford is landscape foreman, but he also assists with design and sales. “Danny’s there with a pile of flagstone and brick and boulders, and there is this pile of rocks that he makes into a patio or a fire ring, a natural walkway or a seating area.”

Pavlovicz’s first employee, Tommy Baltic, was working for a roofer who passed away. Baltic needed a job, so he came to work for Pavlovicz. He started planting and eventually moved into hardscaping and is now the firm’s lead designer for those projects.

Matt Glyn, project manager, also began working at JTS while in high school. It was a summer job. He attended college, earned a landscape degree and came back to the firm to work.

“We all click,” Pavlovicz says. “Everyone has the same priority of getting the job done and getting it done right.”
Pavlovicz’s role is to pair each job with the right person in the firm. “Projects don’t come in the door and we say, ‘You’re next in line to go do it,” Pavlovicz says. “It’s about putting the pieces of the puzzle together and putting people on the jobs where they will perform the best.”

For Pavlovicz, that means being “on” the job, but not working in it. And this is an adjustment for a hands-on guy. “I have to rely on the guys to take (the business) to the next level,” he says.

He does that by giving them the freedom to make choices. “Everyone is going to stumble at first, but if you don’t let them make their own decisions they will never learn,” he says, with great confidence in his team. “They focus on the positives, and we all keep moving forward.”

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Sego Lily Gardens opens to public for free fall garden fair

Most people know that hot, dry summers call for conservative use of water to keep plants green. This fall, Sandy City officials want to help residents learn best practices to save water as the seasons change.

Everyone is invited to attend the upcoming garden fair at Sego Lily Gardens, located at 1472 East Sego Lily Drive, to learn more about water-wise practices for fall.

The Fall Garden Fair will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 21, and is free and open to the public.

Sandy City Water Conservation Director Kimberly Singleton said residents do a great job at conservation, but there’s always something new to learn – like best practices to winterize your sprinkler and irrigation systems.

“If you have questions, come and visit us. We can help,” she said.

During the garden fair, experts will be available to answer any questions about water systems, such as how best to maintain and fix the valves. Participants can also attend informal seminars on topics having to do with preparing your sprinkler and other water systems to weather the fall and winter months.

Participants can also learn more about how to retrofit their home sprinkler or garden irrigation systems, how to fix a watering system clock or timer, basic sprinkler system maintenance techniques and more.

The event includes additional drawings for prizes, free seminars, information handouts, a plant give-away and free conservation kits while supplies last.

The first 100 families to visit the fair will receive free fall bulbs.

Singleton said the event will be a family-friendly, fun affair with several activities for children, , including face painting and crafts.

“We do that because it helps to draw the kids,” she said.

Wild Wonders will bring animals for a special demonstration for younger garden fair participants.

Everyone is also welcome to tour Sego Lily Gardens, pick up educational brochures and find coupons from local nurseries for discounts for plants for home gardens.

Sego Lily Gardens was one of the first public garden sites created in the Salt Lake Valley to demonstrate low-water use plants and landscaping techniques.

Built in 1999, the garden was designed to incorporate native plants and efficient irrigation practices to be water-wise and environmentally friendly.

The garden is a project of Sandy City and was built on approximately 2.5 acres of land around a 5-million-gallon Sandy City water tank.

Sego Lily Gardens is open year round to the public. Anyone can visit the garden from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each week Monday through Saturday.

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Denny’s Gardening Corner


    IMG_8473Hello fellow gardeners and hopeful gardener wanna be’s! I’m Denny and I hope to inspire, chat and glorify the great outdoors with garden and landscaping ideas for you and your world! I hope to pass on bits of gardening info and newsie bits that concern you and Mother Earth. So let’s talk about late season color.

    As I write this, I notice the nights are getting shorter and happily we are able to open the windows at night and feel a nice cool breeze. Before I mention the dreaded four letter word…Let’s still enjoy the summer!

    Rockland county’s summer weather has been crazy and reeking havoc in all of our gardens. The annuals are getting leggy, plants are getting burned by the sun and getting soggy roots. It’s been either the Mojave desert heat or the Amazon jungle rain. Which leads me to urge you to getting some color out in your yard for the last hurrah of summer and fall time so that you can let nature do it’s thing for the future years to come.

    FLOWERING PERENNIALS! Now is a great time to plant them. Enjoy them now and year after year they will come back and greet you like an old friend. A few of my favorites are listed below but go to the garden center and seek out more! A bit of an investment from the pocket but it will also be an investment to your home.

    Echinacea- also known as the cone flower because of it’s conical center. Daisy like petals and the varieties are endless as also the colors. Warm Summer and Paradiso are my faves but the colors are dazzling!
    Dianthus- A low growing flower (6-7 inches high and spreads to 12-14 inches wide) that looks like a flat carnation and is as hardy. Solids colors to three make this a wonderful border plant.
    Golden Rod / Solidago- Bright yellow blossoms on fern like stems make this perennial an easy to grow flower. Splashes of this here and there will accentuate any area you have.
    Asters- Another fall favorite! colors galore with a daisy look but thinner petals. Attracts lots of butterflies.Team this up with Lacy Frill Lavender- A White blossom fragrant lavender to scent up your garden.
    Russian Sage- A cloud of lavender blue blossoms on green grey stems blowing in the wind. 12-18 inches in height they are a standout for any border or a container. Pair it up with a Moonbeam Coreopsis (yellow) and the results are striking!

    These are only a few but there are hundreds of perennials out there for you to choose from. But the idea of having more color and less work sounds good to me!

    See you next time around the potting bench and if you have any comments, by all means drop a line here at the Rockland County Times c/o Denny Wiggers or or visit

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      Workshop offers chance to learn about rain gardens

      Rain gardens are a landscaping trend focused on making the most of rainfall when we receive it while helping to protect our rivers, lakes and streams. An opportunity to learn what a rain garden is and how to build your own rain garden is once again being offered in Columbus next week.

      The rain garden workshop and hands-on installation will be held Wednesday, Aug. 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the new Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce office at 753 33rd Ave. Plan to attend to learn about rain gardens and to have the opportunity to help install and plant a rain garden.

      This workshop was offered in June, but rainfall prevented us from holding the workshop and installing the rain garden at that time. I am repeating this article to let you know we are once again offering this interesting workshop for you to attend all or a portion.

      Along with hands-on experience, participants will receive a rain garden manual valued at $15 and will have the opportunity to ask questions of presenters experienced with rain garden design and installation.

      A rain garden is basically a shallow bowl-shaped garden that has low berms on three sides. The gardens are located where they will receive rainwater from a downspout, driveway or lawn area. Most are planted to perennial flowers and ornamental grasses, but shrubs are used as well.

      Correctly designed and installed rain gardens are not water gardens, ponds or bogs. They are designed so that rainwater typically soaks into the soil in less than 24 hours. Hence, a wide variety of plants can be used and rain gardens do not breed mosquitoes.

      The Columbus rain garden workshop will be taught by Katie Pekarek, University of Nebraska-Lincoln water quality educator, and Kelly Feehan, UNL horticulture educator. Pekarek has helped with the installation of other rain gardens across Nebraska, and we will benefit from her experience and knowledge.

      At the workshop, the morning session will be spent learning how rain gardens are used for water conservation and stormwater management, the basics of designing a rain garden, and about the types of plants to use in rain gardens.

      The afternoon will be spent applying much of what was learned as participants help complete and plant a rain garden. Come prepared to get your hands dirty and to be pleasantly surprised at the ease with which most rain gardens can be added to a home landscape, as well as the variety of perennial flowers and ornamental grasses that can be used in rain gardens.

      There will be a $10 fee to register for the workshop; however, this fee will be returned to you upon attendance. Lunch will be provided. For more information, please call the UNL Extension office at 402-563-4901 or e-mail

      This workshop is being sponsored by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Stormwater Management Team, the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and Environmental Trust Waterwise Grant Program, the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Columbus, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

      Kelly Feehan is a UNL extension educator-horticulture. She can be reached at (402) 563-4901 or by email at


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      Fall Maintenance: End-of-Summer Gardening Tips


      For thrifty and die-hard gardeners, fall is the new spring

      It’s easy to get the gardening bug in springtime, when humans themselves feel like new sprouts finally getting out into the sun (or, for some of us, like vampires emerging from dusky lairs). But as the summer growing season comes to a close and the crowds at the garden centers and farmer’s markets dwindle, we feel resigned to letting it all die and shifting our attention to the fall lineup. This year, don’t let the changing seasons become an excuse to turn back into a vampire (or to watch them on TV). Fall brings plenty of reasons to stay active in the garden, including buying and planting new stuff and gearing up to extend your dirty pursuits into the cold seasons.

      Killer Deals on Remainder Plants

      Those poor specimens left on the racks at garden centers at the end of summer…a little droopy, a little dry, and surely a little sad, feeling like the forgotten gifts on the Island of Misfit Toys. But just like the square-wheeled train and the spotted elephant, those “aged” plants just need a good home, and they can be rescued for a fraction of what you’d pay for this year’s hottest toys (or healthiest plants).

      Late summer is THE time to watch for sales at garden centers. Annuals are fire-saled, not surprisingly, but the real deals are the perennials that will thrive when planted in fall. Expect savings of 50% or more on many plants. And if something looks especially tired, try to negotiate the price down further; retailers know these plants have one last chance at yielding any revenue. Many sales also include garden tools, as the stores have to clear shelf space for winter merchandise.

      Good Time for Planting

      Flower children know that fall is when you plant many bulbs for spring emergence. It’s also a good time to transplant trees, divide and replant perennials and lay sod or re-seed the lawn. For many plants, late summer and fall are preferable to spring because the ground is warm (good for digging and encouraging root growth) and the sun’s heat is less intense (good for foliage and your water bill). You can even plant a late summer garden for one last crop yield.

      When you’re emptying the shelves at your garden center, ask about planting and maintenance for this time of year and through the winter. Most perennials and trees will survive their first winter if their roots take hold before hard freezes set in, while some plantings should be watered periodically through winter, particularly if it’s a dry one. (Keep in mind that new trees do best in the long run if they’re watered regularly for three years, not for just the first season or year like most people commit to.)

      Cold Frames and Hot Beds

      A cold frame, for those who aren’t familiar, essentially is a mini greenhouse that lets you grow cool crops, such as lettuce, well into fall. Most cold frames are simple DIY affairs constructed with four short walls (or you can dig a hole instead) topped with an old storm window. As such, they’re perhaps one of the original examples of upcycling, back when it was referred to as “using up some of that old crap in the shed.” If you build a cold frame now you’ll get to use it twice before next summer because they’re also handy for starting and hardening plants a little early in spring. Nervous about making your own, or think now would be a nice time to build a garden shed? Call ahandyman!

      A hot bed is a nice, warm pile of poop. Horse poop, to be precise. You can turn a cold frame into a hot bed by digging down about 2 feet, adding 18 inches of manure — that is, fresh manure — and tamping it well. Top the poop with about 6 inches of sand to fill the hole. As the manure decomposes it creates heat, making the sand a toasty place to set pots and flats for growing plants in fall and even winter. If you’re not the kind of person who relishes a Saturday outing to gather manure, or you’re stuck in a one-horse town, you can create a hot bed with electric soil-heating cable (available online and through garden supply stores).

      Homegrown Help

      For fall and every other season, the best sources of gardening information are local gardening and landscape professionals, as well as state and local extension services. These folks know what works best in your climate and can steer you toward local stores and other resources for getting what you need. The most comprehensive extension programs typically are run by state agricultural (“ag”) universities and offer online content and call-in help lines manned by certified Master Gardeners. Manycities have small extension offices and can be great sources for finding cheap mulch and other garden materials, and don’t be afraid to call for help from a landscaper. Whether you’re a resident of Podunk, Illinois or Baltimore, Maryland, landscapers are there for you.

      Philip Schmidt writes for

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      Not all healing gardens deliver as advertised

      August 22, 2013

      Not all healing gardens deliver as advertised

      Stress is a known cause of both mental health disorders and cardiovascular diseases. Not only is stress an adverse outcome in itself, but it negatively influences a variety of other health outcomes.

      Gardens with particular characteristics have been shown to have positive effects in health outcomes, primarily through the facilitation of stress reduction.

      The benefits of properly designed gardens for reducing stress has tremendous health implications, and reducing stress has been shown in numerous studies to improve a number of health outcomes. There are at least 60 scientific studies that suggest contact with nature has numerous beneficial effects.

      Attention diversion, produced from contact with nature, has been clinically shown to improve pain alleviation. Nature has a direct effect, quickly reducing cortisol levels (a hormone produced by stress) in subjects, but it also provides a distraction that reduces the obsession of pain when undergoing medical procedures that produce pain or discomfort. Simply viewing nature has been shown to reduce agitation and aggression in mental health and emergency room departments.

      Three principles

      Gardens in health care have improved significantly and proliferated, and many health care grounds have evolved into functional spaces that provide intentionally restorative or therapeutic benefits. But not all gardens deliver as advertised.

      Some health care gardens featured in leading design magazines appear attractive in photographs, yet are missing elements and characteristics that optimize the health, safety, and welfare of the people that use them. Some gardens may actually be doing some harm, which is unacceptable in a medical setting.

      The following three general principles are essential for health care gardens to provide positive results:

      Know the garden type. The term healing garden is an umbrella term commonly used in health care settings.

      Gardens cannot cure a disease or mend a broken bone, but gardens can facilitate stress reduction and foster healing, promote satisfaction with the health care system, and provide an environment of caring. Healing gardens are generally restorative places where physical, psychological and social benefits are derived from simply being in the garden.

      A therapeutic garden or enabling garden — outdoor space designed to achieve specific medical outcomes — requires greater design expertise, with specialized knowledge in environmental psychology, physical therapies and specific medical goals.

      Understand who will use the garden. Health care gardens, particularly therapeutic gardens, require a deeper understanding of the client groups that will use the space.

      Gardens in medical settings should be tailored to meet the particular needs of their specific patient and staff populations. This is best done in conjunction with an interdisciplinary design team that includes staff and administrators, and in some cases patients and their relatives.

      Gardens for dementia care, hospice, psychiatric treatment or senior care facilities will each look and feel different from one another, and should be based more on the needs and abilities of the users than abstract design principles.

      Integrate the garden with the building. Research reveals that 60 percent of hospital garden users are staff.

      Staff use health care gardens to find a moment of respite and escape from the stress of their jobs. Most garden users reported their primary activity in the garden was to simply relax (followed by eating and talking).

      Doctors and spiritual care frequently use a garden for difficult consults with family. Patients or family members use the garden to express difficult emotions that may feel uncomfortable in the hospital room or lounges. These uses require peaceful settings with opportunity for private conversation.

      Gardens that are not close enough to patient rooms or nurse stations inhibit garden use. Health care gardens have also been settings for weddings and special occasions, and for fundraising or community events. The garden is a normalizing element in an unfamiliar environment.

      A mental escape

      Post-occupancy evaluations of hospital gardens have indicated the high value placed on access to the outdoors by staff, visitors and patients alike.

      Among the garden elements most valued are features that represent life and health, such as trees, plants and flowers, and elements that arouse the senses, such as fragrances, the sounds of birds and water, and the feel of sunlight or a gentle breeze.

      These elements represent a marked contrast to the beeping machines and smell of sanitizer found in most hospital interiors, providing a sense of distance or ‘mental escape’ and allowing for reflection and restoration. Gardens that have a ratio of greenery to hardscape of around 7-to-3 (70 percent nature to 30 percent paved area) seem to be preferred by most people.

      Other factors can limit the benefits of gardens. These include: lack of information on a garden’s location and accessibility, insensitivity to specific patient mobility needs, intrusive sensory stimuli (noise, allergic pollens, and so on); lack of accommodation for competing user needs (such as smoking areas and the desire for fresh air), and design elements that evoke mixed or ambiguous interpretations (such as benches in a garden used by cancer patients that resemble tombstones, or sculptures in a children’s garden that look like monsters).

      This last aspect is particularly significant in a medical setting, where the fragile emotional state of many users predisposes them to place negative meanings on many things except the most unambiguously positive stimuli.

      Research indicates that U.S. hospital workers are less healthy, consume more medical services, and accrue higher health care costs than the U.S. workforce at large. Much of the cause may be that hospitals are full of sick people, but how much healthier would staff be, and how many fewer medical errors would occur, if they had easy access to fresh air and a stress-relieving outdoor environment?

      We don’t know yet, but since hospital staff are the biggest users of hospital gardens, and staff who use the gardens consistently report positive feelings about being there, it is well worth the effort to provide an appropriate garden, at least for staff.

      While almost any garden provides a connection with natural elements, a garden design created on evidence-based principles — based on design, led by an informed designer and properly implemented — can facilitate stress reduction and improve health outcomes.

      Mark Epstein is a principal of Hafs Epstein Landscape Architecture in Seattle. He is a board member and instructor of the Healthcare Garden Design Course at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and serves on the advisory board for the Therapeutic Landscapes Network.

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      How to design a rock garden

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