Coffee Break! Today’s Topic: Healthcare Garden Design

Leslee Oliver By: Leslee Oliver

From master planning and land planning to planting plans and construction administration, it’s safe to say that Timmons Group’s landscape architecture team understands how landscapes work. Lauren Paul is Timmons Group’s twelfth licensed landscape architect on the team who also recently obtained her Healthcare Garden Design Certificate. I sat down with Lauren for coffee this week to hear more about this recent accomplishment and how this certification will deliver value to clients.

Q. Ok, you recently got back from a very exciting work trip. Tell us about where you were.

I was in Chicago, Illinois studying healthcare garden design at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The intensive, 8-day course culminated in a design project, and ultimately a Healthcare Garden Design Certificate.

Q. Whoa, that sounds unique. Tell me a little more about this certificate.

Throughout the course, I was introduced to the latest research in healing and therapeutic gardens, learned the benefits of healthcare gardens for patients, families, and staff, and learned about different design elements and techniques that make healthcare gardens effective for the end user. Our class also went on numerous field trips to Continuing Care Retirement Communities, hospice care centers, veteran program facilities, hospitals and playgrounds to see firsthand healthcare gardens that are working successfully.

Q. What a niche opportunity! How many other students were there?

I was in class with 14 students, but not all were Landscape Architects. I met nurses, hospital administrators, therapists, and extended care providers. This was really impactful to me because I was able to work side by side with the healthcare professionals who are the end users for a project like this, and have a greater understanding of the patient’s needs.


Q. Tell me about the benefit of a healthcare garden.

Being outdoors and surrounded by nature and plants has numerous mental and physical health benefits. Healthcare facilities can be scary, stressful, fast paced, confusing, and all around have a negative connation attached to them. A healthcare garden can provide the exact opposite of these emotions by offering a calm and pleasant escape.  Research has proven that healthcare gardens improve moods, decrease stress, and offer a greater satisfaction to the quality of care among patients, family members, and staff.
The American Society of Landscape Architects has a number of resources specifically on this subject if anyone is interested in continuing to learn more:

Q. What did you learn through this program that you didn’t already know?

I finished the course with a greater understanding of inclusive design, and how important it is to apply this concept to all projects I’m working on, not just healthcare gardens. There are many simple design decisions that can be made early on in a project that impact the ability of users of varying ages and abilities to use the space. For example, by using colored concrete over regular concrete, a user with aging or sensitive eye sight will be able to see and navigate a space more comfortably because of reduced glare. This is just one example of the many ways we as Landscape Architects can design spaces that are inviting to people with a wide range of abilities.

Q. How will this certificate benefit our firm?

At Timmons Group, we work with numerous clients whose projects vary from healthcare to schools to retirement communities to continuing care communities. With this knowledge in house, clients have direct access to experts who understand who will be utilizing their site, and what their needs will be.

For more information on our landscape architecture team, take a peek at their portfolio here.