Plant a Healing Garden

Use plants and hardscape that appeal to the senses to create a healing garden in your backyard.


  • Spending time in nature can reduce stress, elevate mood and promote physical recovery.
    Photo by GAP Photos/Carole Drake
  • Create a therapeutic garden in your own backyard using plants with scents and colors that appeal to you.
    Photo by GAP Photos/Elke Borkowski
  • Lavender has small purple flowers that carry a delicate scent.
    Photo by GAP Photos/Juliette Wade

Nature can restore us, body and soul. Research shows that viewing a natural scene for a few minutes brings people real, observable health benefits such as lowered blood pressure, quicker recovery from illness and blissfully calm brain waves. So imagine how good you could feel in your own healing garden.

“A healing garden is an outdoor space uniquely designed to inspire good health, well-being and positive thought,” says Susan Combs-Bauer of BauerCombs & Associates, a Santa Fe, New Mexico-based landscape architecture firm. “It’s a feel-good place where you go to find solitude, reduce stress or feel a sense of joy.”

Working with spaces from small courtyards to urban parks, Combs-Bauer teaches how-to seminars that give landscaping professionals and homeowners alike a bag of tricks for creating their own nurturing landscape. Here, she lays out a handful of easy-to-follow principles for creating gardens that appeal to the senses.

Come to Your Senses

For Combs-Bauer, creating a healing garden means incorporating natural features that engage our senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and sometimes taste to soothe the soul. She brings in visual patterns, color, shapes and art; pleasing or stimulating textures; gentle sounds to block annoying ones; aromatic scents; and even tasty herbs and edible flowers.



Easy on the eyes: Combs-Bauer loves how color stimulates mood and positive emotions. Choose colors for your garden that support the emotions you hope to develop. Trying to de-stress? Use calming blues and greens. Healing from depression? Go for cheery pink and invigorating red. Seeking inspiration? Try creative yellow. “The best color for any healing garden is lots of purple,” Combs-Bauer says, because it encourages calm and contemplation. You can bring color into the garden through plants and flowers, as well as weatherproof art and sculptures, paint and stucco, gravel, paving materials, tinted concrete and so on.

Also consider calming patterns such as mosaics, spirals and meandering paths made with pebbles and naturally colored stones.

jodybode
12/8/2017 8:28:14 AM

I love this article because I have proven to myself the truth of the healing properties of a planned medicinal garden. I suffer with RA and have found just standing in it helps the pain. The smells, the herbs, the color, and even the touch of the earth (dirt) can sooth me. I believe some people are more in tune to this healing than others. I first noticed it in me at the ripe old age of 7. Now I have noticed only 1 out of my 5 grandchildren goes there for its benefits that he is unaware of at the age of 6. His delight at the smell of a Peppermint plant brought the words, “Gahmee, we should Google how to make gum! C’mon, let’s go!” Jody Bode Minneapolis, MN


NatureHillsNursery
4/23/2014 4:46:18 PM

Loved the article! As a mental health professional myself, I can attest to the fact that many of the suggestions touched on in the article can have healing benefits. All of the senses can be instrumental in enhancing positive outcomes in overall health, but are far too often overlooked as beneficial. There is no doubt that caring for a garden, or even just spending time in one, can have long-reaching positive effects. One of my favorite garden plants for its lovely sight, variety of uses and delicate scent is Lavender. Here’s a link to one of my favorite varieties: http://www.naturehills.com/lavender-provence


NatureHillsNursery
4/23/2014 3:47:55 PM

Loved the article! As a mental health professional myself, I can attest to the fact that many of the suggestions touched on in the article can have healing benefits. All of the senses can be instrumental in enhancing positive outcomes in overall health, but are far too often overlooked as beneficial. There is no doubt that caring for a garden, or even just spending time in one, can have long-reaching positive effects. One of my favorite garden plants for its lovely sight, variety of uses and delicate scent is Lavender. Here’s a link to one of my favorite varieties: http://www.naturehills.com/lavender-provence




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