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lemon tree garden

Mental health at the refugees camp @ Chelsea Flower Show 2018 (PART_3)

One of many Chelsea Flower Show Gardens that deserves special attention is The Lemon Tree Garden, which directly referred to the issue of mental health. Inspired by the resilience, originality and determination of refugees living in Domiz camp in Northern Iraq was designed with their involvement and highlights the unexpected beauty and power hidden in the refugee camps. Designer aimed to show how plants can improve people’s wellbeing.

The traditional Islamic style was kept by star shaped water feature, radiating water rills and elaborate metal and wood fretwork screens. Channels of water provide fresh, cooling atmosphere, representing at the same time the importance of reused grey water in the Iraq’s camps. Very simple materials that can be found in real camp such as concrete and steel, were used  . Food plants were placed in cans and recycled plastic bottles attached to a very interesting “innovation wall”.

The planting included the pomegranate trees, figs, single roses, alliums, dazzling blue flowered Anchusa, the impressive lemon tree as well as herbs used in Middle Eastern cooking. These fragrant herbs could have a great impact on mind and mood. All these are reminders of refugees homeland. Resting between them make us more relaxed and smiley.

People in camps create gardens and take care of them with aim to provide food but also to keep themselves in good mental and physical condition. Possibility of growing and taking care of plants, herbs, vegetables is a great chance to socialize what means it improves social functioning and emotional well-being. The garden with its amazing plants can be the gate to escape from cruel reality , bring the solace and positive energy.  The garden is a place that no matter where you are, you can relate to.

The Lemon Tree Trust supports and encourages the refugees to build camp gardens where they can grow food, create sense of beauty; seek and promote, a very important,  community well-being and identity.

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Neuro-urbanism & Neuro-landscape

A new term has officially been introduced in the scientific world – NEUROURBANISM.  It happened together with the  publication in Lancet in Psychiatry in March 2017 [link here].  City life has a lot to do with the psychiatric conditions , and this is the path we have been following in NeuroLandscape as well.

Our cities are growing and we know: City life influences our behavior, our emotions and our psychological well-being. The brain of an urban dweller reacts differently to social stress than that of a rural dweller. Whether this is also the reason for the aggregation of some stress sequelae in cities is a question that we want to answer with Neuro-Urbanism, a new discipline assembling neurologists, urban researchers and architects. 

-Dr Mazda Adli, Director of the Mood Disorders Research Group at the Charité Berlin and Head of the Fliedner Klinik Berlin

We are happy to get involved with the development of this new discipline in regard to urban nature, and the quality of urban environment. We are looking forward to join forces and connect with the interdisciplinary forum of Neurourbanism in Germany.

 

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Healthy Landscape Workshop, NTU, Taipei, Taiwan

It was a delightful and very interesting stay in Taipei, Taiwan.  We went to visit “Healthy Landscapes x Healthy People Lab” ran by Prof Chun-Yen Chan, after he invited us during the IFLA conference in Singapore (networking works wonders!).  Me and Nicolas were happy to join the 2 hour sharing session and the workshop organized at the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture of the National Taiwan University.

    

We got to know all students and researchers involved in the Healthy Landscape x Healthy People Lab, to find out, that their research is so much connected to what we are doing or willing to do at NeuroLandscape.  The range of topics was impressive: from investigating of the soundscape to creative design process, using very rigorous methods including fMRI scans, biofeedback instruments among others.

Finally the talk of Professor Chang, who is clearly the heart and good spirit of his team, brought us through key findings and ongoing research in the area. It was great to share our mission, activities and scientific approach with like-minded people and find the world’s hot-spot for research on landscape design and health.

We would like to share more findings and activities from Prof Chang’s lab, and find ways to collaborate in the future. Thank you so much for having us at NTU!

    

© SingEx | Photography by Lionel Lin

Window View and the Brain – study results

Most people in Asian biggest metropolitan areas live above the ground in multi-storey buildings. Here in Singapore residential blocks can reach up to 50+ floors! Developers try to fit as many housing units on small plots of lands without the consideration of what will be the view from the window. Well, maybe it is about the time for them to reflect on that.

This newest study from researchers of NeuroLandscape shows that the window views depending of the floor level and the amount of visible green can affect the brain activity in a positive or negative way.  This goes along with the scientists claim that the daily passive exposures to the living environment can have tremendous impact on our mental health.

Check out your window view!

Update! The paper from this study is already published online in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, click here to read!

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My Favorite Garden of Chelsea Flower Show 2018 (PART_2)

At the Chelsea Flower Show 2018 my number one garden was designed to raise awareness of the NSPCC’s work – UK’s leading children’s charity, preventing abuse and helping those affected to recover. The Morgan Stanley Garden’s design is a metaphor for the emotional transformation of the child who experiences the positive influence of the NSPCC’s work. At the same time garden presents the space where these children, often suffering from anxiety, phobias, neurosis, feelings of guilt and shame, isolation, depression and stress with reduced self-esteem, can feel good and safe.

The garden attracts attention and inclines to a deeper contemplation which was not disturbed even by a huge crowd of visitors around. This is undoubtedly due to the proper selection of wide variety of plant species, materials, the play of lights, applied simple forms and shapes.

At the entrance to the garden the direction of the path in the woodland is unclear. Heading more into it, we have possibility to rest in more open and tranquil space, filled with soft, textured perennials. In the middle of the garden we have a very nice pavilion made of warm-toned cedar. A pretty simple construction with moving walls where views toward the safe sensory environment are not blocked. Therefore, it provides greater sense of space, freedom and security. Sense of peace and calm is provided by L-shaped canal and reflective nature of water which with its soothing effect could not be missed here.

Our concentration can focus on very interesting sculptures including a Kinetic Art Table or leaf-shaped sculpture in the water canal. A very characteristic element of the garden that affects its character are the walls surrounding the water channel. Made of verdigris porcelain tile, with perfect color and very artistic appearance they are a beautiful and original combination with water and create the refraction of sunlight.

The garden includes a range of acid-loving plants (a lot of herbaceous, ferns, shrubs: Enkianthus, Rhododendron, that display subtle textures, and there are splashes of blues, pinks and purples which together with deep shade of green are the dominant colors here. Trees take in the garden center stage what provides the touch of it’s maturity. Species like Betula nigra and Amelanchier seem to be a perfect choice. Massive leaves of Hosta sp. bring a great sense of visual drama.
Feel Free Garden 3

Gardens for Mental Health – Lessons from Chelsea Flower Show 2018 (PART_1)

Design Well, Live Healthy

Being around trees, shrubs and other plants improves people’s mental health and give us more positive outlook onto our lives. Spending time outside every day, decreases the risk of being depressed or stressed, and thus burden on our mental health is greatly reduced. The power of plants for our physical and mental wellbeing is currently one of main topic in social media and many events related to the built environment industry which also affects current trends in landscape architecture and garden design.

With health and wellbeing now so high profile, it looks like there has never been a better time to concentrate on the role gardens should play in promoting it. One of the best example is the 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the world’s most famous  gardens show, leading celebration of horticultural excellence and innovation, where great potential of plants to enhance mood and aid recovery was a main theme this year.

One of the main gardens RHS Feel Good Garden was designed as contemporary, therapeutic space, where people can relax, forget about daily, stressful life and benefit by beauty of surrounding green space. The designer presents here very elegant balance of beautiful, restrained planting with interesting, modern stonework which puts space users at complete ease. Relaxing oasis with a sense of tranquility is what I thought and felt when entered Feel Good Garden in a sunny May afternoon.

The richness of plants, its colours, shapes favors collecting positive energy and facing our life with more optimism and power. There is no straight lines and geometry what can make people feel more stressed and forced through the garden. As more wild-looking green space is as better for mental health, that is why planting here has more organic and natural form. A meandering path built with different materials should encourage us to stop focusing on the mind and focus on where we are going. Visitors feel free and welcome to walking around, calmly, at their own pace. Additional points appearing along the way inspire to linger and admire each detail of this lovely space.

At any time we can rest by having a sit on one of stone benches in arch and oval shapes and through specially created gaps in planting observe other parts of the garden and its users. Designer gave a great importance to herbs stimulating our senses as well as created the opportunity to listen to the soothing sound of ornamental grasses. Iris ‘Black Tie Affair’ with its very deep purple, almost black flowers attracts a great attention, forces you to stop, look and reflect.

Design also includes trees such as very tall Cercis siliquastrum and Gleditsia triacanthos which can be helpful for people who have problems with anxiety, depression, lack of self-confidence or just too much stress. They tend to seek for security under a “roof” of the tree canopy – that kind of security that brings the possibility to observe the rest of garden at the same time, without blocking the views. The layout of the garden encourage users to interact and engage with the plants and other people in a perfect way.

Noteworthy, I find it a wonderful idea to relocate this garden after the show, to the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust with the aim of providing a place where patients as well as staff can garden, relax and socialize while being close to nature!
Gardening and spending active time in nature will definitely give them sense of purpose but also feeling of responsibility and achievement.

Having something to care for, such as plants, gives you a sense of purpose, a feeling that’s so important for those struggling with mental health issues, says the designer – Matt Keightley