Temple University Ambler Dedicates New Healing Garden
“The world is a better place when everyone is included.” — Ernesta Drinker Ballard
Ernesta Ballard fully believed in the healing power of gardens. A pioneer in the field of horticulture in the Philadelphia region and well beyond, Ballard knew that gardens could, and should, be places where individuals suffering from illness or simply the stresses of everyday life could find an oasis of calm and rejuvenation.
In June 2009, Temple University Ambler dedicated its newest addition to the campus Landscape Arboretum — the Ernesta Ballard Healing Garden — as a tribute to Ballard’s dedication to horticulture, her alma mater, and her personal interest in creating places of tranquility. The dedication will take place from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Healing Garden, located near the campus Greenhouse.
“After her stroke, Ernesta became very interested in healing gardens of all sorts, particularly labyrinths and their potential to help with healing stroke victims,” said Jenny Rose Carey, Director of the Landscape Arboretum of Temple University Ambler. “The three educational ‘prongs’ of the Arboretum are the health benefits of gardens, the history of women in horticulture and design, and concepts of sustainability. With this new garden, we are touching upon all of those goals in a very tangible way.”
Ballard, a Temple alum and a founding member of the Ambler Campus Board of Visitors, passed away in August 2005. She was President of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society from 1963 to 1981, during which the Society instituted its nationally recognized community gardening program, Philadelphia Green, and revived the Philadelphia Flower Show — an event that is integrally connected to the new garden, which was inspired by Ambler’s 2006 Philadelphia Flower Show entry, “Nature Nurtures — Mind, Body, Spirit.”
From Flower Show to Campus
A multiple award-winning exhibit, “Nature Nurtures” emphasized the healing potential of gardens of any size,
educated visitors about how to make healing gardens of their own, and explored the medicinal use of plants over the course of human history, from the Ancient World through the Renaissance to the present day. The exhibit won a 2007 Honor Award from the Pennsylvania/Delaware Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects for excellence in Graphic Communication.
“In the spring of 2006, there was a
great deal of interest in healing gardens and the ‘Nature Nurtures’ theme,” said Landscape Architecture Associate Professor Pauline Hurley-Kurtz, who coordinated the Nature Nurtures exhibit and the subsequent installation of the new garden. “There were a number of people interested in bringing the
exhibit back to campus to develop a
new Healing Garden and further honor Ernesta (Ballard) and her contributions
to Ambler and horticulture.”
James Hilty (Temple University Ambler Dean) and Kathy Beveridge (then Director of Development) spearheaded the fundraising effort, according to Hurley-Kurtz.
“With generous support from foundations, individuals and alumni,
we had the resources to proceed with developing the garden by the end
of the Spring 2006 semester,” she
said. “From an academic perspective, once the Flower Show was over mid Spring semester 2006, the Junior Design-Build Studio started identifying potential sites on campus for the Healing Garden and began to develop concept designs — each design included a labyrinth in honor of Ernesta.”
Hurley-Kurtz said the students, professors, campus horticultural staff and Ambler administration worked in concert to develop the best location for the garden, which now encompasses a large space between the campus Greenhouse and Cottage Hall.
Over the course of the next few semesters students from the 2007 Design-Build Studio, a 2008 sophomore level Studio and Planting Design classes taught by Hurley-Kurtz continued to refine designs for the garden while clearing away brush and invasive plants; determining the location for the labyrinth, the central feature of the garden; planting a variety of trees, shrubs and bulbs, and implementing stormwater “Best Management Practices (BMPs)” utilizing rain gardens, a vegetated swale, a pond, and a French drain.
All of the work was accomplished with the support of the campus, Arboretum and Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture administration and staff. Dr. Lolly Tai, Senior Associate Dean, represented Ambler administration as an advisor for the project. Jenny Carey and Linda Lowe, Director of Development and Alumni Affairs, also advised on and supported the project throughout the process.
There were a number of volunteer planting days organized by the Ambler Arboretum, including the Fall 2008 Sustainability Day coordinated by Grace Chapman, Horticultural Technician Supervisor, and Horticultural Technician Kathryn Butler, and the Fall 2007 daffodil plantings coordinated by Jenny Carey.
“The Healing Garden is very much a teaching garden. This is an opportunity for our students and the public to see comprehensive stormwater management techniques that aim at capturing and infiltrating stormwater run-off in an aesthetically pleasing design using stone and native plants. We are also using a variety of plants that will help rid the run-off of any contaminants,” Hurley-Kurtz said. “In a way, all gardens are healing gardens but this garden — with its labyrinth, open views, fragrant plants, color, texture, and soft curving paths — was designed particularly for that purpose.”
Hurley-Kurtz has begun to assess the impact of the Healing Garden as a healing space and has presented this project at the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) and the Environmental Design and Research (EDRA) conferences.
Building on a study on gardens and stress reduction conducted by Hurley-Kurtz, Landscape Architecture student Ben Laidig received an Undergraduate Research Incentive Fund Grant from Temple to continue assessing the impact of color and plant textures on visitor responses.
The idea of healing gardens dates back millennia; the use of plants to cure illness and sickness even further still. Egyptian, Chinese, and Indian scholars were writing about medicinal plants thousands of years ago. Plants native to the mid-Atlantic region, which constitute the majority of Healing Garden plants, also have a broad range of healing properties.
“A garden is more than just a pretty space; what you plant and how you plant it can affect the mind, body, and spirit,” said Carey. “Healing gardens are a place of separation — a contemplative space of color and texture. Healing gardens are very sensory, appealing to all five senses in a positive way.”
Healing the Landscape
The Ernesta Ballard Healing Garden — the culmination of three years of work of more than 70 students, Landscape Architecture and Horticulture faculty and campus Arboretum staff supported by campus administration and facilities management — includes a central labyrinth, a woodland glade, meadows, a hedgerow, two pathways, a pond, which has proven very attractive to birds and wildlife, a wooden bridge constructed from the wood of a black walnut tree that once stood on the site, three rain gardens, and a vegetated swale.
The garden is also home to numerous trees and plants from Ambler’s 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibits — another fitting tribute to the woman for whom the garden is named. The 2006 Nature Nurtures exhibit, for example, provided flowering trees and fragrant shrubs while 2007’s “The Poetic Landscape of Ireland,” offered flowering crab apple trees; hawthorns; the “sacred tree,” the central feature of that year’s exhibit; and stone for the sitting wall that frames the labyrinth. From 2008’s “Big Four Mississippi Meander” comes fringe trees and sweet bay magnolias while 2009’s “Green Renaissance” supplied numerous herbaceous plants and grasses.
In addition to student and faculty efforts, the following firms contributed to the process: Joel DeFreytas, Engineer; D’Ancona Masonry and Creative Environments. Brad Scherff, principal of Creative Environments, is a graduate of Temple’s Landscape Architecture program and was a student leader in the 2006 “Nature Nurtures” Flower Show exhibit.
“The exhibit is about healing the landscape too — using meadows as alternatives to lawns, aesthetically highlighting stormwater best management practices, recycling plant and building material. The processes that we’ve used throughout this project have focused on sustainability — all of the pathways used crushed, pervious stone, from example,” said Hurley-Kurtz. “One of the true benefits of the design-build component of our Landscape Architecture and Horticulture programs is that students do have the opportunity to see their designs become reality. This was a great opportunity to bring the Healing Garden to campus in the tradition of our predecessors, such as the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women, whose students helped design and maintain many of the campus gardens that you see today. This was a tradition that Ernesta Ballard was very much part of.”
For further information on Ernesta Ballard Healing Garden Dedication, contact 267-468-8108.
Temple University Ambler is dedicated to promoting sustainable communities, effective land use, and environmental awareness. Students can choose from a B.S. and M.S. in Community and Regional Planning; B.S., A.S., or credit certificate programs in Horticulture; or a B.S. or M.S. in Landscape Architecture. Students may begin over 100 Temple undergraduate programs and complete a variety of degree programs in areas such as liberal arts, business, education, communications, and nursing at Ambler.
For more information on Temple University Ambler’s undergraduate and graduate programs, call 267-468-8100.
Sincere thanks are given to all who have and are contributing to the design, construction and maintenance of the Ernesta Ballard Healing Garden. Also to those who have contributed to the Healing Garden Fund and who have donated plant material:
Healing Garden Fund Supporters: Carole Haas Gravagno, Emilio Gravagno, Janet L. Haas, Andrew Swinney, James Stratton, The Hamilton Family Foundation.
Temple University Ambler Administration and Staff: James Hilty, Dean; Lolly Tai, Senior Associate Dean; Saul Katzman, Director of Finance and Operations; Linda Lowe, Director of Development and Alumni Affairs; Kathy Beveridge, former Director of Development and Alumni Affairs; Michelle Morales Whiting, Administrative Specialist; James Duffy, Public Relations and Website Coordinator; Rachel Berger, Marketing and Special Events Coordinator.
Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Classes: Landscape Architecture Design-Build Studios 2006 and 2007; Sophomore Studio 2008; Planting Design Classes 2007, 2008: Soils Class 2008. Faculty: Pauline Hurley-Kurtz, Derik Sutphin, Johannah Fine.
Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture: Mary Myers, Chair; Linda Palmarozza, Department Manager; Joanne Handler, Administrative Assistant.
Landscape Arboretum Administration and Staff: Jenny Carey, Director; Grace Chapman, Horticultural Technician Supervisor; Kathryn Butler, Healing Garden Horticulturalist; Merrill Miller and Sheila Chlebda, Horticulturalists, Karen Watts, former Horticultural Supervisor.
Temple University Ambler Facilities Management: John Hughes, Area Manager; John Garvin, Facilities Specialist; Mark Murphy, Carpenter.
Healing Garden Student Interns: Sandy Batunkyi, Peter Emerson, Tim Magee, Tim Garrett, and Dave Roberts. Ambler Landscape Arboretum Student Interns: Ben Laidig, Paul Tartaglio, Rachael Griffith, Dave Burns, Mark Pulcini, Deirdre Kurtz, Mike Cristinzio.
Healing Garden Volunteers: Brennan Mulligan, Maura Hilty, Susan Yeager, Jenny Carey, Pauline Hurley-Kurtz, Wes Beers, Charlie Morris, Jen Lauzon, Tom Schreier, Matt Shearon, Mike Ford, Nick Petro, Hannah Lacasse, Janet Gamborelli, Chris Zeek.
Plant Material Donations: Pi Alpha Xi - Sheila Chlebda, Jill Dietterich; Bartrams Gardens – Johannah Fine
Contractors:Hardscape: Creative Environments, Brad Scherff; Masonry: D’Ancona Construction, Gabriel D’Ancona; Engineering Consultant: JoelDeFreytas. Materials: Allied Landscapes, Senn Stone Supply; Plant Material: Collins Nursery, Pinelands, North Creek Nursery, Dunvegan / New Moon, Colibraro Nursery, Redbud