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    MARCH 2, 2006
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UPDATE March 6, 2006: Temple Flower Show exhibit garners "PHS Award of Merit” by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in the Academic Educational category. This marks the fifth straight year that the Ambler campus has garnered a major exhibitor award at the Flower Show. The exhibit also received an award from the Philadelphia Unit of the Herb Society of America Award for “outstanding use of herbs or an individual specimen herb.” [more]

Better living through shrubbery

Temple Ambler’s Philly Flower Show exhibit will tout the healing power of gardens


The idea of healing gardens dates back millennia, the use of plants to cure illness and sickness even further still.

The early Greeks turned to pot marigold to cure headaches and fevers.

During the Middle Ages, sage was thought to increase longevity and mental capacity.

Early American colonists adopted many Native American remedies, such as the use of purple coneflower to treat snakebite and burns.

Today, substances produced by the vinca rosea plant are used to treat several forms of cancer, willow remains an ingredient in aspirin, and many people still turn to echinacea to potentially boost the immune system and help prevent colds.

Beginning Sunday at the Philadelphia Flower Show, Temple University Ambler’s exhibit will celebrate not only the art of plants and flowers, but their healing properties as well.

“Nature Nurtures — Mind, Body, Spirit” emphasizes the healing potential for gardens of any size, educates visitors about how to make healing gardens of their own, and explores the medicinal use of plants over the course of human history, from the ancient world through the Renaissance to the present day.

“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 Jenny Rose Carey, director of the Landscape Arboretum of Temple University Ambler. “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.”

Honoring a horticulture visionary

The theme for this year’s exhibit was inspired in part by late Temple alumna Ernesta Ballard, a founding member of the Ambler Campus Board of Visitors. Ballard, who died in August, was president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society from 1963 to 1981, during which time the society instituted its nationally recognized community gardening program, Philadelphia Green, and revived the Philadelphia Flower Show.

“After her stroke, Ernesta became very interested in healing gardens of all sorts, particularly labyrinths and their potential to help with healing stroke victims,” Carey said.

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. In past Flower Shows, Temple has explored sustainability several times and examined women’s history last year.

“This was the right year to explore healing gardens as a topic,” Carey said, adding that a labyrinth was incorporated this year “to honor Ernesta, to pass along her vision.”

The exhibit includes a visual labyrinth as its central feature in addition to a fountain, trellis structures, a woodland area, mural wall, a healing plants timeline with growing examples from each era, educational panels explaining the concept of healing gardens, and a detailed “how to” about creating healing gardens at home.

Forcing plants into spring

flower show
Landscape Architecture students (from left) Angellica Finelli, Takashi Sato, Kevin Kobasa and Dave Roberts collaborate on the finishing touches of a scale model of Temple’s 2006 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit, “Nature Nurtures — Mind, Body, Spirit.” The exhibit will be on display at the Pennsylvania Convention Center from Sunday, March 5, through Sunday, March 12.

According to Sinclair Adam, a senior lecturer in horticulture, some of the plants used for the exhibit take as many as nine weeks to force, while others take just two or three. The trick, he said, is to ensure that all of the plants reach their peak just in time for the Flower Show.

“There are a number of spring and woodland phlox being used this year in addition to several medicinal plants, such as echinacea,” he said. “I think one of the terrific aspects of this exhibit is that it is a window into history represented through the plants.”

Students are meeting deadlines each week on some aspect of the project, added Lolly Tai, chair of the landscape architecture and horticulture department.

“They are learning how to manage a project from the initial design concept and research to construction,” she said. “The real-world experience our students enjoy through the Flower Show and other community-oriented projects each year is essential.”

The hands-on approach the design build studio takes to the Flower Show and other projects “is one of the most important experiences I’ve gotten out of Temple,” said Katie Oshana, a junior landscape architecture major.

“Most colleges don’t offer this kind of experience. You can do anything on a piece of paper, but you won’t know if it will work in the real world,” she said. “When you actually go and build it, it gives you more of a sense of what is actually possible.”

A permanent home

After the Flower Show, the healing gardens exhibit will not simply be taken down, said Carey, who is coordinating the project with Pauline Hurley-Kurtz, associate professor of landscape architecture and horticulture; Skip Graffam, associate professor of landscape architecture; and Adam. The concepts of the exhibit will potentially find a permanent home at Ambler in a similar fashion to the Sustainable Wetland Garden, which was inspired by Temple’s 1997 Flower Show exhibit, “The Green Machine.”

“As there is no example of a healing garden here, we are hoping to bring it back to campus. It is part of the proposed master plan for the arboretum,” Carey said. “Students would be directly involved in the installation.”

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s 2006 Flower Show runs from Sunday, March 5, to Sunday, March 12, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. For more information about the Flower Show, including how to buy tickets, visit www.theflowershow.com.

- By James Duffy

Create a healing garden of your own
From Japanese Zen gardens to monastic cloister gardens, plants and gardens have been used in the healing process throughout history.

In the here and now — following a few simple design concepts — gardens can create healing spaces of their own on almost any scale.

Design principles: A successful healing garden includes design principles such as simplicity, balance and symmetry. Create a focal point with special specimen plants, flowering groves and thickets, and include a special feature, such as a labyrinth, for spiritual renewal.

Create “a place apart”: Design a getaway from the hustle and bustle of daily life. A secluded garden provides privacy and allows for contemplative reflection and meditation. Locate the garden away from noise, and include comfortable seating in sunny and shaded areas.

Provide transition points: An inviting entrance and easy-to-follow pathways encourage visitors to visit the garden. Clear transition zones between public and private spaces will ensure that each space is used for its specific purpose.

Feature water elements: The sight and sound of bubbling water is soothing and reduces stress. Moving water suggests energy and attracts birds and wildlife. A quiet pond promotes serenity.

Generate color: Warm colors (reds, yellows, and oranges) inspire cheerful feelings. Cool colors (blues, greens, and purples) evoke feelings of peace and harmony. Welcome wildlife into your garden — birds, for example, are attracted by red plants.

Include texture: Texture adds visual and tactile experiences to any garden. Use plants, hardscape materials such as stone and wood and other design features to create a variety of textures. Paths should be smooth enough to allow for easy passage, but coarse enough to avoid glare and slipping.

Plan for fragrance: Many flowers and leaves provide your garden with pleasing fragrances, which often trigger past memories and can create a lasting sensory experience. Balanced fragrances will entice, rather than overwhelm, visitors.

Additional components: Use your imagination. Attractive lighting allows for evening visits. Artwork, wind chimes, an aviary and birdhouses all entertain the senses.

Compiled by Temple University Ambler landscape architecture and horticulture students.