Mindfulness Practice in a Wellness Garden

woman being mindful in a garden

Stop for a moment. Consider just how valuable this present moment is. This moment is all there truly is.

The concept of practicing mindfulness involves focusing on the present situation and staying in that state of mind. This can mean awareness of your surroundings, emotions, breathing or enjoying each and every step of a really nice hike. Research in recent decades has linked mindfulness practices to a staggering collection of possible health benefits.

When the mind is left to itself, it wanders through all kinds of thoughts, including bad thoughts expressing rage, depression, revenge, self-pity, sadness… When we pander to these kinds of thoughts we reinforce those emotions in our hearts and cause ourselves suffering. For the most part, these thoughts are about the past or future. The past no longer exists and the future isn’t here yet. The one moment we actually can experience is the present moment, and it seems to be the one we spend the least time in.

Although mindfulness can be done anywhere, wellness gardens are generally a great place to practice, due to their design attributes. A well-designed garden will have all kinds of sensory input, nooks to hide in and a general respect of presence from others. (Like an outdoor library)

Lets Begin:
  • Find a secluded spot.
  • Turn your phone off, aside from a timer. Otherwise, you may obsess on when to end. Start with 5-10 minutes.
  • Get comfortable, whatever that means for you. Be able to relax your parts, though.
  • Start by concentrating on your breath. Breathe however is normal for you.
  • Next start to relax. I like to start in my toes. I tell my toes to relax. Then I work my way up my body… Legs, relax. Hips, relax. Tummy, relax.
  • After your body enters a relaxed state, you’re now going to focus on things around you. Don’t react to these things, just observe your surroundings without judgment. (e.g. – if you’re hearing traffic, don’t judge it as bad, just note that traffic is what you’re hearing, no more than that.) Start with one sense at a time. Seeing can be one of the easiest, however, it can also be overwhelming. I feel hearing is a good one to start with.
  • Close your eyes and hear what is around you. It may be birds, water, other people or traffic. Pick one and try to focus on it. Try to make the other sounds go away. Once you do that, stop this one and move on to another sense.
  • Smell the air. Inhale the fragrance of the flowers or maybe even what’s cooking for supper!
  • Feel the wind or sun on your face. If you’re close enough to a plant, touch it. Near water? Put a toe or hand in. Feel the sensations it offers.
  • Taste can be a bit difficult, but you can skip it, or bring a beverage, piece of fruit or a veggie with you.
  • For sight, take in everything around you, gently. Then, focus on whatever was the most pleasant for you.
  • After you have identified & focused on all available senses individually, you can try to combine the ones you enjoyed most. This may take a bit of time to master.
  • If you feel yourself starting to think about your life challenges at any point of the session, bring yourself back gently to concentrating on your breathing.
  • When you’re done, stretch. Embrace & thank all of the things you’ve experienced.

Do you have any other techniques you use to practice mindfulness?

Please let me know in the comments!!

Β© Wellness Garden Design

Edible Flowers for the Wellness Garden

flower fruit salad

Designing a garden with edible flowers is not only pretty to look at, but delicious to eat. It also makes the garden safe for clients that may not know eating random flowers can be dangerous.

Growing edible flowers in your garden is easy and so beautiful, that they can be grown in your front yard! Growing them yourself also insures that pesticides were not used (they will alter the flavors), as florist trade flowers are usually sprayed and roadside flowers may be tainted with automobile fumes.

Colorful Hollyhocks
Hollyhocks

List of great edible flowers:

Alcea rosea – Hollyhock ~ Full of vitamins

Aquilegia canadensis – Columbine ~ Refreshingly sweet

Borago officinalis – Borage ~ Taste like cucumbers

Borage
Borage

Calendula officinalis – Marigolds ~ High in vitamin A & C

Campanula persicifolia – Bellflower ~ Sweet

Centaurea cyanus – Cornflower ~ Stunning garnish

Cercis canadensis – Redbud ~ Acidic in taste

Dianthus – Cheddar Pinks ~ Taste like cloves

redbud
Redbud

Gladiola – Lettuce-like

Hemerocallis – Daylilies ~ Have a chestnut flavor

Hibiscus syriacus – Rose of Sharon ~ Great garnish

Nasturtiums ~ Has a peppery bite

Lavandula – Lavender ~ Clean and flowery tasting

daylilies
Daylilies

Lonicera japonica – Japanese honeysuckle

Monarda didyma – Bee Balm ~ Minty

Oxalis corniculata – Yellow Wood Sorrel ~ Pleasant sour taste

Rosa spp. – Wild Rose ~ Petals & fruits (hips)

Sambucus canadensis – Elderberry ~ The flower clusters make a nice tea

Red Beebalm
Beebalm

Solidago odora – Sweet Goldenrod ~ aromatic, anise-flavored

Syringa vulgaris– Lilac ~ Sweet and fragrant

Tilia americana – Basswood ~ The leaf buds and flowers

Trifolium spp. – Clover ~ Taste like honey

Viola, spp. – Violet ~ The leaves & flowers

Lilac
Lilac

Care while processing the blooms:
  • Pick flowers right before you intend on using them, but they can be kept inside a damp paper towel in the refrigerator for a day.
  • Always rinse blooms gently with water and pat dry with paper towels.
What to do with your blossoms:

In addition to the fruits, squash plants provide edible blossoms. Male flowers supposedly hold the most flavor. Many find dipping them in a tempura batter or lightly sautΓ©ing them delightful.

There are also many blossoms for the salad bowl such as; nasturtiums, arugula, okra, chives, basil, marigold, fennel, mustard or bee balm. Many fruit salads benefit with pineapple sage, rose, violet, lilac or pansy blossoms.

Candied decorations are easily made by collecting roses, pansies, violets or other edible flowers. Evenly brush a light coat of lightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with superfine (not confectioners) sugar. Let dry on a bakers rack or screen and store in a tight-lidded container.

As daylilies start to fade, harvest them and place in a vegetable steamer until just wilted. Toss with a little butter and Parmesan cheese for a great appetizer.

Ice blossoms are a beautiful way to dress-up drinks and punches. Fill an ice container half-full of water and freeze. Add flowers carefully, then add a teaspoon of water on top, being careful not to move the blooms. After they freeze, fill balance of tray.

Scented sugar is easily made by layering scented geranium leaves, such as lemon, rose, chocolate or mint within a sugar bowl. Using this sugar is great in ice teas and baking.

To make a tasty spread for bread or crackers, fold calendula, nasturtium or arugula blossoms into soft butter or cream cheese.

Do you have a favorite edible flower that didn’t make this Midwestern list?

Do you have any favorite flower recipes you’d like to share?

Please leave them in the comments!!

Β© Wellness Garden Design

Inclusive Wellness Garden Design

An architectural drawing of a wellness garden
Part of a wellness design
Wheelchairs parking next to bench.

An inclusive wellness garden? There’s been a lot of buzz around the word β€˜inclusive’ lately. What does it mean? Well, since researching the topic, I’ve found it can mean many things! And be something that can be hard to retrain yourself to notice. You must learn how to include whatever was being excluded, in whatever their inclusive project is.

Clearly for me, it was designing gardens that are not just accessible to all, I wanted them to be inclusive to all. So if a facility is labeled accessible, doesn’t that mean its inclusive? No, it doesn’t.

photo description of wellness garden
Ideas for the Wellness Garden

Merriam-Webster defines accessible as: β€˜able to be reached or entered’, which is what having an accessible entrance means. Thus, if a person who uses a wheelchair is able to get into a garden because of a ramp or a curb cut out that has been strategically placed near the entrance, that’s accessibility. A garden that is inclusive goes far beyond the basic idea of people being able to just enter it.

In an inclusive wellness garden environment, people with or without disabilities mobilize around the garden in the same way and utilize the equipment and amenities inside of the garden, equally. A garden that has accessible or adaptable equipment but isolates that activity in a corner of the garden, is not an inclusive garden. A garden that has no plants that smell or no auditory additions is not an inclusive garden (to the blind). I think you get the point, however when you’re able to walk, hear and see, these things can get overlooked.

Here’s some things to think about when designing a inclusive garden:
  • No steps allowed. All elevation changes need to be addressed with ramps (grades not to exceed 5%).
  • Paths need to be wide enough for two people to walk arm in arm. A four foot minimum width.
  • Dead end paths: Need enough turnaround space for wheelchairs (5 feet), however avoid them in memory care facilities, as it can disorient and confuse some folks.
  • Paths should be made of a foot/wheel friendly material. Concrete, limestone, rotten granite and stone pavers are great choices. Pavers will require maintenance to stop them from becoming a trip hazard.
  • Nut or berry trees should not be over any paths to alleviate other trip hazards.
  • Clearly, path lighting is helpful to all.
  • Creating a curb on the paths help let the blind know where the edges of the path are.
  • Adding a railing along the path can allow folks that need stability walking some alone time in the garden.
  • Include plants that smell, sound and feel good, not just look good.
  • Adding other garden features can fill the gap for unrepresented senses like sound (plants aren’t that loud) such as: fountains, wind-chimes, mason bee houses, garden art and bird feeders to enjoy their songs.
  • Attracting friendly wildlife is both beneficial for the animal and for the observer. Providing pollinators, birds and other garden animals a home is truly inclusive.
  • Don’t use pesticides at all! If required, use integrated pest management for timed applications to not harm beneficial insects/animals.
  • Provide seating (both benches and chairs), however leave space in the same location for a wheelchair to park.
  • Evaluate plants by garden purpose. If in doubt, only use edible plants that are safe to handle.
  • Some well placed seasonal planters can bring excitement into the garden, even in winter!
  • Add some raised beds into the design to allow for folks who can’t bend down to have the flowers attainable. (24” high is an acceptable height).
  • Raised beds being used for therapy need to be manufactured at height of 36β€³. In addition, add a kick-plate to allow standing at the bed more comfortable.
  • Easy pull-type handled water spigots should beinstalled, not round knobs that are hard to grasp.
  • Lastly, it’s important to have shade, water and restrooms available nearby.

Please add any thoughts or challenges you have had either while visiting a garden or perhaps designing one to be an inclusive wellness garden.

Β© Wellness Garden Design