This Memorial Day weekend I visited the Portland Memory Garden, a therapeutic garden designed for individuals experiencing memory disorders (and their caregivers), although the park is open to the general public as well. On the day that I visited, I noted that both elderly community members and very young children were enjoying the space, with their families. I chose to pause my recording at times (and to skip several sections) in order to respect the privacy of those present.
As you gaze upon the garden’s imagery, notice where your eyes are drawn. Which aspects do you find most pleasing? Quite predictably, my eyes went immediately to the vibrant purple of the Oregon irises in their sunny raised bed. Did you observe any changes in your body between the beginning of the video, and its end? Is this a space you might like to visit – and why?
In this particular garden space, a thoughtful arrangement of benches, wide pathways, separate garden rooms, raised beds, and sensory-rich plants all invite individuals into an interactive experience with nature. I couldn’t help but think of my grandparents, and how they each enjoyed such spaces. This weekend is the anniversary of my beloved grandfather Nate’s death; both he and his younger sister were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Even as we move through time and changing bodies, we don’t ever lose our need for nature. Our joy at the smell of a blossom, the soft texture of a leaf, the sound of a May wind rustling through the trees. Nature has the potential to heal. It also helps us boost our mood and “take in the good” by refreshing our exhausted autonomic nervous systems, especially in times of stress. The next time you encounter something in nature that draws your attention, can you intentionally savor the experience?
“A therapeutic garden is a plant-dominated environment purposefully designed to facilitate interaction with the healing elements of nature. Interactions can be passive or active depending on the garden design and users’ needs. There are many sub-types of therapeutic gardens including healing gardens, enabling gardens, rehabilitation gardens, and restorative gardens.”https://www.ahta.org/about-therapeutic-gardens
Many of my favorite public gardens remain closed right now but hidden gems like the Portland Memory Garden are open. Learn more about its history by viewing this additional video by the American Horticultural Therapy Association, which gave the Portland Memory Garden its 2011 Therapeutic Garden Design Award. If you live in the Portland-metro area, I encourage you to visit the garden or enjoy this virtual tour.
To read more about therapeutic gardens: