A few years ago, The Atlantic magazine published a news feature outlining how “natural environments refocus our attention, lessening stress and hastening healing.”
In the article, a study was referenced that was conducted by a researcher at Paoli Memorial hospital (Paoli, PA). After visiting patients recovering from the same type of surgery, she noticed that some had improved at a faster rate. Since most everything else was the same, she wondered if the faster recovery could have been related to the differences in patients’ rooms.
Sure enough. While the rooms were basically identical, some of the hospital rooms on the same recovery floor faced a brick wall, while others looked out onto a small group of deciduous trees.
As the researcher dug further, she noted interesting details in the patients’ recovery charts.
For example, the charts showed how much more work was required by the nursing staff for those facing the brick wall. Their chart comments included: “needs much encouragement” and “upset and crying.” However, those looking out onto to a natural view had higher spirits and needed fewer pain killers as they progressed than the others.
“Since I was a young man, I’ve always had an sense that beautiful landscapes healed the spirit,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “It’s one of the reasons I do this work. But I was surprised myself to learn that natural beauty can also speed up recovery of the sick.
“I have always been aware of the effect a green landscape has on children, including my own,” continues Dave. “Even when they have had a bad day, like challenges at school, they pick up quickly once they get to play in a pleasant outdoor space.”
Dave also agrees with The Atlantic’s explanation as to why nature revives us.
“When you’re busy dealing with the demands of every day life, it can be exhausting. We are overwhelmed with stimuli. A peaceful surrounding calms you right down as you take in the serenity and quiet.”
Deck and Patio has a history of creating beautiful landscaping projects (including many award-winning) where families can revive themselves. Various elements are frequently involved:
sounds (moving water, chirping birds, croaking frogs, the rapid flaps of hummingbirds)
colors and textures (aquatic plants, seasonal plants, bright and soft colors, rich greenery, leafy shrubs, interesting barks, winter berries, etc.)
overall harmony (when things fit together in a beautiful way), including a right balance between hardscapes (patios, decks, pool surrounds, driveways, walkways) and softscapes (gardens, grass, trees, soil gradations).
A body of research on how landscaping can affect our well-being continues to grow, says Dave. “Studies from Stanford University, for example, are some of the many ways experts continue to explore this connection.
“It also doesn’t require a large area to create a restful contemplation-scape,” adds Dave. “When you realize that the patients in the Paoli Memorial hospital study improved just by looking at a nice group of trees, imagine the positive effects that a fuller nature-escape provides, when it’s right in your own yard and can be enjoyed every day.”
You can plan/design a contemplation-scape just about anywhere, and in any style you like. Where new sheet-falling waterfalls (right) flow into this backyard pool, there had been a moss rock waterfall. Adding new sleek waterfalls and bright greenery, along with the Asian touches chosen by the homeowners, Deck and Patio turned this backyard escape into a Zen-like atmosphere perfect for their tastes.
According to published reports (see above), serene areas are healing areas. Here, Deck and Patio created a special walking area for the homeowners when they move from one space to the next. This also allowed us to hide their pool equipment in a way that offers contemplation moments as they move around their larger backyard retreat. “However, this kind of walking space is ideal on its own,” says Dave Stockwell. “It was part of a larger project, but it doesn’t need to be.”
Deck and Patio not only built a natural pond for these homeowners, but we installed stepping stones out to a stone “island” so they could actually sit out in the middle of their pond. The whole area is surrounded with beautiful colorful plantings at the water’s edge as well as aquatic plants and grasses, not to mention beautiful waterfalls (unseen). “Here, sights, sounds and harmony all come into play,” says Dave Stockwell.
“Gardens and chocolate both have mystical qualities.” said Edward Flaherty, author of landscape stories. We couldn’t agree more! And while this garden photo isn’t of one of our own projects, Deck and Patio designs gardens with the same variations in color and texture, as well as slope gradations whenever possible. The result is a relaxing and healing place for young and old alike.