The Therapeutic Dozen: Part one

12 women leading the way in restorative green-scape connection

Part 1 – by EWHA member Sandra Schwarz

As a person who has come later to the field of horticulture, plants and landscapes, I am always learning and discovering within this broad and exciting field. A personal passion for restorative green spaces evolved since my studies abroad introduced me to Environmental Psychology. This field looks to understand the relationships and connections people build to gardens and green spaces. It is widely recognised that these are spaces that provide respite, a chance to get away and certainly a chance to reconnect with other living beings and the soil, both within healthcare settings and in everyday life.

Having had a conversation recently with a male friend and lamenting the challenges that women face in many industries, I found my personal perceptions challenged – in these industries and connected professions women are visible, often form the majority and are making a great difference…they are in fact leading the way in these caring roles, nurturing both plants and people.

In sharing some of this specific section of the horticultural industry, I wanted to introduce a few of these women to you. Having been inspired by so many of them, I have grouped them into global locations. We will meet half this time and the other half in the next newsletter. I hope sharing their names, roles, work and achievements is of interest and provides some inspiration and further reading or rabbit-hole-diving:

Prof Clare Cooper Marcus (USA)

Quite the doyenne of Therapeutic Gardens, Professor Emerita of Architecture and Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning at the University of California Berkeley, Clare has researched the concept of Healing Gardens for decades. Her work has provided a great number of case studies within her various books, as well as breaking down many of the characteristics that make those case studies successful. Whilst the majority of gardens she has studied are connected to hospitals and healthcare settings, they cover diverse garden types from Aged Care, to Veterans and Acute Care through to Children’s Gardens. Clare has a focus on the whole design process, discussing ideas and challenges from funding through to maintenance and post-occupancy evaluation. There is much of her work available online in the form of articles and talks, but if this is a field of interest for you, I cannot recommend her book “Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces” (John Wiley & Sons, 2014) highly enough.


Dr Naomi Sachs (USA)

Naomi was the co-author of “Therapeutic Landscapes” (2014) mentioned above, and is the active face behind the Therapeutic Landscapes Network (a non-profit space for this industry in the USA). She is Assistant Professor for Plant Science & Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources. Naomi is possibly the one to carry the torch lit by Cooper Marcus, also being a big advocate for post-occupancy evaluations, which are processes where the use and success of therapeutic spaces are measured to ensure they remain effective and successful. Naomi is interested in evidence-based and salutogenic design, ensuring that there is greater ‘proof’ that such green spaces improve our well-being and are also designed to promote health. She is someone who is clearly keen to share her findings, ideas and knowledge, teaching at the annual Chicago Botanic Garden’s Healthcare Garden Design Certification Program amongst many other engagements.


Teresia Hazen (USA)

Teresia is a Horticultural Therapist who introduced the Horticultural Therapy Program (as opposed to the more common Therapeutic Horticulture practised in Australia) to Legacy Health in Portland Oregon in 1991. She supervises the 10-12 therapeutic gardens of this network within its six hospitals, working with patients, staff and families. She has contributed to much research about the benefits of gardens for hospital-connected users, and has in-depth involvement with the American Horticultural Therapy Association. Teresia shares her knowledge and diverse training with others through her many educational roles throughout her career. Her interest and support of people reaches across all ages with her specialisations in youth through to aged care gardens and care.


Prof Catharine Ward Thompson (UK)

Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Edinburgh, Catharine is also the Co-Director of the OPENspace research centre. I had the pleasure of hearing Catharine speak whilst studying overseas and her passion for creating and understanding salutogenic (health-positive / promoting) urban open spaces for all citizens is inspiring. Catharine’s focus is very clearly on urban and public outdoor environments and how these shape human behaviour and can be made universally accessible. Her understanding of the relationships between people’s health and the quality of outdoor green spaces accessible to them, has also seen her advise the City of Edinburgh Council on its Thriving Green Spaces vision for 2050. Catharine’s editing of the book “Open Space People Space” (Routledge, 2007) covers some fascinating ideas and case studies, supported by a diverse range of great contributors like Jan Gehl (Urban Design Consultant) of Denmark.


Dr Sue Stuart-Smith (UK)

If you haven’t read Sue’s book yet, “A Well Gardened Mind” (Harper Collins, 2020) do yourself a favour and grab a copy. It is an enlightening collection of gardens and their people, sharing their stories about how green spaces, gardening, being outdoors and connecting to plants have improved their lives. The diverse case studies demonstrate the power of plants and gardens to support mental and physical well-being, with experiences from Sue’s background in psychiatry and psychotherapy throughout. I have seen Sue speak at a number of events (online) and her gentle manner and conviction about the benefits nature can provide make for stimulating watching. Sue is married to British Garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith and together they have recently opened The Orchard, part of the Serge Hill Project, which provides spaces for education/horticultural training, community outreach, a Plant Library and more, in connection to their own home at the Barn Garden and in collaboration with the Sunnyside Rural Trust. There is so much to view and read about the exciting things both Sue and Tom are doing and sharing – a good starting point would be their own websites: &


Sarah Price (UK)

If you have been keeping an eye on the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, you will have seen images of the lovely, gold-medal winning garden created by Sarah Price. This is her third Gold Medal at the show (also 2018 and 2012) with her naturalistic and earth-conscious style demonstrating her passion and love of plants in all forms. I would highly recommend watching her (and others) speak in the videos that have been generously shared by the Beth Chatto Foundation, from their 2022 Symposium ( At this Symposium, Sarah discussed the well-being benefits of gardens. She has designed gardens for both a Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre (Southampton) and for an Horatio’s Garden (Cardiff), which are spinal injury-related gardens. The looser approach of her plantings within both these settings has been well-explained in her talk “Reframing the Wild Garden: New Perspectives on Garden Making”. Alternatively, if you would just like to enjoy some stunning photos of Sarah’s work (many by Australian Garden Photographer Claire Takacs), check out her website Sarah’s sensitivity to the benefits, joys and connections we make within gardens are evident throughout, making them a pleasure to share.


Next time we get to know 6 further women, working in Scandinavia and Australia in these emerging fields. Stay tuned and find out the great things they are doing, researching and sharing.

Photo credit: Fiona Smallwood

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