Healing gardens as therapeutic landscapes

E.J. Veen, Karolina Doughty

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Although survival rates for cancer are improving, survivors suffer an increased risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and depression. In order to prevent patients from developing these diseases, lifestyle guidelines have been developed. Adherence to these guidelines, however, is low and short-lived. Many patients lack the aspiration, capacity or energy to make lifestyle changes. In this paper we explore a communal ‘healing garden’ as a potential alternative to these lifestyle guidelines, exploring whether it may function as a ‘therapeutic landscape’ for cancer survivors, particularly in stimulating physical activity and healthy eating, but also in facilitating social peer support. Our paper discusses a pilot project in the Netherlands, in which five participants gardened together one-and-a-half hours a week, under supervision, in ten square foot gardening containers. Using a series of physical tests and semi-structured interviews with participants (before, during and after the project), we show that physically the gardening experience did not meet expectations. Nevertheless, the gardening activity was highly satisfying for participants, for a variety of reasons (the activity as such, the harvest, the pleasure of manual labour, and mental rest). Participants reported that the gardening group formed a supportive environment. However, they did not agree on whether that is sufficient to consider the gardening activity a form of social peer support. We conclude that even though the project did not have measurable physical results, it can be regarded a therapeutic landscape for its social benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventRGS-IBG Annual International Conference (2019) - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Aug 201930 Aug 2019


ConferenceRGS-IBG Annual International Conference (2019)
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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