The LIFE Center Canticle Garden

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The Life Center Canticle Garden

Location: St. Mary Life Center – Neshaminy Interplex, Bensalem, Pa.

The garden is composed of four different circle areas. The goal was to create separate “rooms,” where different activities could take place simultaneously. Each circle has paving of a different color to clearly mark the “boundary” of each “room.”  Introduced curvilinear forms helped to transform the formerly paved rectangular area into a more natural setting, and introduced some progression and opportunity to move to different areas, rather than see the entire space at once. Ultimately, this helped to create an illusion of much larger “garden” in a very limited fenced area.

The first circle, immediately by the exit from the building, is designed to encourage continuous therapeutic walking around a raised central island. The circular raised planter is an area for planting vegetables and herbs – it can be easily reached from all sides and allows gardening while seated.

The second circle is designed for group activities around a circular table. The table is designed to accommodate wheelchair access for participation in outdoor gardening or art and crafts for both walkers and wheelchair users. An important element is the overhead umbrella that provides needed shade.

The third circle is for less structured activities – just sitting or socializing. Space on both sides of a seating bench allows people in wheelchairs to join the conversation.

The fourth garden is a circular seating bench that allows for storytelling and outdoor therapeutic communal sessions. The circular seating has armrests to assist with seating or standing. Wheelchairs or movable chairs can be pulled up to close the circle to provide a containment area for a total of 12 people.

The garden features a fountain that consists of a round ball that floats within a saucer. This creates some white noise and the opportunity for patients to place their hands for a new tactile experience.

Trees were planted to provide shade, soften presence of the building façade, and frame circular spaces. Climbing plants, such as clematis species, and tall perennials, such as Giant Coneflower, cover the existing fence and hide the physical garden enclosure, which was essential for the safety of the patients who have a tendency to wander away. Other plants have been chosen for their long lasting or seasonal color display, sense of smell, and potential to be used in crafts and dry flower arrangements.