The New Landscape at the DreamTree Project: A Garden of Healing and Unity
by Ed Fenzl, ASLA
The DreamTree Project (DreamTree) is a restorative initiative of care for at-risk and homeless youth aged 16-24 in a Transitional Living Program in Taos, New Mexico. It offers integrative services within a home-like environment where living and relationship skills are practiced.

The DreamTree residential center originally provided housing and support for eight youths in transition. The site is currently undergoing a major renovation. When completed, it will have five new ‘casitas’ (small houses) and a common room. This will allow the center to accept an additional eight residents.

In Spring 2006, I offered pro bono landscape design services to renovate the garden to complement the positive, secure, and nurturing environment created in the indoor spaces.

The landscape master plan has five garden areas: frontage entry, front left food growing garden, courtyard behind primary facility, courtyard in front of five new casitas, and side yard/perimeter landscape.

The frontage entry garden was the recipient of a $1600 grant from the local Los Jardineros Garden Club in August of 2007. It is intended to serve as a welcome for residents, staff, visitors, and guests, and to contribute to the home-like environment at DreamTree. It will provide some shade for parking and will serve as a transition between the street and the studios, and provide a highly visible entry statement.

The courtyard in front of the new casitas received a donation of 12 vertical pole timbers for the construction of the newly designed pergola. The general contractor also provided the permanent infrastructure for rainwater catchment and a drip irrigation mainline. 

Image Courtesy Ed Fenzl



Image Courtesy Ed Fenzl

The completed landscape will provide a beautiful space and will align the outdoor environment of DreamTree with its organizational values of sustainability and low impact. In partnership with the Taos Native Plant Society, plants that are chosen will be native and regionally appropriate. The landscape will be low maintenance, require low water use and be energy efficient. In addition, application has been made to the US Green Building Council to certify the recently constructed casitas under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. DreamTree would be the first treatment center in New Mexico to receive this certification.

It is hoped that the landscape project will be a powerful educational tool for DreamTree residents who may be required to contribute community service hours or participate in service learning projects.

Ed Fenzl, ASLA, is a freelance landscape designer in Taos, New Mexico. He can be contacted at
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