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American Society of Landscape Architects


March 2005 Issue

No Ordinary Garden
Alzheimerís and other patients find refuge in a Michigan dementia-care facility.

By Clare Cooper Marcus

No Ordinary Garden
Clare Cooper Marcus

In the Sophia Louise Dubridge-Wege Living Garden at the Family Life Center on a sunny morning in early October, one is immediately entranced by the colors of autumn flowers, the sounds of falling water, and the feel of a secure, restful refuge. This place is exactly that—a refuge for the people who live at home with their families but who come to the garden almost every day. Some were professionals, even heads of corporations; others never worked anywhere outside the home. Now approximately half have Alzheimerís disease; the remainder have other forms of dementia, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsonís, or Huntingtonís Disease. The oldest patient is 90; the youngest is 36.

This garden, designed by Martha Tyson of Douglas Hills Associates in Evanston, Illinois, was the first of its type in Michigan. There are two main components to the half-acre site: the main strolling and viewing garden and the working garden. The working garden is a rectangular area east of the building with raised beds and trellises for horticultural therapy, a potting area with shade and a sink, a garden shed, a small orchard, a butterfly garden, and an umbrella-shaded area for seating near the atrium entry door. The larger component, the main garden, is entered via an arbor from the working garden and consists of lawns, paths, perennial beds, gazebos, a waterfall and pond, and various places to sit.

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