Create a Healing Garden in Seven Steps.

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The third garden on my walking tour featured plantings that held productive and medicinal qualities. This beautiful parterre garden became even more appealing when I discovered plants like coriander, mint, thyme, rosemary, lavender and artichokes arranged with the love and care usually reserved for roses and other purely ornamental plants.

People have long planted medicinal gardens full of herbs and other health giving plants but there is some research to indicate the medicinal benefits of a garden don’t just stop there.

A 1984 study by environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich was able to show that gazing at a garden can sometimes speed healing from surgery, infections and other conditions. His team, who monitored patients recovering from surgery, noticed that those with bedside windows looking out on to leafy trees healed on average a day faster and needed less medication than those who did not.

Clare Cooper Marcus, Professor Emerita, Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture also says there’s good evidence a well-designed garden can reduce your levels of pain and stress. By doing that, it can help boost your immune system in ways that allow your body and other treatments to heal you. She recommends a ratio of at least 7:3 of greenery to hard surfaces to be the most effective.

According to Cooper Marcus, aside from the many herbs and vegetables available for planting, the healing powers of a garden can be intensified by keeping the following things in mind.

1. Keep it green. Lush, layered landscapes with trees, flowers and shrubs of varying heights should take up to about 70% of the space with walkways and other static areas about 30%.
2. Keep it real. Abstract sculptures do not soothe people who are sick or worried.
(I’m not sure if I completely agree with this one. The artwork and sculpture I saw seemed to enhance a garden’s relaxing qualities.)
3. Keep it interesting. Mature trees that draw birds and chairs that can be moved to facilitate private conversation promote greater interaction.
4. Engage multiple senses. Gardens that can be seen, touched, smelled and listened to soothe best. Though strongly fragrant plants should be avoided.
5. Mind the walkways. Wide, meandering paths that are tinted to reduce glare allow people with low eyesight to enjoy the experience more. Also, watch paving to avoid anything that might trip someone.
6. Water with care. While the sound of water can be relaxing, fountains that bear more resemblance to a dripping tap or urinal are not. Nor is the strong smell of algae.
7. Make entry easy. Gardens should not be too far away or behind heavy doors. While the sense of discovery can be a nice one you don’t want to have to work too hard to enjoy your garden.

For my part, anything that can help reduce stress has to be a good thing. I finished my walk feeling both energized and relaxed. Unusual to feel both at the same time.

For further reading on the studies mentioned please see scientificamerican.com.

Urban Oasis

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The second open garden on my self-directed walking tour of the Auckland Garden Design Festival. The owner explained that this garden is still a work in progress but they’re thrilled with the direction it’s taking. Much time had been spent moving excess soil from the site while still retaining the mature trees and palms already in place.

The circular theme that runs through their home is brought to the garden by a curved wooden deck and a large circular planter. While the idea that an outdoor room can be an extension of the home is echoed by a large artwork of blue flowers by Desna Whaanga-Schollumprovides.

I can’t wait to see how the garden progresses when they hold the festival again next year.

Click the link if you’d like more information on this garden. http://www.gardendesignfest.co.nz/garden22.html

Nature can Nurture

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On my Saturday morning walk, I took the opportunity to view some open gardens as part of the Auckland Garden Design Festival. The beautiful spaces inspired a feeling of peace and calm that grew with each one I saw. It made me wonder if there was any research about the de-stressing effect of gardens and other possible health benefits. Turns out there is.

An article from scientificamerican.com states, “Just three to five minutes spent looking at views dominated by trees, flowers or water can begin to reduce anger, anxiety and pain and to induce relaxation, according to various studies of healthy people that measured physiological changes in blood pressure, muscle tension, or heart and brain electrical activity…. Throughout human history, trees and water have signalled an oasis, and flowering plants have been a sign of possible food. Open views deter surprises by predators, and shaded alcoves offer a safe retreat….. Indeed, the benefits of seeing and being in nature are so powerful that even pictures of landscapes can soothe. “

Sounds more like common sense to me but, I’m glad scientists agree that looking at living things helps us feel more alive.

Click the link if you’d like to see more pics and details on this lovely garden. http://www.gardendesignfest.co.nz/garden23.html

The Kiwi Christmas tree is up

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Pohutukawa no silver

On my Thursday morning walk along the waterfront, I spotted one of the first Pohutukawa trees to flower.

This Kiwi “Christmas tree” is loved for its crimson flower that only appears during the summer months. For me, the first flowers mark the beginning of the festive season and as I have about 3 parties in the next week it seems mother nature is right on time.

Spring, in the land of the long white cloud.

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Spring, in the land of the long white cloud.

There was a smidge of blue sky peeking from behind the clouds so, Alex and I headed to my favourite North Shore Beach, Castor Bay. Though we weren’t as brave as these kids who were in the water, boogie boards and all, we had a great time sitting on our towels, listening to the waves. Kids really don’t care when it comes to getting in the water do they? Rain, hail, shine or even slightly cloudy it seems. ☺

Light Lunch

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prawns

Lunch today was a 7.5km walk followed by Kylie Kwong’s Salad of King Prawns, Avocado & Watercress from her book It Tastes Better. The honey and soy dressing really brought out the sweetness of the prawns. Definitely a do-again.

Click here for the recipe. http://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/food/recipes/recipe/-/7473717/salad-of-king-prawns-avocado-watercress/

Lunch

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Lunch

Today’s lunch break was filled with a yoga class followed by Salmon in Banana Leaf.

As an Australian living in Auckland, I sometimes feel as though I’m missing out on the new tastes and experiences my friends enjoy across the ditch. So, I like making recipes from my favourite places to get a taste of home from time to time. This recipe is from the iconic Melbourne restaurant Chin Chin and is nothing short of amazing. The recipe appeared on the goodfood.com.au website ahead of the restaurant’s book release. The time required to make all the elements would normally relegate this to a weekend recipe but, I couldn’t wait that long. I did all the prep the night before so it only took 15 minutes to cook today. It also gave the salmon the chance to marinate overnight which they recommend.

I’m definitely going to serve this at my next dinner party, it’s that good. And, as I’ve got left over curry paste and chilli jam it’s going to be a breeze. Click on the pic for the recipe and you can serve it at yours too.

RIP Atkins

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RIP Atkins

A few years ago when I was trying to lose weight (unsuccessfully) a friend plainly said to me, “If you want to lose weight, stop eating.” Fast forward to a few years later and Michael Mosley of the BBC has finally caught on to my friend’s advice. I watched his documentary recently where he concluded by recommending we fast for two non-consecutive days a week. Mosley says it works “in a similar way to the feast and famine lifestyle of cavemen, it restricts calories and gives the body a chance to repair itself”. He lost 12kg, no longer has diabetes, reduced his cholesterol and no longer snores. Sounds great doesn’t it? Based on this I bought his book which contains some menus for the fasting days and I’m assuming more detail on the health benefits.

Lucky for me, I also happen to have a couple of friends who’ve been on this diet for the last 6 months. Their results have been a little different to Mosley’s. Both of them have always been in to fitness and exercise around 4 days a week at high-intensity, including on their fasting days before their meal. More than Mosley I suspect. They say they enjoy the diet but have only lost about 1.5 – 2kg each. Not much over 6 months. The reason for this is what they eat on their non-fasting days; whatever they like without a thought of the calories. Both have realised that if they want to lose weight they should probably cut back on those days as well. Not quite the hamburger eating scenario that was promoted in the documentary.

Fortunately weight loss is not a motivator for them (both look great) and now they’re in the routine they’re happy to continue with the hope that some of the other health benefits may flow through. Not that they have any problems there either but, they’re thinking of their future.

Apparently Mosley has now relaxed his diet regime as he was losing too much weight. Perhaps he should follow the one my friends are doing.

For more information on “The Fast Diet”, click on this link. http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/michael-mosleys-five-biggest-health-myths-20130920-2u3vb.html