I had the best conversation with landscape architect Michelle Derviss last week. She has her own design studio and has created many Bay Area gardens, but it’s the one in her own backyard in Novato, CA, that we discussed.
Over a decade ago, Michelle was dealing with some serious health challenges, and needed a place to completely relax and recover. She decided to echo elements of the places she loves to travel to most: the islands of Southeast Asia.
The 12 x 14-foot concrete patio was already in place. It was in rough shape, and probably original to the 1947-built house. Undeterred, Michelle designed right on top of it, covering imperfections with exotic outdoor carpets.
She had a traditional teak Balinese day bed that she had brought back from Bali the year before, and that has become the centerpiece of the garden. It’s soft and plush, upholstered with outdoor fabric and cushy pillows.
The bed, a coffee table and other furnishings are nestled between bromeliads (many of which were bought from the plant table at San Francisco Bromeliad Society meetings), calla lilies, bamboo, and hakonechloa. The garden really is transporting–you feel as if you’re on a tropical vacation moments after walking through the garage. She calls it her Piña Colada garden, because being in the garden feels like a Piña Colada tastes.
A few traits noted by the Therapeutic Landscapes Network:
- Plenty of shade
- A sense of safety and security
- Easily navigable walking surfaces
- Lush plantings
- A wide variety of flora
- A plethora of seating
- Spaces that allow for quiet contemplation
- Positive distractions such as water
Are you interested in therapeutic garden design? Read this article about a San Antonio garden designed for wounded soldiers who have returned to the states.
Do you look to your garden as an oasis or an escape for healing? Please share your thoughts below!