Class Act: Lily Mank

Soothing Landscapes

Lily Mank at Allen Centennial Gardens, UW-Madison

Lily Mank at Allen Centennial Gardens, UW-Madison

Some gardens are created to cultivate or showcase particular kinds of plants, others to grow food. But landscape architecture student Lily Mank is most interested in gardens designed to aid healing.

Last summer Mank had an opportunity to learn with a master: Hoichi Kurisu, an international leader in Japanese gardening who counts the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Ill., among his works. Under his tutelage, Mank completed an internship there allowing her to participate in all aspects of garden maintenance and management— the first time the facility had ever offered one. She also worked at the nearby Rosecrance Griffin Williamson teen substance abuse rehabilitation center, which features a healing garden designed by Kurisu. The garden is an integral part of the facility’s treatment program.

“Seeing the benefits of the therapeutic garden firsthand was incredible,” she says. “It was probably my favorite experience.”

Mank, who holds a certificate in healthcare garden design from the Chicago Botanic Garden, wrapped up her internship with a report on therapeutic gardens. For her senior capstone project she’s taking what she’s learned to Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, which offers treatment for people with eating disorders, OCD and anxiety, depression and addiction.

When first-timers visit a Japanese-style therapeutic garden, one feature stands out: it’s primarily green. “A frequent comment is that there aren’t a lot of flowers, that everything is monochromatic green,” says Mank.

Yet most people feel the tranquility. It’s the special way that plants and other elements—paths, rocks, bodies of water, resting places—are brought together, and the emotions these landscapes evoke, Mank says.

A growing body of research about the benefits of therapeutic landscapes has changed how we look at healthcare, much of it stemming from a study decades ago showing that patients recovered from surgery faster and required less pain medication if they were placed in rooms with a view of nature, Mank says.

She hopes to hone her craft in the realm of therapeutic landscape architecture after she graduates in May.