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A Japanese garden designed to be calm and reflective

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Courtesy of Doreen Howard

(Read caption) Small spaces filled with plants, water and rocks define Rosecrance's healing garden. Typical is this entry pond.

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Rosecrance Serenity Garden sits within 18 acres of woodlands surrounding a facility in Rockford, Ill., that treats young people with addiction problems.

It’s an excellent example of how use determines a garden's design and how the Japanese style was adapted for specific therapy needs, because it is calming and designed to help a person look inward and reflect.

There are three essential building blocks of a Japanese garden: soothing and reflective qualities of water; rocks for the sense of stability and plants with numerous textures and shades of green.

Rosecrance features two cascading waterfalls; an acre pond stocked with koi, bluegill, and bass; 1-1/2 miles of curved walking paths that wind through 2-million-year-old boulders; and an abundance of plants from towering Scotch pine to oak leaf hydrangea.

Symbolism abounds here. Each waterfall has 12 drops, representing the 12 steps of recovery. Every path is curved, because there are no straight lines in life, according to Susan Rice, public relations director for the Rosecrance Health Network.

Some of the boulders are designed to slough off water, while ones next to them have hollows to retain water. “We need to learn what to release and what to hold on to,” Ms. Rice explains.

The ordered, relaxing garden is exactly what adolescents who have addiction problems need to explore life analogies, exercise, participate in group therapy, and contemplate.

“Our patients have used drugs to hide their inner feelings,” says Rice. “The garden is a protective, safe, nurturing place where those feelings can now come to the surface. That is when lasting recovery begins.”

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