Sunnyside Supportive Housing, Kitchener – “A garden to wander about…”

A wander garden is a garden with a meandering and circuitous path system that provides varied walking experiences for moving about. These types of gardens can be very therapeutic to people with certain ailments, typically associated with aging, through the healing and restorative effects of simply wandering about in nature. Because of this, retirement and palliative care facilities are particularly well-suited to wander gardens and the benefits they provide.

At Sunnyside, a wander garden maximizes the use of the available green space and wraps around the building on three sides. Two meandering paths crisscross in several locations providing the residents with multiple routes through the garden. The paths, which provide access to the key entry points of the building, are designed as closed loops allowing for continuous walking in circuits. These closed loop paths are particularly beneficial for people suffering from dementia, allowing them to walk continuously without having to orient themselves. Benches are provided for resting spots along the pathways and also act as site markers throughout the path system for orientation.

The simple planting scheme for the garden provides early spring colour with spring bulbs and fall interest using a variety of native grasses in the understory. Above the grasses and bulbs, the canopy of fluttering leaves, provided by the native trembling aspens, add both sound and visual interest as one wanders about. These trees are fast growing pioneer species that will eventually be replaced by the sugar maples growing amongst them.

The wander garden at Sunnyside was completed in summer 2010.

Design plan showing the meandering path system under the tree canopy.
Design plan showing the mature tree canopy.
Grasses along the path.
The path leading towards the building entrance.