Healing gardens at The Cove


By John Newman

John Newman talks about the healing nature of the landscape at the Cove.

Healing gardens in healthcare settings have been proven to have a positive impact on patient wellbeing. Contact with nature can enliven the senses, improve psychological functioning, and create an uplifting distraction from the realities of being unwell. Natural light is known to regulate circadian rhythms and be beneficial to health. Plants purify the air around us and enhance ecology and biodiversity. Gardens can provide both refuge and the opportunity to seek comfort from people in similar circumstances.

ADP was commissioned to design a healing garden for a Macmillan Cancer Support centre at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro. The centre aims to improve the lives of people affected by cancer by providing information and support, as well benefits advice, and complimentary therapies.

Inspired by the Cornish coastline, our design strategy for both the building, interior, and landscape design was to create a warm, welcoming, and therapeutic environment for patients, families and staff; a place to retreat to and relax in: a Cove.

The landscape design was integral to creating a sustainable building that enhanced wellbeing whilst lessening the impact on the environment.

The Cornish coastline is home to an abundance of rich plant life. Species of local and native origin have been used to enhance the biodiversity of the site and provide interest at different times of the year.

To make the most of Cornwall’s mild climate, ADP worked with the Cornish Wildlife Trust, who recommended the use of vascular plants with easily accessible, nectar rich flowers to extend flowering over a long season. Evergreen ferns were planted to provide structure and interest in shaded areas throughout the winter months. For patients and staff, the use of local flora and fauna also helps them familiarise with their surroundings.

Whether seeking refuge or solace, four linked ‘outdoor rooms’ around the perimeter of the building provide a variety of therapeutic gardens that enhance wellbeing. A circular garden provides a space for quiet contemplation and retreat. Himalayan Birch (Betula x utilis Jaquemontii’) was selected for its bright white bark and light canopy, to offer dappled shade to the seating areas in the summer months.

There is also an outdoor space for young people and teenagers, giving them a space of their own and the opportunity to seek comfort from their peer group. This garden provides shelter from the surrounding roads with Sea Buckthorn trees (Hippophae salifolia ‘Streetwise’), New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax ‘Rainbow Sunshine’) Sedums, ornamental grasses and Verbena bonariensis amongst other perennials, and also has good views to the landscape beyond.

A sweeping curved ramp with planting, seating areas, and trees either side, links the cancer centre to the main hospital. The ramp leads to the hub garden, which provides access to a second entrance. Small June Berry trees (Amelanchier canadensis) were selected for their bronze foliage and white flowers in spring, their red leaves in autumn, offering height and depth to the overall planting scheme. These are complemented with a Japanese Acer tree (Acer palmatum) as the centre piece for the shady seating circle at the lower end of the ramp.

Plants around the main entrance help to screen the building from the car park and road, while absorbing pollutants from nearby cars. Views to the outside from inside the building provide stimulation, while natural light enhances mood.

Well considered landscaping from the project onset is fundamental in creating places that support wellbeing while enhancing the natural environment, essential ingredients for living, let alone the healthcare sector. The increasing body of work that demonstrates the value of good quality landscape is critical in promoting the benefit of external spaces as part of the healing environment, ensuring that our intrinsic link to the outdoors is celebrated as an integral part of the design process.

By integrating landscape and sustainability from the beginning the project is on track to achieve a BREEAM Very Good rating. The success of the project has also been recognised at the recent Building Better Healthcare Awards, and the project has been shortlisted as a finalist in the regional Civic Trust Awards.


John Newman

John Newman

John leads our landscape
team and has built up an
extensive portfolio of work.

Also a qualified architect,
he takes a holistic approach
to landscape design.