Temple University – Ambler Healing Garden


The Ernesta Drinker Ballard Memorial Healing Garden exemplifies Temple University Ambler Landscape Arboretum’s three educational tenets: the historic role of women in horticulture, agriculture and design, the health benefits of gardens, and the concept of sustainability.  This garden, designed by faculty and students in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture (LA-HORT), includes a labyrinth, a woodland grove, a meadow and a stormwater treatment sequence. The low-maintenance, low-impact stormwater treatment sequence mitigates stormwater from the roof of Dixon Hall and overland flow from the contributing watershed. It replaces a sloping turf area and thicket of invasive woody plants over which stormwater flowed from a daylighted drain pipe. The new comprehensive stormwater management techniques featured in the Healing Garden aim at capturing and infiltrating stormwater runoff in an aesthetically pleasing design using stone and native plants.

The stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) utilized include rain gardens, a vegetated swale, a constructed wetland and a french drain. Besides recharging groundwater aquifers by infiltrating stormwater, the use of myriad native plants helps rid runoff of contaminants, a process called bio-remediation. Woody plants in the rain gardens include Summersweet, Virginia Sweetspire, and Blueberry. These are white flowering plants which also compliment the white palette planting theme of the Healing Garden. Summersweet is also fragrant when in bloom, another characteristic of a number of plants in the Healing Garden including the fragrant white flowering Thymes in the labyrinth. Many plants in the garden were recycled from LA-HORT Department exhibits at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s annual Philadelphia Flower Show competition in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Other plants were purchased through grants, propagated in the LA-HORT Greenhouse, or donated.

Three rain gardens, a vegetated swale, a wetland and a french drain are being constructed at the site. This composition of stormwater BMPs captures run-off primarily from Dixon Hall’s roof, but has been designed to capture stormwater generated during the 10-year storm event. The project’s upper portion consists of the rain gardens and is composed of mostly sandy soils. High percolation rates were found during a LA-HORT Soils lab in the spring of 2008. The wetland area found at the end of the drainage sequence has more clay in the soil and therefore water drains at a much slower rate. This wetland has been planted with River Birch and Bald Cypress.

Currently the first of 2 phases in the construction of the Healing Garden has been completed. Phase 1 consists of a lower path, bridge and labyrinth. The drainage sequence is still under development. Work to be completed in Phase II includes more plantings in the rain gardens, vegetated swale, and wetland, additional grading, the modification of a weir, and the installation of the upper path and overlook.

The idea for the Healing Garden stemmed from the award-winning entry, “Nature Nurtures — Mind, Body, Spirit”, in the 2006 Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Flower Show. Subsequently, students in LA-HORT studio classes conducted a survey to identify a potential site, developed the design, cleared the site of invasive species, and planted native and woody species. Over sixty students have been involved to date in some aspect of the Healing Garden design or construction.


County: Montgomery
Watershed: Wissahickon Creek

Temple University Ambler campus is located at 580 Meetinghouse Road in Upper Dublin Township and is home to the University’s Departments of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, and Community and Regional Planning.

The Healing Garden is located within the campus’ 187-acre Landscape Arboretum and is found across from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture greenhouse.

Rose Creek, a tributary to Wissahickon Creek, flows through the campus.


Temple University Ambler Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture
Faculty Coordinator: Pauline Hurley-Kurtz, ASLA, Associate Professor
The Landscape Arboretum of Temple University Ambler
Temple University Ambler Facilities Management
Creative Environments (hardscape and bridge construction)
D’Ancona Company (masonry work on the labyrinth wall)




Temple University
Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Department

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