Bupa Sensory Garden, Chelsea Flower Show, London
Designer: Cleve West;

Since 2001, when Bupa—a leading U.K. healthcare organization—launched its Sensory Gardens project, more than 250 of them have been created at the company's care homes. Cleve West's 2008 version, designed for the Royal Horticultural Society's largest annual show, offers figure-eight pathways and textured concrete spheres as well as a generous combination of flora: five dozen perennials and eight varieties of Dutch bulbs set among flowering trees and clipped shrubs. But the central point isn't prettiness: The garden, which was to be relocated to a Bupa home after the show, was made for people with dementia or Alzheimer's.

Burn Center Garden, Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Heath Center, and Portland Memory Garden, Portland, Ore.
Designer: Brian Bainnson;

With the Portland Memory Garden (2002), the Burn Center Garden (2004), and several other green spaces used for active patient therapy by the Legacy Health System, Portland has emerged as a nucleus of cutting-edge therapeutic gardens. The designer, landscape architect Brian Bainnson of Quatrefoil, worked with Teresia Hazen, Legacy's horticultural therapist, to provide safe walkways and plantings with four-season interest. At the Burn Center, lively blue lean-tos provide shade for burn victims. For the Memory Garden, a wood beam–covered entryway serves as an orientation landmark for those with Alzheimer's and other memory problems.

Leichtag Family Healing Garden, Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego
Designer: Topher Delaney;

In 1997, landscape designer and artist Topher Delaney, a cancer survivor, transformed a parking lot into an outdoor sanctuary for the families of children undergoing treatment. Trumpet vines climb the giant dinosaur at the entryway, and parents clip lavender from the garden to scent hospital rooms, but mosaics and a lively blue wall embedded with gleaming glass discs are the real stars.

Prouty Garden, Children's Hospital Boston
Designer: Olmsted Brothers

A registered site with the National Association for Olmsted Parks, this traditional, understated garden was donated by Olive Higgins Prouty in 1956 as a memorial to her two deceased children. With its variety of flora and simple fountain surrounded by lawn, it offers space for patients and their siblings to blow bubbles, somersault, and hunt for hidden animal sculptures by Cynthia Forbes Lyman.