Seasons Garden Design


At NUNM (National University of Natural Medicine)


NCNM before
before construction began

NCNM site
Bird's eye view of the site
Below: a view of the OHSU tram from the garden's entry.
Entry Tram View


NCNM Concept Plan
The conceptual pla
click the plan to link to a larger view

NCNM garden sketch
Overall sketch from the south side of the garden; the labyrinth/exercise circle is at left in front of the pavilion and rain catcher. The retaining walls are at the very front.


Min Zidell Healing Garden Plaque
The Dedication Plaque

NCNM Gala Party
Gala Opening Party on June 18, 2011. Everyone inspects the 'baby' garden-so many new plants that are just beginning to grow.

NCNM garden view
Above: A view from the pavilion showing common arborvitae; Thuja occidentalis happens to be a medicinal plant. It is used as year-round garden structure.
Below: The new pavilion was graciously donated by Sokenbicha Tea. As budget and donations allow, the pavilion final and arbor that Vanessa designed will be added to the pavilion and to the garden.
NCNM garden plants

NCNM labyrinth walker
The labyrinth in use!


Susan Hunter and Vanessa Nagel
Above: On May 20, 2011, we had a BIG planting party. Here, Vanessa poses with NCNM VP, Susan Hunter, in garden garb - hot and sweaty from planting. Below:The central square now contains its pebble mosaic of Hawthorn leaves & berries.

Pebble Mosaic-Hawthorn Leaf and Berries

NCNM students planting the retaining wall bags
Above: The steep slope at the south end is retained with Delta Lok grow bags that were planted with plugs by students and staff this spring.
Below: The donor's requested fragrant Daphne near the entry gate.


echinaceas Plants are beginning to grow, including echinaceas in bloom in the summer. The bench was a donation and not the original we designed.

  • The Min Zidell Healing Garden is on the grounds of the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) in Portland, Oregon. The garden is located behind the NCNM clinic and adjacent to their facilities building. The garden functions as a botanical, teaching, meditation and healing garden that incorporates herbs from both the naturopathic and traditional Chinese medicine modalities. Some of the plants would not fit the traditional model for a healing garden because, technically, they are poisonous. However, they are highly useful as medicinal herbs.

  • Drakes 7 Dees received the RFP (request for proposal) from NCNM in May of 2010 and invited Seasons Garden Design to respond with them as a team. Seasons Garden Design was responsible for design and Drakes 7 Dees was responsible for construction.

  • Ground breaking for the garden was October 5, 2010. The first phase of construction was completed just prior to the garden's dedication on Dec. 20, 2010 (during a downpour of rain).

  • Planting days occurred on April 7 and May 20, 2011 with some follow up touches by NCNM staff.

  • The Gala Opening had many donors, vendors, design and construction staff, NCNM staff and others in attendance on June 18, 2011. On June 24, 2011 the garden was officially opened to the public.

  • Create a garden that will not only incorporate as many of the healing herbs in both traditions as possible, but also create a garden of beauty that will attract visitors to the garden (including local neighbors).

  • Incorporate a labyrinth and space to practice qi gong.

  • Incorporate and feature the cast bronze sculpture of 6th century Chinese medicine physician Sun Simiao, donated by Chinese sculptor Huo Baozhu (built in China).

  • Keep the first phase of the garden within the $150,000 budget.

  • Provide a covered area where students can gather with instructors during rainy days.

  • Fence in the garden to prevent possible vandalism.

  • Do not include water features that have high maintenance and costly electrical equipment.

  • Meet the goals of the Sustainable Sites Initiative.

  • DISCLAIMER: This garden evolves as NUNM staff & students have taken over the management and further design of new additions such as the greenhouse, benches, lighting, bird baths, etc. that were installed after the garden was opened and are not endorsed by the designer.
  • The original concept plan shows what was submitted with the proposal for the project. The concept involves a series of circles and generous curvaceous paths which allow qi energy to flow slowly and gently in feng shui tradition. The entry to the garden had to be at the north between the buildings which is the least auspicious position for feng shui. To minimize strong north energy, the gate is recessed and slightly canted to the NE. A small entry area outside the gate is a transition from the parking lot into the garden. (This latter area awaits future adjacent building renovations.) (Note: while Vanessa does not consider herself to be a feng shui expert, she worked on a very large project in China for 5 years that also had a feng shui consultant).

  • The concept stayed essentially the same after Drakes 7 Dees and Seasons Garden Design LLC won the project, except the original idea of capturing stormwater from the roof became impractical once the owner discovered the roof drains were at the center of the clinic building rather than extended to the west side. Instead, we proposed a rain-catcher as an overhead trellis and arbor towards the center of the garden. Future funding will allow this to be a major focal point in the garden, with burnished stainless steel gingko leaves capturing and spilling water accompanied by round glass seed pods swaying with some wind.(see sketch above)

  • Also changed was the concept of the sculpture sitting in the center of a reflection pool. We had hoped to use captured and filtered storm water (see above). The circle became a raised planter.

  • Seen from overhead by the OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University) Tram is the bold pattern of the labyrinth, an original design by Vanessa Nagel based on the feng shui mystic knot. At the center of the labyrinth is a pebble mosaic of a hawthorn leaf and berries. The hawthorn tree is an important herbal plant in both the naturopathic and traditional Chinese modalities.

  • The pavilion was donated by Sokenbicha Tea and was constructed just prior to June events. Eventually, a finial on the roof will be a burnished stainless steel and glass lotus bud in lieu of the temporary copper finial.

  • A greenhouse of recycled materials was to be added eventually to allow plants to grow that would otherwise not survive Portland's weather. Seeds will be sown to continue annuals and start other plants difficult to find in the trade.

  • Near the greenhouse circle in the southeast corner is an area for composting where the owners have placed the Victorian greenhouse donation.

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