Hospital Healing Gardens Closed in Winter! Booooo!

2012: I have to say that so far, I’m not a fan.

Only three weeks in and there’ve been several deaths and unfortunate diagnoses among our circle of friends and relations.  Then, on Wednesday evening, the Health Scare Fairy paid a visit to the Gray household, a 12 hour stay in the Emergency Room was endured, and two days of tests were performed in the INOVA Fairfax Health Labyrinth.

Thankfully, our patient is now home and feeling well, order and routine have been restored, priorities and perspectives have been re-calibrated.

So what does all this have to do with gardening?

Well, nothing, really.  Except that I wouldn’t mind if hospital corridors looked more like this:

Photo Credit: Karen J. Budd

These are actually the restrooms at Longwood Gardens.  They’ve got a whole corridor of private toilets, and as you can see, they’ve turned the whole space (ahhhhhhh, I said “space”!) into a living wall.  It’s actually one of the coolest features of Longwood, I think.  How often can you say that about public restrooms?

Anyway, I think Hospital Greenery is important.  I know that many hospitals have “Healing Gardens,” and I think they’re a great idea, but not especially “healing” on a windy January day.  While passing time at the hospital yesterday, my son and I wandered around to see if there was a Healing Garden to visit.   Turns out Fairfax Hospital does have one — a sort of Japanese-inspired courtyard that we could peer at through a locked glass door.  It would have been beautiful and restful in warm weather I’m sure, but it seemed to be closed for winter.

Waiting for the results of your CAT scan would be less stressful if you could pass the time under a palm tree.

This is why I think hospitals should invest in some indoor tropical botanical gardens — something that convelescing patients and anxious loved-ones could visit year round.  How cool would it be  to step out of the chilly, clinical hospital corridors into a little paradise of palm trees and orchids for some gentle exercise, a mental respite, or a quiet conversation with your deity of choice?  The moist air, lush foliage, and pleasant fragrance would certainly do a body good, don’t you think?  And it would be open year-round!  I will stop short of recommending the hospital add some interesting fauna to enhance the experience, like parrots and monkeys, even though that would be totally rad.

26 thoughts on “Hospital Healing Gardens Closed in Winter! Booooo!

  1. Sorry that 2012 hasn’t been going so well for you. I agree that hospitals should have a tropical paradise for people to recuperate and relax. My father is a doctor so I remember spending much of my childhood waiting around in hospital waiting rooms while he did his rounds so I have a special hatred for them. If I’d had a place like that conservatory to hang out I wouldn’t have minded so much.

    • Yeah, I can imagine that would have been especially hard for you as a kid. Emergency rooms are the worst, though, in my opinion. All that boredom and misery concentrated in one place! I don’t know how those doctors and nurses can stand to work there!

  2. I hope all heals with the Grays. We have had a spate of deaths and illnesses lately among people we know, including slow lingering deaths and suicides.

    At the same time, a young friend came home safely from Afghanistan and several babies have been born. It all balances out and as the chorus of the old hymn goes, “All is well.”
    Thank you for continuing beautiful written, touching and insightful posts.

  3. I can also imagine native trees, shrubs and grasses with the sound of birds attracted by the fruit, insects and shelter.
    I’ve read patients with a window heal more quickly than those without.
    Did you read the article recently about the mayor that felt crime was down on a street because a recording of birds was being played?

    Hope time in your garden is healing.

    • No, Carole, I had not read about that, but that’s pretty amazing! I think you could argue for some of these same features in prisons, too, or wherever you’ve got a whole bunch of marginalized, disenchanted folks collected in one place!

  4. I was lucky enough to be present at a presentation given by the landscape architect Dan Pearson and Architect Will Wimshurst of RSHP at last year’s Landscape show in London on their collaboration on “Maggie’s Centre”, London, a cancer treatment centre attached to London Charing Cross Hospital. Their thoughtful collaboration has produced a calm, supportive and up-lifting environment for those undertaking all stages of cancer treatment and their families.

    Click to access RSHP_A_JS_3610_L_E_GB.pdf

  5. I’ve actually never heard of a healing garden in a hospital – but what a wonderful idea! How sad that that one was closed. Sorry to hear of the deaths and illnesses in your circle. I agree that gardens can be very healing.

    • I think they’ve become pretty common, Holley, at least in some of the larger facilities. In fact, I think there are firms that specialize in designing therapeutic gardens, which I think would be a really cool job.

  6. I so agree!! In my experience patients would love them too. I can’t tell you the number of times I left the Inova Fairfax complex and walked past a small crowd of patients huddled on the weather worn benches by the circular asphalt pick-up/drop-off area looking cold, miserable and coughing from exhaust fumes. The tropical garden would be a vast improvement!!

  7. Do you remember about 8 (?) years ago, when the GW program had a competition to design a new interior courtyard for the Washington Hospital Center?

    I had to wait around there several days winter before last, and there have been no changes. The people working there were great (the most important thing), but the physical surroundings are so depressing.

  8. I am happy the Grays can bask in the relaxation of all things home. I loved seeing the living corridor
    of Longwood Gardens – thank you for posting a picture of it.

  9. Yikes! What a way to start the year! I’m glad your family is okay. I actually think adding monkeys is a great idea. Perhaps the zoo should move its Golden Lion Tamarin monkeys to an indoor tropical hospital garden so visitors can have something to distract them. A big pond that’s not full of coins, would also be soothing. They could also add the Giant Sloth, unless it doesn’t get along with the monkeys. A garden would definitely make any hospital a less depressing place.

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