By Stephanie Spillmann 2/24/17


Hospital Gardens that Heal



garden maze with shrubs and statues

Healing Garden at Celebration Health: Wiki Commons


pot of red flowers with landscape waterfall in background

Medical Center of the Rockies: Stephanie Spillmann


Head to the Hospital to Relax


Sound like an oxymoron to head for the hospital to relax? Well, hear me out. One of my favorite spots to write is near a beautiful babbling brook at a nearby hospital.


Medical Center of the Rockies has beautiful grounds and a gorgeous patio garden outside the cafe. This is my go-to place when I want sunshine, the sound of water, and spring daffodils that make me all kinds of happy after our long Colorado winters.



stones with bridge and trees in garden

Medical Center of the Rockies: Stephanie Spillmann


Healing Gardens are Big Business with Hospitals


Today’s hospitals are well aware of how important their outdoor spaces are. It has become a source of competition among them, and a large portion of new-build budgets are poured into grounds design and landscaping.


There are landscape and architectural design competitions for healthcare institutions as well as dedicated associations for healthcare and therapeutic design. An annual award ceremony called the “Healthcare Environment Awards,” is sponsored by Contract¬†magazine and the Center for Health Design.



huge inside hospital garden arial view

Dell Children’s Hospital: Pinterest Dell Children’s Medical Center


The 2016 top spot for landscape design went to Children’s Hospital of Illinois for a beautiful rooftop garden donated by locals, Jerry and Lynn Flaherty (Flaherty Family Respite Garden).



garden with stone pot benches and trees

St. Louis Children’s Hospital: Soliant Health


Ancient Wisdom


People have long known the benefits of fresh air on improved mental and physical health. Most of it is just common sense and noticing how stress melts away when we interact with nature.


In the Middle Ages, most monasteries had gardens for food sources as well as healing, meditation, and spiritual contemplation. Ancient practices of yoga and Tai Chi were often performed outdoors for the added elements of peace and serenity.



white gazebo in hospital garden

Duke Raleigh Hospital:


“Nature is But Another Name for Health” Henry D. Thoreau¬†


Today we know, through research and observation, that amazing things can happen when critically ill people are given a beautiful outdoor space to enjoy. According to Deborah Franklin in Scientific American magazine, time spent in a hospital garden or gazing through a window with a view can lower blood pressure, relieve stress, reduce anger and anxiety, and even lower pain medication doses.


Nature can deliver a serious blow to depression levels and the indoor doldrums that often set in with long hospital stays. And the benefits for the youngest patients are seen daily in Children’s Hospitals across the country.


Three-year-old heart-transplant patient, Aidan Schwalbe, is seen in a heart-warming YouTube video exploring the famous Prouty Garden at Children’s Hospital in Boston (Aidan in Prouty Garden).



Children's hospital garden with yellow brick path

Therapeutic Landscapes Network


Hospital gardens are not just for patients. Visitors, family members, and employees can benefit by taking a stroll or having lunch in these extraordinarily healing places. Medical care workers can breathe away stress and burdens as sunlight dances through trees and bright flower gardens. Grieving and exhausted family members seek refuge on private benches and are free to cry and regroup as well as find peace and healing.


Design is Key


Each garden space must have certain design elements to provide maximum enjoyment and healing. According to Scientific American, a study by leading architects provided clues as to what patients liked best. “Tree-bordered vistas of fountains or other water features, along with lush, multilayered greenery of mature trees and flowering plants, appealed most.”



stone path and ferns in hospital garden

Mass. General Hospital Rooftop Garden: Naomi Sacks


Careful consideration is given to providing plenty of shady areas for sun protection by incorporating large shade trees wherever possible. Seating and private places to reflect and decompress are also very important. Pathways, interesting sculptures, and interactive elements are paramount in children’s spaces.


Last, but not least, beauty and appeal must also exist from the frame of a window. For patients who cannot venture out, garden views can nurture peace and ease pain.



pebbles under rippling water in hospital garden

Ulfelder Healing Garden:


So before you decide it’s a bit crazy of me to hang out at a hospital on purpose, explore some of their award-winning gardens. Maybe you live near one of the spaces featured in the photos I included. Take a look, go for a stroll … you may be amazed at what you find.



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