Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Taking Root: The Development of a Hospital Garden. (Park Maintenance)

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Taking Root: The Development of a Hospital Garden. (Park Maintenance)

Article excerpt

When we arrived we were alone, far away from home, in a completely different environment. The first few days were a hard adjustment. I had so many emotions running through my mind. I didn't know where to start. This garden was more helpful than anyone could imagine. It gave me a chance to calm down and start working on things that needed to be done. I organized my mind so I could be there for my son. -- Dean, parent

Maintaining and beautifying grounds at any facility can be a costly and labor-intensive task. Building and Grounds Departments might find unique opportunities for assistance by tapping into the Recreation Therapy Department's creative resources. By implementing gardening and horticulture programs, work can be deferred to clients who receive therapeutic benefits from planting and maintaining the flowers and shrubs that decorate the landscape.

Planting a Seed

The Recreation Therapy/Child Life Department at Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago has recently renovated two outside areas, turning them from underutilized and fairly unattractive areas into gardens teaming with color. The idea for these gardens emerged as the Recreation Therapists began to notice a large number of patients who indicated gardening as an activity they enjoyed doing with family members. Therefore, implementing a gardening program at the hospital would be a natural progression in providing normalization of the environment.

The first step in this process was to obtain support from other departments. Approval from administration was required as well as support and cooperation from the grounds and maintenance department. Both had to be assured that the garden would contribute to the beautification of the landscape, have therapeutic value for the patients, and that Recreation Therapy staff would ascertain full responsibility for this area.

Choosing a site for each garden was next on the agenda. These areas had to be easily accessible to patients and the staff. They also had to be in a place that had a great deal of pedestrian traffic and were highly visible in order to initiate and keep the interest of potential supporters. The garden areas at Shriners Hospital were eventually implemented at such sites -- in the backyard close to an entrance by several picnic tables (where many patients, families, and staff often eat meals, take breaks, and relax). Once these two steps had been completed, it was time to get dirty.

From Mud to Masterpiece

With the help of a Bobcat and several husky volunteers, the old unsightly landscaping dissolved. When the volunteers departed, only a fresh bed of black dirt remained. Patients, parents, volunteers, and staff then went to work designing and sowing the garden.

The plants arrived from a variety of resources. The patients and staff of Shriners Hospital jumped at the opportunity to contribute to this budding project. A "Plants and Pizza Day" was created by the Recreation Therapy Department. Pizza was provided in exchange for the donation of a plant. The party launched great curiosity for this project, with more than 40 plants joining our garden that day.

More plants emerged after a young man adopted the gardens as his Eagle Scout project. He was able to collect over 100 perennials through various donors, both individual and corporate. The transformation of color and plants seemed to bloom overnight. This project reached out to the community and sparked external support.

Furthermore, groups of local Shriners indicated an interest in sponsoring individual areas of the garden. This involved financial support for needed resources. Not only were more plants and gardening supplies purchased, but garden craft projects were also provided for patients to construct. These accessories provided more depth to the garden.

Surprisingly, plants continued to arise without the knowledge of the Recreation Therapy Department staff. …

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