A garden contributes to healing

An Oregon garden gives solace to patients as they heal.

Photo courtesy of Legacy Emanual Hospital Burn Center.
From Kathy Hamilton's room at the Legacy Emanuel Hospital Burn Center in Portland, Ore., she could see a gorgeous garden and wanted to explore it.

Kathy Hamilton leaned against her walker, as she slowly bent to pick a blueberry with her gauze-wrapped hands in the courtyard healing garden at Legacy Emanuel Hospital Burn Center in Portland, Ore., earlier this year.

Her story of how plants and a peaceful garden hastened her recovery and touched her heart is the first of two I’m sharing with you.

Last spring I interviewed a number of professionals and patients about the effects of plants on the healing process. Some of their stories beg to be told again, in more detail.

A propane stove exploded last summer while Kathy was in the family camper at a vacation site on the Washington coast. She was taken to the burn center immediately for treatment.

Kathy was confined to bed for a couple of days, but could look out of her window and see the garden. Once she was able to walk again, she was in the garden every day – touching, smelling, and feeling the beauty of the plants.

“Every day I pushed myself to get up and make at least a couple of treks to the garden. They even served my lunch out there the last two days I was in the hospital. What joy!" Kathy exclaimed.

“I can’t tell you how important that garden was and how much it meant to me. I could stop at any point, sit and watch butterflies and hummingbirds,” said the recent US Postal Service retiree from Rosburg, Wash.

The Oregon Burn Center garden was modified from the standard healing garden template so that there was shelter from the outside world.

Privacy for the patient and his family was paramount. Five seating areas, off the main paths, were created for patients and their families to connect.

Since shade was a major requirement, trees are planted everywhere, as are shaded pergolas for seating and places to gather.

Some of the garden beds were raised to accommodate wheelchairs and those unable to bend. Paths were made wider for wheelchairs, gurneys, and walkers.

A profusion of plants for sensory stimulation are everywhere. From fragrant lavender and lemon-scented pelargonium to fuzzy Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) to tasty strawberries, blueberries, and cherry tomatoes — plants were selected to provoke all five senses.

Bird feeders and nectar- and seed-producing plants such as Echinacea and honeysuckle (Lonicera) were included to attract wildlife.

When Kathy Hamilton went home, she took cuttings from herb plant in the healing garden to create her own.

“I’m planning a ‘Shady Lady’s Garden’ for next spring in the perfect spot at the end of my house. Blackberries grow over giant boulders and large trees are waiting for a hammock,” enthusiastically explains Kathy.

I’ve assembled (with my husband’s help) about a thousand pink cement tiles there, waiting for the patio and walkway to take shape … all influenced by the Oregon Burn Center Healing Garden.”

Click here to read the article on this topic that Doreen wrote for the American Horticulture Society magazine, "Gardens for Recovery." [PDF]

If it’s edible and unusual, Doreen Howard figures out a way to grow it in her USDA Zone 4b garden. She’ll try anything once, even smelly Durian. A former garden editor at Woman’s Day, she writes regularly for The American Gardener and The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s Garden Guide.

Editor’s note: Look for more blog posts by The Edible Explorer, Doreen Howard, in our blog archive. For more on gardening, see the Monitor’s main gardening page, which offers articles on many gardening topics. Also, check out our blog archive and our RSS feed. You may want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. Take part in the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos and enter our contests.

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