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Friday, 27 June 2014 00:00

Edgerton Hospital garden beckons visitors to relax and enjoy natural beauty

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Edgerton Hospital marketing manager Sunny Bowditch stands along a walkway in the hospital’s healing garden on a recent picture-perfect summer day. The garden, which was dedicated in June, is open to patients, staff and the public to enjoy. Edgerton Hospital marketing manager Sunny Bowditch stands along a walkway in the hospital’s healing garden on a recent picture-perfect summer day. The garden, which was dedicated in June, is open to patients, staff and the public to enjoy. Terry Mayer

MESSENGER -- There are no hushed corridors or muted color schemes in this area of Edgerton Hospital, but visitors can’t help to feel relaxed when they visit.

The hospital’s new healing garden features the sounds and colors of nature, offering those who visit an atmosphere that soothes the body and soul.

The garden was dedicated in June and offers a walking path, a pond, a waterfall, benches, sculptures, plenty of trees and perennial plants and open areas for physical therapy and wellness activities.

More hospitals and medical facilities are installing healing gardens to help patients get back to health, said Bonnie Robinson, director of the Edgerton Hospital Capital Foundation.

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“Years ago, hospitals were focused on disease-based care … Today, health care facilities have changed from disease-based care to (centering) around patient, family and staff needs and preferences,” Robinson said. “Healing gardens are green spaces in health care settings, and they’re specifically designed to improve patient outcomes.”

Sunny Bowditch, marketing manager for Edgerton Hospital, said she has noticed many patients walking along the path of the healing garden to take in the scenery.

“We have met with many people who have said having access to the garden makes them feel more relaxed,” Bowditch said. “They can get out on their own if they’re able to. We have patients using their walker or we’ve seen them out here getting some fresh air. It’s just calming.”

The garden has been used by patients in the cardiac rehabilitation, physical therapy and short-term rehab programs. Yoga classes, tai chi classes and other wellness programs also have been held in the garden.

The garden even serves as a social setting for patients who are recovering from surgery, said Susan Kindschi, cardiology and sleep study manager.

“For people who are struggling with heart disease or lung disease, it’s an opportunity for them to receive support from their peers,” Kindschi said. “It’s a non-threatening, stress-free environment. There’s benches where people can sit and enjoy nature. It’s a private and clinical setting.”

Staff members enjoy visiting the healing garden as well, Kindschi said.

“I think it benefits our workforce. There’s dragonflies, hummingbirds and lots of nature to watch,” she said. “Working in health care can be stressful, so we will take a lap or two around the garden. We get to view changes every day. So even if we can’t be out in the garden, we can look out our window and see nature and all the changes that are going on.”

Besides the patients and hospital staff, the healing garden also is open to the public.

“Anybody can come out here and use it and enjoy it,” Robinson said.

The garden also has attracted some wildlife visitors.

“We have a pair of mallards that keep the geese away,” Robinson said. “They are very territorial. We had some geese fly in, and the ducks chase them away.”

The garden is maintained by hospital staff and local volunteers, who help plant, install mulch, water plants and remove weeds.

Cindy Leverenz, master gardener and volunteer coordinator, said there are about 12 volunteers who help maintain the garden each week.

“The weeding is pretty non-stop. Once you plant a garden, they’re always present,” Leverenz said. “Everyone takes ownership of the garden. Some of the volunteers have adopted their own section of the garden.”

Leverenz said she enjoys working in the garden and interacting with the patients.

“It’s extremely peaceful. When you’re out there, you don’t have a care in the world,” Leverenz said. “We interact with people who visit the garden. We talk to them about the garden and the plants, and we explain to them what we’re doing.

“We’ve seen many people walk around the garden. I think it’s one of the best-kept secrets in Rock County.”

Leverenz said as the plants continue to grow, the garden will look even more impressive.

“The whole idea is the trees and the perennials will change with the seasons,” Leverenz said. “The plants will not be changed in and out themselves. They will just change with the season.”

Volunteers always are needed -- and they don’t need gardening experience, she said.

“If people have a half hour or an hour to spare, that would be great.”

Robinson said the hospital is raising funds to install a labyrinth and pergola in the garden.

“I have a very generous donor who has given funds to help complete the pergola/arbor,” Robinson said. “The donor has asked for matching funds. We are still raising funds to complete the pergola/arbor and labyrinth and remaining outer loop sidewalk.”

Residents can donate funding by having a tree, brick or bench dedicated to the memory of a friend or family member.

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