Our Healing Gardens
Cares melt when you kneel in your garden. - Anonymous
Perhaps it owes to the gardening culture in the Pacific Northwest, and it certainly has something to do with being located in a parking lot, but between a mix of inspiration and necessity, the VA Puget Sound Fisher House has bloomed since 2008. Our unique gardens provide privacy, delight, occupation and play for guests and their patients. Whether seeking quiet and solace in the spaces of the Healing Garden or tending and harvesting the herbs and vegetables in Marianne's Garden, guests can leave behind their cares in the comforting embrace of nature.
The garden was named "Marianne's Garden" for Marianne Marks, a beloved VA employee who passed away in 1999. The VA wanted to honor Marianne. Her daughter, Melanie, worked closely with the Fisher House staff to create a garden her mother would have loved. (Read a message from Marianne's family).
Marianne's garden provides delicious organic produce, an occupation for guests who love to garden and is, in the words of the poet Saadi, "...a delight to the eye and a solace for the soul."
Marianne's Garden provides fresh produce and herbs for House guests and brings the added benefit of giving guests, especially those who love to garden, a happy distraction. As families contend with being away from the familiarity of home, and dealing with the medical needs of a loved one, it can be the everyday tasks like cooking or folding laundry that provide a feeling of normalcy, a sense of control when so much else is out of their control. In such a situation, what could be better than taking some time in nature to pull a weed or pluck a sun-ripened tomato?
The original three bed garden was designed by local garden designer and author Lorene Edwards Forkner. It expanded to two more beds during the Healing Garden construction in 2010. Additional beds were added on the west end of the patio in 2012, including a 'very raised' bed that is wheelchair accessible.
The Healing Gardens
The Healing Gardens were a joint venture between the Friends of VA Puget Sound Fisher House and the University of Washington. Professor Daniel WInterbottom of the School of Landscape Architecture Design/Build program, who has designed healing gardens all over the world explains it this way: “What makes a healing garden at a hospital different from any pleasing garden involves understanding what might help 'transport' people away from the medical process or the medical center. For example, knowing that some people grapple with the emotions of a difficult prognosis or treatment, a healing garden might include a spot in the garden for privacy.”
Phase I was completed in 2010 and Phase II in 2013. In both cases, the process began with students meeting with focus groups of Fisher House and VA staff as well as House guests to imagine what the garden could be. Students worked in groups to translate those visions into preliminary designs. An advisory committee reviewed the presentations and selected the best elements of each. Students then worked together to develop a final design. Once approved, the students (with the help of some amazing volunteers) did all the work of regrading, construction and planting.
The healing gardens beautifully fulfill their intended purpose: to soothe the souls and refresh the spirits of the military and Veteran families staying at the VA Puget Sound Fisher House. The House is already a haven for the families who stay there and the Healing Garden extend that haven to the surrounding garden area, providing families with a place to rest, restore and heal.
In late fall of 2010, the Friends of VA Puget Sound Fisher House purchased a Crooked House for the younger guests. The charming little playhouse is tucked into a corner of the back garden, within sight of a parent or guardian relaxing on the patio.
But the bit of land on which the house stood was less than inviting and plans were initiated to create a child-friendly landscape that would invite play, encourage imagination and bring children closer to nature.
Enter Google. Our friends Melissa and Mike from the Seattle-Kirkland Google VetNet group wrangled six other employees to come to Fisher House during "Google Serve," an annual event when employees give back to the community through service projects.
Donating time, plants, soil amendments and garden ornaments, this energetic and creative team of individuals took one afternoon to bring our vision to life. In fact, the reality was even better than the vision, particularly owing to some special touches that the Googlites brought to the party.
Phase II of the Healing Garden brought some welcome enhancements to the Children's Garden, including benches where weary parents can rest while keeping an eye on busy children, a swinging bench and a "hobbit house" where summer vines grow up over a structure and provide an excellent hide out.
We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the individuals and companies that helped our gardens grow.