Local News

Tuesday, Jul 10 2012 09:12 PM

Hospital transforms concrete courtyard into latest healing garden

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    By John Harte / Special to The Californian

    A garden at Mercy Southwest Hospital is shown in this file photo.

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    By John Harte / Special to The Californian

    A garden, a gift from the Mercy Hospital Auxiliary and the Judd family, was unveiled at Mercy Southwest Hospital Tuesday evening. The new garden was designed and constructed by Monji Enterprises, as were the two gardens at Mercy Hospital Downtown. The renovated area totals nearly 10,000 square feet of both horizontal and vertical gardens. Volunteers Florence Maki and Charles Woodworth chat at the event.

    click to expand click to collapse
  3. 3 of 5

    By John Harte / Special to The Californian

    A garden, a gift from the Mercy Hospital Auxiliary and the Judd family, was unveiled at Mercy Southwest Hospital Tuesday evening. The new garden was designed and constructed by Monji Enterprises, as were the two gardens at Mercy Hospital Downtown. The renovated area totals nearly 10,000 square feet of both horizontal and vertical gardens. Jane Toller, a past auxiliary president and retired Mercy worker, enjoys herself as she meets up with friends at the event.

    click to expand click to collapse
  4. 4 of 5

    By John Harte / Special to The Californian

    A garden, a gift from the Mercy Hospital Auxiliary and the Judd family, was unveiled at Mercy Southwest Hospital Tuesday evening. The new garden was designed and constructed by Monji Enterprises, as were the two gardens at Mercy Hospital Downtown. The renovated area totals nearly 10,000 square feet of both horizontal and vertical gardens. Guests, volunteers and workers assemble in the new garden. Dan Monji is near left with sunglasses and his son, Aaron is to his right.

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  5. 5 of 5

    By John Harte / Special to The Californian

    Russell Judd, president of Mercy Hospitals of Bakersfield, will take the helm at Kern Medical Center. Judd, pictured here in July 2012, will not be a county employee. The county will contract with a management firm created by Judd to run the public hospital.

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BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer rkheel@bakersfield.com

Starring, fragrant white jasmine. Shade-producing green leaves. Three towering panels of nature.

What was once a stark, concrete courtyard between Mercy Southwest Hospital's main building and its medical offices is now a flourishing garden meant to be therapeutic for patients.

The healing garden was unveiled Tuesday evening during a celebration of the hospital's 20th anniversary. The 10,000-square-foot garden has been in the works since April.

This is Mercy Hospitals' third healing garden. The first two are at Mercy Hospital downtown.

Healing gardens are a growing trend at health care facilities across the nation, said Rick Spalenka, chair of the health and therapeutic design professional practice network of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

All successful gardens should have some sort of therapeutic effect, Spalenka said, which is why they are a good fit for hospitals. A garden can be considered successful, he said, if it includes lots of greenery, has the sound or presence of water and is somewhat private.

"Stress causes disease," Spalenka said. "And what's that word, disease? It's dis-ease, not at ease. When you're at ease, you have less stress, and when you have less stress, you have less disease."

Donations totaling $300,000 funded all three of Mercy Hospitals' gardens. The first at Mercy downtown was donated by local resident Diane Lake in memory of her daughter, Catherine, who died from cancer, said Stephanie Weber, vice president of fund development at Mercy.

"Diane Lake is known in town for her beautiful gardens," Weber said. The garden Lake funded is adjacent to the cancer center, Weber said, "so it has special meaning for her."

The second garden is in the front atrium of Mercy downtown. Money for it was donated by the Pankey family of Bakersfield to replace the existing, run-down garden, Weber said.

The latest garden was mainly funded by donations from Mercy Hospital Auxiliary. It alone donated $100,000.

The gardens benefit patients, nurses and physicians alike, Weber said.

"Walking into a beautiful space and looking at all the greenery and color is very, very peaceful," Weber said.

Russell Judd, Mercy Hospitals' president, said the gardens add to the idea that Mercy provides wholesale treatment for the body and mind.

Monji Enterprises has designed all three of Mercy's gardens. For the latest one, Monji created a vertical garden of 10 different varieties of plants, totaling 1,100 plants. The plants envelop a 700-pound Camphor tree to provide shade.

Surrounding that centerpiece are two smaller vertical gardens. They both have jasmine vines on the outside, with smaller Camphor trees on the inside.

Old features of the courtyard were also beautified. For example, concrete columns were wrapped in greenery.

The plant tower is supported by a natural material -- not a wall or netting like other vertical gardens, said Aaron Monji, one of the heads of Monji Enterprises. So, it is more environmentally friendly than other vertical gardens. For example, it will use 60 to 70 percent less water than a normal vertical garden, Monji said.

Monji chose a vertical garden for this project for a few reasons. Practically, the space has many vertical aspects. Symbolically, the design represents life, Monji said.

"There was no reason for anyone to sit out there, which is unfortunate because its neighbors are the cafeteria and the birthing center," Monji said. "But there was nothing to invite people out there."

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