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The Healing Power of Gardens

How Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital Creates a Healing Environment

Gardens are good for you. Research shows that spending time among nature helps boost your immune system, and can actually reduce pain. It’s no wonder that patients and visitors are drawn to the calming effects of the 60-acre wooded grounds at Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, ranked 11th most beautiful hospital in the United States in 2017 according to Soliant Health

The campus features several therapeutic gardens, as well as walking paths and a full-size labyrinth that are part of the holistic approach to care that considers mental, physical and spiritual needs. Around the campus grounds, plants were deliberately chosen that are indigenous to the area, and landscaping was designed with careful consideration to the healing effects of nature. To provide a bright, open and inviting environment inside the hospital, patient rooms offer floor to ceiling windows that provide views of the surrounding prairie, woods and gardens.

“The entire Marianjoy campus is considered to be a sanctuary of healing. Our philosophy is that although life may be altered by a disability, life need not stop for a disability,” says Rev. Dr. Patricia A. Roberts, director of spiritual care and education for Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital.

One of a Kind

Perhaps one of Marianjoy’s most unique features is the Labyrinth Garden, patterned after the ancient design from Chartes Cathedral in France. Marianjoy’s full-size labyrinth is the only one of its kind located in a hospital in the United States.

The Healing Power of Gardens

Patients use the Labyrinth Garden for physical therapy sessions to practice walking through the set of circular paths, as well as for quiet reflection and meditation. For some, the garden is a welcome distraction from the physical – and sometimes emotional - pain brought on by their injuries. Plants are placed in random order to represent the chaos of life, and as you move through the labyrinth, the flowers become more organized in groupings of three, four, seven or 12 (numbers used often in scripture and biblical passages).

The Labyrinth Garden is open to the general public, and can be accessed without entering the hospital.

Rain, Rain Go Away

The Aquatic Therapy and Fitness Center and Rain Garden cover approximately 10,400 square feet, and naturally filter and slow rainwater runoff while removing pollutants and sediments, resulting in improved community water. Native perennials, trees, shrubs and ground cover are used in the garden, and benches are included along the paver paths.

To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow

For a change of pace, the Enabling Garden offers a small bridge and a variety of surfaces to give patients an opportunity to practice navigating in wheelchairs and walkers over varying textures and surfaces such as concrete, inclines, steps and pebbles. Unique planters accommodate individuals using wheelchairs so they may plant flowers and pull weeds, and a flower wall is positioned for patients who are regaining strength to practice reaching. It’s common for families to also participate in this type of horticultural therapy with their loved ones here.

For patients recovering from stroke and other neurological conditions, the Sensory Garden integrates a serene environment that stimulates and engages with an individual’s sense of sight, smell, touch and sound. Patients are immersed with the calming fragrance of lavender, the soft touch of Lamb’s ear and other plants that have been chosen because of their sensory features.

In addition to these unique gardens, patients, visitors and staff enjoy walking the Peace Path, a three-mile path loop around the campus, or taking in the beauty of the Rose Garden, featuring four hybrid tea roses, eight new dawn climbing roses, 11 knock out roses and an abundance of perennials. The Rose Garden, which also includes a gazebo, water fountain and koi pond, was built in memory and honor of Provincial Sister Virgina Mary Barta, one of the Franciscan Sisters who founded Marianjoy in the late 1960s.

“The gardens give our patients hope for the future. When patients get a break out of their hospital rooms, they drink in the beauty of the nature that surrounds them. The gardens give them light and life, and it’s so good for them,” Roberts says.