Healing garden blooms at Legacy Salmon Creek

Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center space offers serene retreat for staff, patients, their families

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



If You Go

 What: Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center healing garden dedication.

 When: 3:30 p.m. social, 4 p.m. dedication, 4:30 p.m. guided garden tours on Wednesday.

 Where: Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, third floor, 2211 N.E. 139th St.

 More: Shirley Gross, 360-487-3457.

Finding a place for quiet reflection and respite can be challenging under the bright lights of a hospital operating 24 hours a day. But this week, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center officials are unveiling a newly renovated space they hope will provide just that for employees, patients and visitors.

Planters filled with fragrant flowers entice butterflies to flutter in the sunshine. Whimsical birdhouses painted purple, yellow, red and blue sit perched on posts surrounded by bright yellow and orange flowers. Water trickles down a wall of small tiles, pieced together to form a colorful backdrop for the running water.

A labyrinth made permanent on the bricks with sky blue paint offers a space for contemplation. And a rocking chair under a small canopy tucked in the corner provides a private space to reflect.

Standing in the middle of the new healing garden on a quiet late summer morning, it’s easy to forget the sanctuary sits atop the hospital’s second-floor roof and is flanked by towering walls of windows.

“We are kind of in a fishbowl,” said Shirley Gross with the Salmon Creek Hospital Foundation.

But now, at least the space provides the people in the patient rooms overlooking the garden with bright colors and various textures, Gross said. This time last year, the garden was mostly concrete surrounded by bamboo and grasses in various shades of green.

The transformation has been a two-year labor of love for Gross and the foundation. Since launching the healing garden campaign in May 2015, the foundation raised about $275,000 in community and employee donations, as well as tens of thousands of dollars of in-kind donations and labor. Permitting delays and a long, cold winter pushed the garden’s completion back until just recently.

Hospital officials will unveil the garden to the community at a dedication ceremony Wednesday afternoon.

Once opened in late June, employees began using the space to recharge before returning to their busy schedules. Patients visit the garden for the chance to breathe in fresh air. And families take a break from the stress of having a loved one hospitalized to stop and smell the flowers.

“It’s been a joy seeing so many people use it,” Gross said.

Recently, Legacy Salmon Creek President Bryce Helgerson stopped by the garden and spotted one of the hospital’s chaplains with a patient. The patient uses a wheelchair and had been at the medical center for 90 days. Helgerson watched as the patient was wheeled over to the new water wall.

“I saw her face light up,” Helgerson said.

She felt the sun on her face. She smelled the flowers.

“There’s something for everyone,” he said, “and that’s the best part about it.”

The garden was also constructed with little details in mind, Helgerson said. Benches and planter wall heights vary, enabling people to sit or lean against them if needed. Flowers and plants are also placed at different heights, allowing people who are in wheelchairs to interact just as walking people, he said.

The fully lit garden allows night-shift employees to enjoy the space, as well, Helgerson said.

The garden is also filled with plants that will offer more color year-round. Before, the garden was mostly green, but during the fall and winter, 90 percent of the garden was dormant and brown.

“We want all community members to enjoy the garden through the seasons,” said Teresia Hazen, Legacy Health’s therapeutic garden program coordinator.

Planting at the garden will continue in the coming weeks now that temperatures have cooled, and the young plants will fill in over the next two to three years, she said. Volunteers will maintain the garden. (Those interested can contact Teresia Hazen at thazen@lhs.org or 503-413-6507).

“Come garden, visit and be a part of a very special healing garden for everyone in our area,” Hazen said.