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Introduction - A Garden at the Heart of the Healing Process

A garden has always been at the heart of the vision for the new hospital's healing process. It has been shown time and again through independent research that a person’s awareness of changing light and proximity to the natural world has a remarkable effect on their sense of well-being and recuperative ability.

At hospital we have therefore designed the building so that every patient has direct access to the garden from their room via a wooden deck.

Here, the landscaped garden forms the focal point of the hospital; an inviting outdoor extension to the indoor healing environment. The garden affords a different view from every window and suffuses the hospital with reflected natural light.

The garden itself was designed and built by Jane Kelly and a small, highly skilled team of builders. It comprises a series of sculpted earth mounds and beds that brim with rare flowers, wild grasses, trees and shrubs. Wide stone paths lead through the inner garden towards the perimeter path.

Beyond this are the grassy mounds that now provide a home to a family of foxes.

The landscaped garden is protected by a 25m long living wall of willow, curved raised beds built of blue glazed brick and, of course, seating. To find out more about how the garden was conceived and constructed, follow the navigation links on the left or top of this page.

”One evening, when, as often happens I couldn't sleep I stepped out into the garden, and into another world. The paths were ribbons of earth captured moonlight...” - Hospital Patient

Designing the Garden

The main structural foundation of the garden design is a wide silvery path which flows through the full length of the grounds and is a symbol for water and the 'life force', linking all the wards and patient spaces and helping define five distinct areas of the landscape: a paved and gravelled courtyard with architectural planting, a herb garden which thrives in the south-west facing aspect, a lawn surrounded by flowering perennials and shrubs, a terrace edged with raise beds and trees, a woodland edge boundary, and a protective long living wall of willow.

The planting colour palette aims to glow through all seasons, and offers a wide variety of forms and textures, from trees and shrubs, to exotic wild grasses, rare flowers and aromatic herbs. The gardens greens particularly sing seen from the warm hues inside and against the vibrant lavender walls outside.

In addition to the many shades and ‘dilutions’ of green in the garden, the planting colours strengthen from north to south. Whites and lavender in the gravel courtyard are enlivened by the ochres and blues in the adjacent herb garden. The perennials around the lawn range through yellow, orange and pink shades which move into a warm mix of crimson, red and violet around the terrace and raised beds of deep lavender blue glazed bricks.

The colour scheme for planting is inspired by the principles of homeopathy: subtle dilutions of white, ochre, lavender and terracotta, and echoes the artist's use of colours and shades for the interior environmental design.

“You get encouragement to be yourself here. I can’t think of the words, it’s not like being out of your body but there is a sensation of looking down on yourself and beginning to see what others are seeing.” Hospital Patient

The Healing Garden

“The peace and tranquillity here is wonderful. It’s more restful than a holiday.” - Patient

The choice of plants seeks to provide year round beauty of bark, bud, leaf and flower. Many of the plants are also the ingredients of traditional herbal medicines – fennel, comfrey and eucalyptus in the herb garden, echinea and yarrow around the raised beds. Others are used in Homoeopathic remedies – back bamboo in the gravel courtyard, rhododendrons along the woodland edge – and even the honey bees themselves who love to feast on the eupatorium!

Patients have repeatedly described how the hospital garden has a calming, healing effect. Recounting their recuperative experiences, almost all refer directly to the garden, and some attribute the main benefit to it.
Indeed patients like to sit out in it, even the Scottish rain.

Especially important has been the effect on terminal patients and their families. The architectural full wall of glass, with sliding door access to nature has a powerfully comforting and balancing effect. Staff too sing its praises …. And a wildlife of foxes, robins, bees and butterflies have started to colonise it.

The Future

The project not only provides a practical demonstration of how contact with nature can help people to recover more quickly and regain their health, but also has been seen as a model and inspiration for future hospitals and health care centres.

The new garden at the hospital is in constant flux and growth. It is now important to protect this essential therapeutic facility through sustainable maintenance and development.

“The grounds of many existing hospitals could be greatly improved to the benefit of patients families and staff by adopting a more green and leafy approach within and around the building.” - Urban Forestry in Practice, ‘Hospital greenspace as an aid to healthcare’


Last Updated: 12 February 2019