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Guide To Hospital Healing Gardens And Landscape Architecture

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Healing gardens have quickly become an essential part of hospital landscape architecture. They can significantly improve people’s sense of well-being, reduce stress and promote faster recoveries. Greenery also helps reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Healing gardens can provide many therapeutic, physical and environmental benefits for hospital patients. These incredible benefits are a key reason why healing gardens have become essential for patient care and hospital landscape architecture!

In this guide, we’ll discuss healing gardens in more detail, explore their benefits and provide helpful tips to help you design a beautiful and therapeutic outdoor space in your hospital.

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What Is a Hospital Healing Garden?

A healing garden is a user-centered green space in hospitals and healthcare facilities. This type of garden is specially designed to improve overall health outcomes and recovery from illness. Gardens have long been used to help recover from stress and find peace, and including them in healing facilities has become an important part of patient care. Access to healing gardens can improve the health of patients, family members and staff. Nature has many restorative factors, including relief from symptoms, reduced stress, and increased overall well-being.

There are two types of healing gardens. Most hospital healing gardens are restorative gardens, which can have a passive effect on overall health. In a restorative garden, you can gain its benefits simply by walking or sitting in it. You can even begin to feel relaxed and refreshed just by viewing the garden.

The other type of healing garden is an enabling garden. An enabling garden allows visitors to actively participate in gardening, such as planting flowers, watering plants and harvesting fruits and vegetables. Enabling gardens allow patients to get fresh air and spend more time in the outdoors.

For a garden to have as many healing benefits as possible, there are many factors to consider. First, the garden needs lots of greenery. The space also needs to contain “real” elements and not anything abstract. The garden should be interesting and interactive, with views of animals and chairs that can be moved. Healing gardens should also engage all the senses. This means that there should be beautiful sights, pleasant sounds and even good smells.

Therapeutic Benefits of Outdoor Spaces at Hospitals

Outdoor spaces at hospitals provide incredible therapeutic and healing benefits for patients, family members and staff. Providing a space for patients and visitors to enjoy nature, get fresh air and interact with lots of greenery can help reduce stress levels and could help patients recover faster.

Stress Reduction

one benefit of therapeutic gardens in hospitals is their ability to help reduce stress. Stress can have many negative effects on the body. Stress can increase your risks for many conditions, from muscle fatigue to migraine headaches and even heart attacks. Stress can also make you feel pain more easily.

One of the main goals of healing gardens is to reduce stress. Greenery can create a more calming environment that reduces blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels. Creating a psychologically supportive environment will help give them a safe place to calm down and take in all the benefits nature has to offer.

Exposure to green spaces and healing gardens can generate cognitive benefits that reduce stress and attention fatigue. Flowers and ornamental plants improve people’s moods and reduce the risk of developing stress-related depression. Interacting with nature and gardening has also been shown to help people turn their stress into a more positive emotion while helping them cope.


When staying in a hospital, patients have a lot of stress. They may be coping with a difficult diagnosis, and they may look for a way to take their minds off of it. Nature can provide a distraction. When we have a chance to be in nature and absorb the scenes, we’re provided with a positive distraction from pain and discomfort.

It’s also important for hospital staff to have a place to relax on their break and not have to worry about everything else going on in the hospital. Hospitals often have announcements, ringing pagers and alarms, which can continually engage hospital staff. They should have a place to simply enjoy nature and get away from the stress.

Sense of Well-being

People who spend more time outside can have improved mental health and a more positive outlook on life. An improved mental state can be important in helping patients feel better, both mentally and physically. Everyone can benefit from an improved sense of well-being, patients, family members and staff included. Outdoor spaces help improve the quality of life overall for everyone who can visit it.

Faster Recovery

Views of gardens and nature scenes have soothing effects that help people heal faster. Reducing stress and pain can help boost your immune system, which helps your body heal. Studies have shown that people in hospitals who had views of nature felt up to four times better than patients who had views of a wall. They also request less pain medication and engage more positively with staff. Faster recoveries are, of course, good for patients, and they are also great for your hospital’s bottom line. Faster recoveries mean you will have more rooms and staff available to care for other patients.

Increased Productivity

Another benefit of healing gardens is that they can increase productivity. Spending time in nature can increase energy levels and help people feel more productive. So these spaces can also help your staff feel better and be more able to help their patients. As a result, access to nature can improve employee well-being, which can help them feel more relaxed, engage more positively with patients and get more work done throughout the day.

Other Benefits of Green Spaces at Hospitals

While outdoor areas in hospitals can also improve physical health, gardens and green spaces can also provide more benefits to the environment and ecosystem.

Physical Health

While stress reduction is incredibly important to physical health, green spaces also provide other medical benefits. Unless directed by your doctor to avoid it, spending time in the sunlight is essential for maintaining Vitamin D levels. Spending time in the sunlight also helps with the release of serotonin and can even help with certain skin conditions. A little bit of sunshine and fresh air can go a long way in improving health.

Air and Water Quality

Trees, shrubs and other plants improve the overall air quality. Plants can purify the air and remove pollutants that have a negative effect on health. Vegetation can also filter out pollution from water, which enhances the water quality of the area. Trees can absorb water and help prevent run-off and flooding.

Wildlife Habitats

All areas of greenery, small or large, can be home to all sorts of wildlife. Birds, small mammals and insects can create a thriving ecosystem that starts with a small healing garden. Protected habitats are an essential part of creating a sustainable environment. Wildlife can also make the garden more exciting and appealing. By adding features that attract birds, butterflies or squirrels to your healing garden, you can create a thriving community for wildlife.

Combat Climate Change

Trees, plants and vegetation can help slow the impact of climate change. Greenery is an effective way to sequester excess CO2 from the air. Green spaces can also reduce the heat island effect in urban areas by cooling the area. As a result, hospital healing gardens can help play a significant role in combating climate change and providing more green spaces to help the planet.

How to Design Outdoor Spaces at Hospitals

Now that you know the benefits of healing gardens, let’s discuss how you can create one for your hospital. Many factors can make your garden a go-to place for patients and staff members.  Here are our top outdoor space design tips for hospitals:

Make it Accessible

Accessibility is one of the most important factors for healing gardens and green spaces at healthcare facilities. You’ll need to ensure that people can easily reach it and access it regardless of their ability level. It will need paths that can accommodate wheelchairs and benches for those who can’t walk long distances. The paths should be wide and have very narrow seams so that people aren’t at risk of tripping. Walkways also need to be made of a material that won’t produce a glare. You’ll also want to ensure that the entrances and exits are accessible and easy for patients and visitors to find.

Encourage Exercise

The outdoor space should encourage people to exercise since that is often an essential part of recovery. You can create continuous paths so that visitors can easily walk around and explore the entirety of the garden. If you have a larger space, you could even put in markers for the distance of the path. By including distance markers, patients can keep track of their exercise for the day and work on improving how far they can walk at a time.

Add Greenery

Plants, trees, flowers, shrubs and other vegetation are perhaps the most important elements of the space. Be sure to use a variety of trees and flowers that bloom during different seasons. By carefully planning the types of plants you’d like to use, you can ensure your garden has a year-round appeal! You’ll want to ensure the greenery in the garden makes up the majority of the entire outdoor area. You can then use the rest of the space for paths, hardscaping, seating and other amenities.

Increase Visibility

You’ll also want to ensure that the healing garden is highly visible, so more patients and visitors can find and benefit from it. If you can make part of the outdoor space visible from the main entrance, it will be easy for patients and visitors to notice it. Patient rooms could also have views of the space so they can see nature even when in their bed. You can also use landscape lighting to highlight some of the best features of the garden. Use it to light up tall trees, unique flowers and other elements that deserve to be seen. Don’t forget to also place posters and brochures that include information about the garden around the hospital.

Provide Options

You can also design the garden to give visitors options and some control over the space. Be sure to add paths that fork and go to different areas so that visitors can make their own choices. You’ll also want to make sure there are various seating areas and nooks where patients can get different views of the area and plants. You can also provide shaded and sunny areas so visitors can choose to enjoy the warm sunlight or cool off in the shade. You can also provide portable furniture so visitors can choose where they would like to sit and rest in the garden. Some patients can use one chair to sit alone and enjoying the scenery. And other visitors may want to pull up multiple chairs to sit with their loved ones and socialize.

Make it Comfortable

The healing garden should provide a level of comfort to all its visitors. Be sure to provide plenty of comfortable seating options throughout the entire garden. You can provide traditional park benches, comfortable chairs with plenty of cushions, or motorized scooters so visitors with low mobility can also explore the garden.

Add Shade

Shade is another important part of your outdoor space. Some patients may be directed to avoid sunlight, while some may prefer it. There should be a variety of shady areas and sunny areas so that your visitors can be as comfortable as possible. You can provide plenty of shade with trees and attractive fabric shade structures.

Create Tranquility

Outdoor spaces also should be quiet and peaceful. Try to avoid putting them near loud areas like busy roads or noisy air conditioning units. Many people will seek the tranquility of outdoor areas specifically to avoid the noise from the hospital. You’ll want to ensure your visitors can relax and listen to bird songs, leaves moving in the wind, flowing water and wind chimes. This tranquil atmosphere can help them relax, find peace and escape the environment of the hospital.

Consider Safety

Another key healing garden design tip to consider the safety and security of your garden and visitors. Be sure to include sufficient lighting for early morning and late afternoon visitors. You’ll also want to ensure the pathways have plenty of lighting so people can easily find their way and won’t trip. You may also want to include emergency telephones in isolated areas for visitors. It’s also an excellent idea to add handrails to the main paths in the garden for those who may need an extra hand in navigating the garden.

Add a Water Feature

Incorporating a water feature into the facility’s outdoor area can go a long way in increasing peacefulness. Even just small fountains and rock bubblers can create soothing sounds and appealing visuals for visitors. You can consider placing a water feature near seating areas to add a beautiful site for patients and visitors to watch and enjoy. Placing a large water feature at the center of the garden is also a great way to define the space and create a recognizable landmark and meeting place.

Maintain Sustainability

When developing any outdoor space, it’s a great idea to consider sustainability. You can design your garden to be easily maintained and require less upkeeping. You’ll also want to ensure that you implement your landscaping in a way that can reduce stormwater run-off. Using low-voltage, LED lighting can also help reduce energy usage.

Engage the Community

You can also use your outdoor hospital space to engage the community and promote awareness. Hosting community events can be an excellent way to help gain more awareness for your hospital’s facilities and gardens and also help out your local community. You could host walking groups, meditation practices or yoga classes to help encourage more use of the area.

Benefits of Shade Structures for Hospital Healing Gardens

Installing attractive shade structures in your hospital healing garden and in other outdoor spaces is an excellent way to improve the aesthetic of your outdoor space and provide plenty of shaded areas for your patients and visitors.

Protection From UV Exposure

UV exposure can be dangerous to everyone, regardless of age or medical situation. People undergoing chemotherapy or taking psychiatric or HIV medication may need to stay out of the direct sun as a requirement for their health. Other patients may be sensitive to bright light.

While you can include plenty of trees in your garden, they may not provide sufficient shade. Shade structures can be installed in a variety of configurations and fit in many different spaces. You can also position the shade structures in various ways to provide shade during different times of day, which ensures there is always a shady spot for people to find. They can shade a simple seating area or the whole garden!

By adding shade structures to your garden, you can help ensure that patients who need protection from the sun can still enjoy the outdoors in a peaceful and tranquil setting.

Temperature Reduction

Some of your hospital patients may be sensitive to excessive heat and need to stay cool. High temperatures in your healing garden could possibly deter visitors from obtaining the benefits of the healing garden. Shaded structures can reduce the temperature by up to 10 degrees, and sometimes by even up to 25 degrees. Providing this amount of shade in your garden can allow patients to enjoy the area even when outdoor temperatures are very high.

Visual Appeal

While shade structures are both functional and practical, they also can improve the aesthetic of the space. The variety of sizing and color options means you can find the right fabric and shade configuration to really make your outdoor space stand out and feel inviting to visitors. You can complement the area by using appealing colors or even your company colors. By choosing the best colors and other options for your shaded structures, you can significantly increase the visual appeal and aesthetic of your healing garden.

Browse Shade Structures for Healthcare Facilities and Request a Quote

When designing the perfect outdoor space for your hospital, you’ll want to ensure you can keep all of your patients and visitors as comfortable as possible so they can enjoy your garden all year round. Shade structures from USA SHADE can provide you with several options of shade products to protect your patients and improve the aesthetic of your healing garden.

Create the outdoor space of your dreams by making your hospital’s garden more comfortable and appealing with our fabric shade structures. We can handle everything from concept to completion when it comes to your commercial or industrial shade project. We also offer permanent medical tents to provide a shady area for drive-up testing, blood drives or waiting areas.

Reach out to us today to learn more or request a quote to start designing the perfect outdoor area for your hospital.