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Monroe hospital’s healing garden to be an oasis for patients

MONROE — “This is a beautiful spot,” Martha Dankers says while surveying the space for a rejuvenated garden. “It gets just enough light.”
Dankers is standing in an 80- by 32-foot green space in the center of EvergreenHealth Monroe hospital. Windows surround the open-air courtyard on all sides, offering patients and staff views of its bushes, grass, trees and flowers.
The garden will help patients calmly meditate and enjoy nature, which science shows as activities that can accelerate healing.
In 2005, Dankers led a volunteer group that designed and planted a healing garden on this site. Now she is spearheading the garden’s renovation.
More than one dozen volunteers — many from the Monroe Garden Club — will be busy weeding, aerating, pruning and planting at the hospital this spring. Bailey Compost in Snohomish has pledged to donate 10 yards of compost. Monroe’s Peg Ferm Design LLC, which designed the original garden, has pitched in free landscaping.
“Right now everything’s a little beaten up. It’s going to be lovely,” Dankers says.
The overhaul is needed because the healing garden, after initial installation, suffered gradual neglect before EvergreenHealth took over managing the hospital in 2014.
“It hasn’t had the love and attention a garden really needs to grow and thrive,” says Blake Vintertun, director of the EvergreenHealth Monroe Foundation. The foundation aims to raise $5,000 in donations for the renovation. It has garnered about $1,000 so far.
Vintertun also sits on a nine-member Healing Garden Committee, which includes Dankers and Lisa LePlante, COO of EvergreenHealth Monroe.
“Martha really took the ball with it and brought this group together,” LePlante says. “The passion of these people is incredible.”
After retiring in 2005, Dankers became a master gardener. She has lived in Monroe for 40 years. When the most recent administration arrived at EvergreenHealth, Dankers sensed it would be receptive to garden rejuvenation.
She pitched fellow YMCA board member LePlante after board meetings. She bumped into Peg Ferm, the original healing garden designer, while running an errand.
“She was very convincing,” Ferm says.
The new garden won’t include any significant changes from the original blueprint, and will keep the stone fountain in the northwest corner.
Ferm has a list of distinct flora and fauna, but says in general she is focusing on “hearty” shrubs, “tough” ground covers and perennials, and a few ornamental grasses.
Numerous studies show that natural settings, such as a garden, promote better results for hospital patients. The modern trend of healing gardens began after a 1984 study by researcher Roger Ulrich revealed that patients with views of nature are capable of being
released from the hospital sooner, had fewer complications, and needed less pain medication than those without natural vistas.
“That was a big surprise to everybody at the time,” Ferm said. “Now many big hospitals are investing in having some type of healing
And this time, the Healing Garden Committee is planning for annual maintenance to ensure vitality for years to come.
“We’re over-the-moon ecstatic that this group of volunteers is willing to help the garden,” says Vintertun. “The garden is located where the patient recovery rooms are. It really creates a warming, healing, comforting environment.”
To donate money, time or materials to the healing garden, visit www. or call 360-805-6304.   



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