By Guest Blogger Jeff Hughes, Grounds and Sustainability Manager at Children’s

This path currently borders the hospital on the West side, just above where Laurelon Terrace is now. We’ll be incorporating more places like this, where the public can stroll, relax and take a breather from the stress of the hospital or whatever’s happening in their day.

A hospital isn’t just a building, or a facility. When done right, a hospital can be a living, breathing, thriving community. At its best, it’s a circle of hope, healing, strength and spirit. Here at Children’s, the healing power of nature has always played a role in that, and we’ll continue this tradition as we grow. This has been an important part of Children’s 103-year history, and the cornerstone of my 28 years overseeing our grounds. The first nurse at Children’s original “Fresh Air Cottage” back in 1907 who took young polio patients outside to the garden got it right: Mother Nature sometimes really does know best. Light, sunshine and fresh air all play a part.

Beautiful, welcoming gardens, inviting paths, or intimate “pocket parks” teeming with changing foliage, lively colors, heady scents, wildlife, trees, shrubs and flowers can remind us about the seasons of life. We become more grounded and more spiritual by connecting with nature, where we’re most at home and refreshed. Anyone who enjoys an exceptional tree, a “stop and smell the roses” bench, a flower garden or a walkway sheltered by lovingly tended plants knows it. Studies show it, too. A patient who looks out at a tree dancing in the breeze can heal faster than one who sees a cement wall or an alley every day.

At Children’s we take this seriously. We work this into all of our plans from the very beginning, and every step along the way. The experiences of our patients, families, staff, neighbors, pedestrians, bikers and drivers begin when they see and approach our campus. We want Children’s to be an inviting, lush place for those who are visiting, live nearby, or are just passing through.

More than 2,000 species and varietals of trees and plants thrive on our grounds. Just like our patients, these plants and trees are diverse, and some are very rare. I and my regular grounds crew of seven are their doctors, nurses and caretakers. We help them thrive: our motto is “right plant, right place,” and we’re proud of that. In future posts, I’ll share more about our grounds, special trees and plants, and what we’re doing to become one of the greenest, most sustainable hospitals in the country. That’s our dream for Children’s, from where I sit. (That…plus staying on top of the weeds. But I like to remember: a weed is just a flower with a branding problem, or a plant where you don’t want it to be!)

Questions or comments? Feel free to contact Jeff Hughes directly: 206-987-3889 or jeff.hughes@seattlechildrens.org