Planners have suggested that in place of the garden, the new facilities would incorporate “pocket gardens” and other indoor green spaces. But could those come close to replacing the treasure we have, complete with towering trees, swaths of grass, and birds and bunnies that delight children?
Over the nearly 60 years that Prouty Garden has been in existence, the garden itself has taken on a patina of timelessness and constancy of caring that is readily apparent to those who enter. While the flowers may come and go each year, the trees become ever more mature and stately. The various sculptures reflect an aesthetic of the past, perhaps none more clearly than the sculpture of the nurse and her patient at the entrance to Prouty Garden. But rather than conveying a sense of “quaintness”, these sculptures tie back to a time when medical care was not as capable as it is today – to a time when the limits of medical care were more quickly reached and all that remained was hope, caring, and love.
Indeed, the original document from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society reminds us that the Prouty Garden, for all these years since it was honored with its gold-medal, has served "as a visual promise to youngsters that Nature has not forgotten them during their period of confinement."
A HEALING SPACE
There is plenty of research demonstrating the therapeutic value of gardens. One study reported that patients whose windows overlooked leafy trees healed more rapidly, required less pain medication, and had fewer post-surgical complications. Another found that 90 percent of hospital garden visitors reported positive changes in mood, attitude, and coping.
Dr. Clare Cooper Marcus, an emeritus professor of landscape architecture at the University of California at Berkeley and a leading expert in therapeutic landscaping, has deemed the garden “one of the most successful hospital gardens in the country.” Its mature shade trees, circular pond and fountain, and inviting walkways provide respite for patients, families, and staff alike. It also features private alcoves for solitude, meditation and — when needed — moments of grief.
AN IRREPLACeABLE TREE
It is impossible for someone entering Prouty Garden today to not immediately recognize the central presence of the Dawn Redwood in the garden. In the words of one environmentalist:
You … have a huge symbol of perseverance and survival in the Dawn Redwood, most likely one of the first to be brought to the U.S. by Arnold Arboretum's seed-collection expedition in 1948 after the species was thought to be extinct for twenty-five million years. [In an] air photo of the Longwood Campus, the Prouty Garden and its beacon Dawn Redwood, and the Harvard Medical quad, are the only green spaces that stand out in the concrete jungle that has evolved.
You have a priceless therapeutic historical ecosystem garden that no other children's hospital can match...
As it has grown into the majestic tree that it is today, the Dawn Redwood has become a physical embodiment of the very culture and values that define Children’s Hospital and its staff. Resolute, constant, and strong, the Dawn Redwood, like Children’s care-giving staff, offers support in achieving cures for those who come to Children’s Hospital and are cured – and it helps bear the burden of pain and sorrow for those who come to Children’s Hospital seeking cures but don’t find them.
The Dawn Redwood is much more than a big tree in a disposable garden. It is a symbol of life, and the enduring presence of hope for those who need it most.