Custer’s Healing and Wellness Garden is an asset to caregivers, patients and community members alike. Nestled along the side of Custer Hospital, the healing garden spans 10,000 square feet and a trip around the therapy walking path reveals one surprise after another.
When Monument Health and the city of Custer opened the doors on the new $21.7 million hospital and clinic in April 2018, the vision was to make the best use of the new facility as a healing center. An outdoor space was part of that shared vision, and the healing garden began to take shape once local patron Delmer Brown was identified as the initial donor for the project. Other individuals and organizations have since made valued contributions to the project.
Joy Falkenburg, M.D., is the curator and caretaker of the healing garden. She says the space was designed to utilize sounds, sights, smells and textures to bring people into the present moment as a form of healing.
“We felt like an outdoor space was really important for the vision of Custer as a healing center,” said Dr. Falkenburg. “It’s next to the hospital so that patient rooms look out onto the garden, and patients can sit and even do rehabilitation out there.”
Dr. Falkenburg and other providers’ healing approach to medicine finds many practical uses for the garden. This includes convalescence and solitude, activity, sensory opportunities and spiritual respite.
“We have several unique plants that smell and feel different, so those can be used for stroke patients or patients with sensory abnormalities,” Dr. Falkenburg said.
On the far side of the garden, around back, a door from the hospice suite opens into a large circular area.
“It’s not uncommon that people want to die in nature and with the sunshine on their face,” Dr. Falkenburg said. The garden helps these individuals stay close to nature as they come to the end of their lives.
The first year the garden was planted, a major hailstorm wreaked havoc, but the garden has been re-planted each spring in what has become an annual event for clinic staff and community members. During this year’s planting in June, vendors, caregivers, children and community volunteers worked together to revitalize the space for another season of restorative connections with nature.
Some of the of the garden’s most special features include:
- Several seating areas, including a semi-circle pergola area.
- Two different water features.
- A children’s playhouse.
- An intention hut in which visitors can quietly reflect.
- A “wind phone” is available for people to express their grief, concern or anything else in their heart, leaving it “on the wind.”
- Five raised garden beds for growing vegetables.
- Sculptures and art throughout the garden.
- A variety of foliage from trees to shrubs and flowers meant to attract birds.