Hospitals aren't generally the first place you think of when it comes to garden design. But at Austin Health, gardens and greenery are on the agenda to enhance patient and staff wellbeing. A dedicated Gardens and Grounds Project aims to integrate plants in and around the hospital's three Melbourne campuses for their therapeutic benefits. Overseen by horticulturalist and nurse, Steven Wells, the project focuses on creating natural spaces where patients and their families can take respite during their hospital experience.
As much as possible, all landscaping around the hospital grounds is designed to provide reflection, rest, connection with nature, and quiet space to be alone or to gather with family. With over 25 separate landscaping projects across the three sites, there are many opportunities to incorporate plants to soften these built environments. Some of these areas are spacious and allow for large gardens. However, most of the areas keeping Steven busy are the smaller outdoor spaces, usually tiny concrete courtyards.
Steven says, "It's always a challenge to get the balance right in these small areas. We'll put in some seating, furniture, large pots planted with hardy plants that bring an element of greenery." Above all, his aim is to invite people outside to "feel like they are actually immersed in natural surroundings."
This particular project was designed to brighten up a dull entrance leading into the outpatient department from a car park. More than simply masking a blank wall, the ambition for this little garden was to brighten people's experience of entering and leaving the building. It offers staff and outpatients a colourful, natural point of interest in an otherwise fairly lifeless spot.
The black Topline planters are beautifully offset by the blues and greens of succulents and flowering cacti. Steven explains, "We wanted to bring a touch of green to an entrance area using low-maintenance plants. The wall behind inspired the plants and colours used in the design." Large yet lightweight, the Topline planter was perfect for this setting. Easy to manoeuvre into place and made with built-in feet, this planter allows for forklift relocation. "Being able to move our pots around is really important. Hospitals are a rapidly changing environment and often the need arises to move things around to make way for building works."
Topline's practicality is matched by its understated good looks. Steven comments, "I loved the striations on these pots they echo the vertical lines of the wall behind and the tall cacti plantings. The whole thing came together beautifully."
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