The Restorative Effect of Gardens at MD Anderson

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gardensatMDAnderson.jpgBy David Renninger, facilities project manager

As one of the world's most respected cancer centers, MD Anderson symbolizes excellence. This includes our facilities -- a network of state-of-the-art buildings interconnected by lushly appointed gardens and green spaces throughout the main Houston campus.

The beauty of our gardens is recognized throughout the region, but they serve a much larger role than to simply add curb appeal to buildings.

MD Anderson's gardens and green spaces contribute to a holistic healing process, lift the spirits of patients and improve patient satisfaction.

The mission of our in-house grounds and landscape team is to enhance the MD Anderson experience by creating and maintaining healing and therapeutic environments of care for patients, visitors and staff.

The gardens are dynamic environments and always in a state of renovation. We constantly strive to capture the interest of garden visitors and provide them with a positive distraction from the burdens of their hospital stay.

gardens1 cc.jpgTherapeutic environment
The idea that gardens can help with the healing process sounds good, but what is the measure? Enter Robert Ulrich, Ph.D., professor at Texas A&M University and fellow at the Center for Health Systems and Design. Ulrich is a pioneer of evidence- based design, a philosophy that relies on credible scientific evidence to influence the design outcome. 

His 1984-groundbreaking study, "View Through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery," documented the recovery of two groups of urban hospital patients who underwent the same surgical procedure. All things being equal, the group with a window view of nature had shorter recovery periods, required less pain medication, had more positive attitudes and fewer complications than the other group, that was exposed to an industrial, urban view.

The gardens at MD Anderson elicit positive feelings of peace and calmness while minimizing negative feelings of anxiety and fear. Many patients and caregivers find themselves searching for positive distractions between appointments. Why not explore a garden or gaze upon green space from the air-conditioned comfort inside? 

gardensmda.jpgRestorative benefits
Ulrich has observed that as few as five minutes of simply viewing plants and nature can produce restorative benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, moderating heart activity and decreasing muscle tension. He further states that the primary benefit of hospital gardens is to promote restoration for stressed patients, and that the presence of hospital gardens -- whether indoor or outdoor -- leads to higher patient satisfaction with their respective health care providers. 

The simple act of viewing nature can reduce the negative physiological and emotional pressure associated with hospital visits. Therefore, spending a few minutes to stroll one of MD Anderson's many accessible gardens can be beneficial to patients, visitors and even staff as they seek restoration from the burdens of cancer treatment and care.

A garden view

Need some tips on where to go for a quick garden retreat? Here are some of our favorite locations around campus:
  • Main Building, outside -- stroll through the Dorothy H. Hudson Memorial Garden in front of the main hospital entrance for a visual treat of color and texture and over 500 roses.
  • Main Building, Floor 3 -- Pull up a chair inside and gaze across the Dorothy H. Hudson Garden from the air-conditioned comfort by the Gazebo landmark.
  • Rotary House International -- visit the Well of Life and surrounding grounds and enjoy peace and quiet in the shade.
  • Mays Clinic, Floor 2 -- many secluded patios offer seating, greenery and respite.   
  • Mays Clinic, Floor 8 -- visit three Texas-themed gardens, each representing a different geographic region of the state.
Ulrich, Robert S. (2002). Health Benefits of Gardens in Hospitals. Plants of People International Exhibition Floriade 2002

Healing Gardens. Retrieved April 12, 2012 from Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series, University of Minnesota.  Web site:

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