HUNDREDS of young Australian indigenous plants are starting to grow in the new healing garden just established in the grounds of the South Gippsland Hospital (SGH) in Foster.
Flowering shrubs and native grasses interspersed with feature stones have been set into hilled and mulched beds around the mature oak tree and existing patches of lawn, and along the Jones Street side of the main hospital building.
Curving gravelled paths wide and firm enough for wheelchairs and prams as well as strolling feet meander through the garden, linking the hospital’s undercover patio, the gazebo, the park bench, and the streetscape beyond.
SGH chief executive officer Paul Greenhalgh said, “the new healing garden is for patients, visitors and staff to enjoy, and is a much softer environment than what was there before, one that’s rich in native plants to attract birds and delight all users.
“Marcus Golding and his team from Coastal and Country Landscaping of Inverloch have created a beautiful space for everyone associated with the hospital and for the local community.
“What was a very tired looking area before has now been brought back to life,” he said.
“Patients located in any of the five rooms overlooking the garden will have the most benefit as the view out through those windows has improved significantly.”
Part of the project also included installing reflective film on the glass panes of the windows so that patient privacy is maintained.
Mr Greenhalgh said the healing garden was paid for with funds totalling some $24,000, raised by the SGH Murray to Moyne cycling team and donated by the Corner Inlet community, most notably the Foster RSL Sub-branch, in 2016-2017.
“Originally the money was intended for a Mobility Rehabilitation Garden, however this project was put on hold and the funds set aside at that time to allow for the construction of the new surgical building which was completed in 2020,” he said.
“In consultation with the major fundraisers, SGH proposed to repurpose the tied funds towards a native healing garden.”
Murray to Moyne cycling team captain Mick Manassa said he was pleased to support the change in use of the funds.
“When Paul asked if we would be okay with putting the money towards a different kind of garden, I had no hesitation in agreeing,” he said.
“The members of the bike crew from all those years ago are more than happy to see the money they helped to raise go towards the healing garden instead.
“With the 325 native grasses, shrubs and trees that have been planted, the paths, and the rocks dotted about here and there, the new garden is just amazing.”
Foster RSL representative Carole Williams said the sub-branch “is very pleased to assist with the funding for the Hospital’s new garden.
“While our main fundraising focus concerns our war veterans and members, we are also able at times to generate funds for community projects as well,” she said.
“And, in the Foster RSL’s view, there is nowhere more deserving than our own local hospital!
“The new garden will soon be a beautiful area filled with shrubs and flowers and will bring pleasure to patients, staff and passers-by, too,” Mrs Williams said.
“On behalf of Foster RSL, congratulations to all who worked on planning and making this lovely garden.”
Mr Greenhalgh said that “while the funds haven’t been used as we first thought, this project makes sense.
“The focus of the healing garden is broader, and the community can enjoy the garden as they walk or drive by, visit someone, or if they are ever a patient themselves the garden may help with their recovery,” he said.
“We still have a few cosmetic things to do, like painting the park bench, and we’re looking forward to working with our local Aboriginal community in the new year to add much-needed artwork that acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land.”