GBMD: What every gardener knows

Here’s an old poem I recently resurrected. I wasn’t able to find the newspaper article that inspired the poem (too old, I suspect), but I did find the research on the fact that a view of trees helps hospital patients recover. It was conducted by Roger S. Ulrich, a professor of architecture, a fact which alerted me to a whole branch of architecture which I’d had no idea existed–and which I’m very glad does exist, since its goal appears to be to make buildings more humane for the humans that inhabit them.

Ulrich’s landmark study* compared recovery experiences of two groups of patients who’d gone through the same surgery. One group had view of a wall; the other group had windows that looked out on trees. Guess what? The patients who could see trees had shorter hospital stays, needed less potent pain medication (and less of it), had fewer complications, and complained less about their nurses than did the patients who were looking at a brick wall.

I love this.

Unfortunately, a lot of hospitals still haven’t quite learned it. Last time I had to stay overnight, which I guess was for my second knee replacement surgery back in Dec. of 2009, my room had a lovely view–but I couldn’t see it. Some complicated computer terminal had been set up in front of it, where the head of the bed should have been, so I saw a big black computer screen, and beyond it–yes, a brick wall.

(click to see the poem)

Yesterday’s Headline


Recent Research Proves.
Should we then
close the office of our hearts,
box up our affections,
rent out the space to the
highest bidder?

For years we did not know
how bees could fly.
What if the bees had ceased
their impossible flight
till science proved them capable of what
they all along were doing?
No flight, (no stings)
no accidental pollen adhering
to fuzzy, dangling legs—
no peas, no beans, no cantaloupe—
no honey.

Doctors, their backs to windows,
confer: why doesn’t she get well?
(What wisdom this?)
Now research has finally shown:
the tree outside the room can cure what
drugs within can’t touch, the secret
inner room of the heart.

I’ll go on loving, I think, a while yet
till research catches up to me;
I’ll be a bee, my wings all wrong,
my body too heavy for flight, suspended impossibly
in air, delving into flowers’
warm and secret centers
on summer days.


*(“View through a window may influence recovery from surgery,” published in Science in 1984.)  If you google the title, you’ll find several sources for downloadable pdf files.

6 Responses to GBMD: What every gardener knows

  1. We have an elderly relative who has just (the day before yesterday) moved into an old people’s home near us. The choice was between a room with a view over allotments and towards the sea but which is a long way from the social area of the building (meaning she would find it hard to go and meet other residents and, being at the end of a corridor, would be last to get up, last to have breakfast, last . . .) . . .
    and a room right near the staff and the dining room, huge television, conservatory, terrace – but which looks out into a little courtyard with four, not very interesting walls.
    She would have been able to put pots of plants in the courtyard, in effect to make her own garden there – but she chose the view.
    We were worried she might be lonely in the room with a view . . . but, having read this post, I think she probably made the right choice.
    I like the idea of bees refusing to fly until it’s proved that they can. So many parallels!

  2. Love the poem! Thanks for sharing. I didn’t even know about the Ulrich study, that’s amazing! Sadly, the hospitals here face nothing but buildings and walls.

  3. Great poem. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Gosh it’s been way too long since I’ve been in here!
    And how apt to find you’re reporting on the research I’ve been banging on about for ages.
    You might like seek out Beatley’s ‘Biophilic Cities’. He expands on this topic and then some :)

  5. I love this ! Everyone deserves to see a little greenery. Especially in a whitewashed, antiseptic place like a hospital. Great post!

  6. The Manic Gardener

    It is, Karina, thanks.

    Excellent, Anthropogen. I haven’t had to rent a jack hammer yet; maybe that’s next! But check out the next comment. I hope we don’t hear from you from your jail cell next…

    Are you trying to depress me, Pavel?

    Blake— I mulch over weed-cloth if I plan to leave it in place for years. It might be a good idea to do so even for seasonal use, to prevent overheating of the top couple inches of soil.

    Hi, Joan, and welcome. Glad you found me and enjoy the humor! As my mother-in-law always said, you gotta laugh.

    Hi, Debra. The Master Gardener classes stressed fall weeding, which helps keep seeds out of the beds.

    Good luck, K.E.

    Agreed, Ashley.


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