|The woodland garden at FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care as the visitor faces the Hospice House|
PINEHURST – The three holly trees located in the gardens at FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care campus remain lighted throughout the year, but their illumination takes on special meaning with the approach of each holiday season.
Throughout December, the lights shine in memory or in honor of someone with a hospice connection – a physician who has provided care, a nurse who has offered comfort, a special volunteer, a hospice patient who has passed away.
Since the opening of the new Hospice & Palliative Care campus just off Highway 15-501 North, however, the Light Up a Life has been held near the Administration Building overlooking the pond on the west side of the campus. This year’s program is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 11, at 5 p.m.
“The Light Up a Life program is a really special time that our staff and volunteers look forward to each year,” says Hospice & Palliative Care director Tina Gibbs. “It gives us the opportunity to reconnect with the family and friends of loved ones served by our hospice. The ability to share a story or a hug with those we’ve gotten to know is so important. Having the program at our new campus and alongside the beautiful gardens brings a sense of closeness and natural connection with those we are remembering.”
The holly trees are nestled in the lush woodland garden on the Hospice & Palliative Care grounds that was not included in early planning for the campus, but developed later thanks to the community support that provided extra funds during the fundraising effort to build and endow a free-standing chapel.
“The community was very generous,” says Charlie McWilliams, the longtime Hospice supporter who chaired the FirstHealth Hospice Foundation Network during the campus fundraising and construction periods. “With the chapel built and endowed and caring for itself, we wanted to continue to enhance the property. It became a no-brainer to have a garden once we were here.”
Lynda Acker, who co-designed the Healing Garden located at FirstHealth's Clara McLean House, assumed a similar role with the Hospice garden design. Since she and co-creator Cassie Willis designed the mini-wonderland that is the Healing Garden, it was only natural that supporters of a garden for the Hospice & Palliative Care grounds would seek them out for their project.
When Willis wasn't available to help, Acker turned to another friend, landscape designer Sally DeWinkeleer who had a special regard for hospice since her mother had passed away while in hospice care.
Acker and DeWinkeleer shared ideas and listened to others before putting their thoughts to paper and developing a plan that could be done in phases while incorporating the natural water and woodland features of their pastoral canvas. The result is a landscape that is not only beautiful and tranquil but also practical – handicapped-accessible, deer-resistant, water-efficient (thanks to irrigation from the on-site pond) and chemical-free.
“Everything is organic,” says Acker. “We don't want to kill bugs or anything else. They have their place.”
The three-phase work-in-progress evolved from Foundation President Kathleen Stockham's original idea for a small garden near the chapel. The first phase, now nearing completion, begins at the top of the driveway with a water feature located inside an L-shaped area between the Hospice House and Administration Building. Its two streams (with small waterfalls) culminate in an underground “pond.”
Planted throughout the garden site are 5,000 bulbs (daffodils, muscari and crocus), which Acker predicts will make spring “a very big deal” for the campus. Aside from the daffodils, a magnolia tree and a few other familiar plants, the Hospice Garden will have its own unique look, one that is very different from most tended gardens in the area.
“Rather than including just the plants seen most commonly in Southern gardens, we wanted to include a bit of nostalgia in old-fashioned varieties like foxglove and hollyhocks and in stunners like golden rain tree and weeping redbud,” says Acker. “We’ve added berms and boulders for a natural woodland feel and green screens to provide an element of surprise as one rounds a corner.”
There is also a labyrinth encircled by a double “allée” of Yoshino cherry trees planted so closely together that their canopies will eventually touch to form a tunnel of confetti-like blooms.
Labyrinth builder Richie Cole of Knat's Creek Nursery also built the walkways and supplied and installed the plantings. Ken Howell of Howell's Masonry created the wall and boulders, and Joe Granato of Star Ridge Aquatics built the water feature.
Phases two and three of the garden project will include a gathering pavilion where families can hold services or celebrations, a butterfly garden, terraced paths leading to the pond, a rose garden, and a woodland area featuring dwarf conifers, ferns and mosses. A fountain in the pond’s center will add to the garden’s spiritual feel.
“Because the property faces west, you'll be able to see the sun setting through the fountain,” Acker says.
For more information on the Light Up a Life program or on how to dedicate a light, call the FirstHealth Hospice Foundation at (910) 695-7500.
Hospice Gift Shop carries garden-related items
Although references to labyrinths date from Greek mythology and especially the elaborate maze built to contain the half-man/half-bull Minotaur, modern labyrinths are more closely associated with Christian tradition.
“At its most basic level, the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey to the center of one’s deepest self,” says Lynda Acker, co-creator of the woodland garden on the FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care campus.
Acker and others connected with garden hope the Yoshino cherry-encircled labyrinth on FirstHealth Hospice grounds will be a place of quiet respite for patients, families and staff. Those who want to recall that or other garden experiences may want to visit the campus Gift Shop and leave with a memento.
Among the related items to be found in the Gift Shop are small pewter labyrinths – each with an accompanying stylus – that can be used for meditative purposes.
“We also have labyrinth necklaces and other nature-inspired jewelry,” says Hospice Volunteer Services manager Susanne Martínez.
Gift Shop visitors who would like to have a reminder of the Hospice Garden environment in their own garden might be interested in the shop’s assortment of garden stones, prayer flags and wind chimes – some of them designed especially for garden use.
For patients, visitors and staff wanting to spend more time on Hospice grounds, there are stadium blankets, “great for spreading on the grass or a large stone so you can enjoy the outdoors,” Martínez says.
Many of the items in the Hospice Gift Shop were hand-made in the United States and are unique to the shop. Prices for the wide range of available gift selections start at less than $10, and all proceeds benefit FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care programs.