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Gardens and green roofs provide connection with nature to promote healing 

Columbia St. Mary’s Hospitals are dedicated to healing more than just physical injuries and illnesses. Mending the spirit through the use of nature can have a profound impact on a patient’s health. Access to nature is proven to reduce stress, promote faster healing, lessen the need for medications and actually decrease the length of a hospital stay. With this in mind and help from donors to Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation, Columbia St. Mary’s has created several calming natural environments for its patients and their families.


The Dr. Bradley W. Mays Tribute Garden
honors Dr. Mays for the impact he
had on his peers, patients and the

Gardens offer patients and caregivers time to reflect

The Ozaukee Hospital is home to the “Dr. Bradley W. Mays Tribute Garden.” The garden, located directly north of the cafeteria on the hospital’s garden level, was built in memory of Dr. Mays, who was the chief of surgery at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Ozaukee and passed away unexpectedly in July 2008. He is described as a beloved colleague and brilliant surgeon, who is remembered for his passion for life’s work and how he improved the lives of thousands of patients.

Created at the wishes of those physicians and caregivers who worked closely with Dr. Mays, the tribute garden features lush plant life, a beautiful water fountain and serves as a place for caregivers and patients to find respite from their busy day. It is a beautiful tribute to honor the impact Dr. Mays had on his peers, patients and the community.

A second Ozaukee Hospital garden, called the Reflection Garden, is scheduled to be completed by fall 2010. When planning the Reflection Garden, staff looked to ease the often taxing experience of a hospital stay or treatment by providing a connection with nature. This outdoor zen-like view aims to promote healing for patients and serves as calm scenery for families and caregivers to gaze upon.

“Visitors and patients can use the quiet places within these gardens to reflect, invigorate and renew themselves,” says Lisa Froemming, president and CEO of Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation. One hundred percent of the funds necessary to develop, plant and maintain the gardens have been provided for by donors to CSM Foundation.


The healing gardens at the Milwaukee Hospital are set to bloom in spring 2011. 

The healing gardens at the Milwaukee
Hospital will bloom in spring 2011.

“We are honored to offer our support to make these life-affirming green spaces a reality.”

With plans to grow healing gardens at the Milwaukee campus in spring 2011, Columbia St. Mary’s will continue to use evidence-based design to create calming, stress-reducing environments. Plant life will be chosen so the gardens can be enjoyed during all seasons, and water elements aim to calm the body, mind and spirit. Seating areas will offer a place where patients may quietly rest or visit with loved ones.

These gardens will come to life under the guidance of Columbia St. Mary’s gardens designer, Dennis Buettner, F.A.S.L.A., who is well known in Milwaukee for his design of the Villa Terrace gardens.

Green roof positively impacts patient experience and environment


This 6,000 square-foot green roof was planted during construction of the Milwaukee Hospital.

This 6,000 square-foot green roof was planted during construction of the Milwaukee Hospital. 

Much like the Ozaukee gardens, the green roofs at the new Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Milwaukee aim to provide visitors peace and comfort during what can sometimes be a challenging time.

The green roofs turn otherwise wasted space into a healing tool. Research shows that incorporating greenery, flowers, and water into a hospital or clinic environment encourages stress reduction, elevates positive feelings and reduces negative emotions.

Research also suggests that natural settings can promote changes in blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and brain activity.


In spring of this year, thanks to a generous gift from the Johnson Controls Foundation, the first 6,000 square-foot green roof was planted during the hospital’s construction above the atrium on the corner of Lake Drive and North Avenue.

Beyond providing beautiful views from within the hospital, the Johnson Controls Green Roof has other important responsibilities.

“The green roof, also known as a ‘live roof system,’ will positively impact the patient experience and the environment,” said Paul Westrick, vice president of mission integration & advocacy for Columbia St. Mary’s.


A green roof offers a pleasant view and is eco-friendly.

A green roof offers
a pleasant view
and is eco-friendly.

The green roof provides environmental benefits like capturing rainwater to keep it out of the regional sewer system, providing significantly lower energy costs and reducing urban ‘heat island’ effect, which is when developed city areas are hotter than nearby rural areas.

A second, 12,400 square-foot green roof will be located above the middle building section along North Avenue. Construction and planting of the additional green roof space will occur prior to the new hospital’s opening in October. Both roofs will contain a variety of green plants that are expected to be in full bloom when the new hospital opens.

Columbia St. Mary’s is grateful to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District for a grant to install this second green roof.

“This additional grant money will allow us to triple our green roof space and have a greater visual and educational impact on over 2,000 employees and 1,000 patients and visitors that will utilize our hospital every day,” said Westrick. “It will be one more key element in our efforts to provide a calm healing environment for our patients and their families.”

Click here to make a gift to the healing gardens.


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