11-10-21 | Department

Survivor Garden

by Tom Eaves, RLA

Marked by the Corten Steel entryway, the Healing Garden, was brought to life by the Forrest General Healthcare Foundation that raised the funds that made the Bill and Becky Oliver Healing Garden a reality. Local landscape architect, Thomas Eaves with Landarc Consulting Group of Hattiesburg, Mississippi brought the design to life. The circular shape of the structure gives patients a sense of confidence and harmony that also welcomes visitors to a happy place full of soft lighting and colorful plantings. The pavers were selected for their path like pattern and blended colors of nature. At the gate there is an engraved sandstone band with the quote, "I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in tune once more."
This aerial view shows the half-acre site's layout. On the left is the parking lot for the Hattiesburg Clinic, the Nellie Stevens hollie lined fence leads into the path which directs visitors through the garden. In the middle of the garden are Corten Steel arches off the main pathway. On the right side of the pathway is a triangular Corten Steel, concrete and Ipe wood lath structure that creates a meeting place to take in nature. Past a flower bed to the right are retaining walls which lead into a creek bed between the Cancer Center and the memorial garden.
Adding a tunnel effect to the garden, these Corten Steel arches represent the cancer journey from beginning to the end with a large faceted glass color bathing element that welcomes you as you begin your journey towards feeling well once again. The garden features curves that represent wholeness and confidence. As visitors make their way through the loop, there are sandstone dividers that say, "Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike." -John Muir
Beneath the shade of oak trees, a Corten Steel, concrete, and Ipe wood lath structure brings shade and a central gathering location to the Healing Garden. Just beyond the retaining walls and creek is the Cancer Center, which this garden offers a reprieve from.
Just past the entry plaza and tucked away among the Oak and Pine trees are bird condos. The bird condos were built by the cancer survivor group, Camp Bluebird. Sitting at varying heights, the bird houses add a natural element to the garden while creating beauty among the garden as people stroll through the path.

In 2013, a group of cancer survivors organized by the Forrest General Cancer Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, began talking about a garden adjacent to the Cancer Center.
The Cancer Center reached out to Thomas Eaves, a local landscape architect with Landarc Consulting Group, also in Hattiesburg, to design the memorial garden which later opened in 2019.
Tom's wife, Diane Eaves, was a two-time cancer survivor, and in their travels around the country, they had dreamed of a healing garden like they had seen in so many large cities. Hattiesburg wasn't large enough to meet the criteria for some of the organizations funding healing gardens.

Then the call came to requesting Eaves to design his dream garden.
The site was a small half-acre natural site across a drainage ditch from the Cancer Center. On the other side of the property is a large parking lot for The Hattiesburg Clinic.
While construction was underway, The Cancer Center needed a renovation as well, so a modular building was added temporarily to the garden site. This temporary design solution gave more time to have small group discussions and tweak the design for the Memorial Garden. Meanwhile, the Forrest General Healthcare Foundation was raising funds to build the $750,000 garden, where they successfully raised 100% of the funds needed.
The project finally began construction in November of 2018 and the dedication was held in June 2019.
The garden features a fenced and heavily landscaped area with a beautiful circular entrance which was constructed of Corten Steel. The memorial garden gets its name after Becky and Bill Oliver, who had been instrumental in many aspects of this hospital, themselves survivors, along with other cancer survivors who made this project possible. Their names are featured on the circular entry because of their involvement in the project. The entry is simple, yet dramatic like cancer. It marks the entrance into the peaceful garden for family and patients to relax and meditate.
Inside the entry is an array of small birdhouses made by a local cancer patient and survivor group called Camp Bluebird.
The garden features a circular walk for a stroll through flowers and benches where one can sit and relax. The pathway pavers were selected to blend in with nature and create a soothing atmosphere within the garden. There are a couple of swings and benches along the way as one weaves through the pathway. The centerpiece of the garden is the triangular-shaped pergola, which was constructed of Corten steel, concrete, and Ipe wood. The pergola provides a protected seating area in the summer for people to meet at picnic tables and round one-piece tables and chairs.
Featuring a small area of lawn to walk on, view, or just enjoy the green open view breaks up the landscape. Along the walk in the rear of the garden, are landscaped steel trellis covered in confederate jasmine with a wonderful glass sculpture that bathes the visitor in various colors as you walk under it.
Plantings were selected so they could be enjoyed year-round. Hattiesburg is in a subtropical climate meaning there are a variety of plantings to choose from. Foundation oaks, elms, magnolias, and crepe myrtles, are here for the duration to enhance, shade, and beautify the garden. The parking lots are buffered by a row of Nellie Stevens hollies that make the garden feel more secluded. Drift roses, distyillium, giant liriope, shi shi camellias, and dwarf limelight hydrangeas are a great way to add seasonal flowers and interest. Flowering color comes from perennial daylilies, rudbeckia, guara, and small annual beds of angelonia and caladiums in pinks and whites make this garden feel like your mother's backyard!


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