Healing Garden at Washington D.C. Children’s Hospital Inspired by Child Whose last Wish was to go Outside


Healing Gardens

Healing Garden at Washington D.C. Children’s Hospital Inspired by Child Whose last Wish was to go Outside

Children’s National Health System in Washington marks four years since the hospital opened a rooftop garden dedicated to the first ladies of the United States

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss


A healing garden inspired by a child whose last wish was to go outside was named for Rachel Lambert “Bunny” Mellon in April of 2017. The philanthropist was a longtime friend and mentor to first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who redesigned the White House Rose Garden.

It took 10 months to build with donor funding that added up to about $7 million. At its opening, Children’s Hospital welcomed former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan (before her passing), and Rosalynn Carter to serve as honorary chairs.



“This garden will be a quiet space for children to benefit from nature’s most important elements: fresh air and beautiful views to relax and enjoy in peace,” said Melania Trump when she visited.


Bunny Mellon Healing Garden
at Children's National, Washington, D.C.


Located directly above the hospital’s laboratory, which must always stay operational — construction of the garden called for massive support beams to be added for stronger reinforcement. Typical design materials, soil, and plants could not be used because of concerns they could cause infections in patients with suppressed immune systems.



But the goal — to create an outdoor space with a glass wall to allow a panoramic view of the city for the young patients — was well worth the challenge. Studies have shown children need access to the environment or suffer increased rates of anxiety and depression.

Features of the Mellon Healing Garden at the Medical Center include wide enough doors for hospital beds, power outlets for patients who use machines, and fake grass for visitors with allergies. It is all accessible to patients with wheelchairs, crutches, and IV poles.



A Texas A&M University study found well-designed hospital gardens can improve clinical outcomes by providing a joyous escape from stressful clinical settings. The rewards are heightened patient and family satisfaction, a measurement increasingly tied to hospital reimbursement.

Bunny Mellon’s estate provided a $5 million gift for the 7,200-square-foot garden project at Children’s National. 


Children’s National Health System Hospital



© 2021 Mark Zuleger-Thyss, Garden of Healing. All rights reserved.



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