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Healing Garden at Markey Cancer Center

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LEXINGTON A former concrete canyon at the Markey Cancer Center is being transformed into a healing garden. Located on the east side of the Ben F. Roach Cancer Care Facility, the garden was designed by Bill Henkel and Wendy McAllister of Henkel Denmark of Lexington and will be called the Lexington Cancer Foundation Healing Garden.

The concept had its roots in 2011, but the work began in December 2012 when the Lexington Cancer Foundation announced funding for 100% of the design and installation. Ground was broken on Oct. 7, 2013, after 10 months of meticulous preparation to ensure that all materials used in the garden area are safe for patients with compromised immune systems.

The Healing Garden is roughly 4,500 square feet. Low Kentucky limestone sit walls enclose the healing garden, which will be visible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with lighting for safety, as it is in a high-traffic area.

No annuals will be planted. All annual will be in pots because planting necessitates digging up soil and releasing dust in the air. Artificial mulches and sterile soil are used, but no bark mulch. Native Kentucky perennials like Solomon’s Seal and Lenten Rose are grown offsite and are delivered in sleeved planters. Because the healing garden’s soil cannot be disturbed, anything with soil will be wet down before transporting and planting. No fountain will be installed, because water contributes to the possibilities of infectious disease.

“Once the garden is planted, we will weed by hand, without using chemical sprays,” said Henkel who is donating five years of care to the garden. Henkel is certified in healing garden design, the only registered landscape architect in Kentucky with that distinction. He earned certification in “healthcare garden design” in May 2011.

The healing garden is designed for patients to get sunshine and fresh air, and for their families, physicians and staff.

Lexington Cancer Foundation has funded a number of patient support and education projects at Markey Cancer Center. Vicky Myers is the chief development officer at UK HealthCare and the College of Medicine. She and Henkel looked around the medical campus before they settled on the site at the Markey Cancer Center.

“I think it’s an excellent addition to the kinds of projects we’ve taken on here to improve the environment of patient care,” Myers said. “It is also a place supportive of the staffs who work here.”