UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital


The UF Health Children’s Healing Garden is a one-of-a-kind resource designed to uplift the spirits of our patients and families through distraction, relaxation and physical activity. This distinctive environment complements the superb medical care provided at UF Health Shands Hospital and UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, by promoting healing and wellness through connection with nature. Our goal is to offer a place to relieve stress, improve mental well-being and provide an opportunity for patients to leave the indoor hospital environment. By giving children and families a place to connect with nature, we hope to revitalize and renew their energy and strength.

Our healing garden, which creates dynamic, nature-based play and learning spaces, received seed funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, and additional funds were raised within the community through local businesses and private donors.

A wooden arbor adorned with vivid purple and red passion flower vines marks the entryway to the gardens. When visitors enter, they are greeted with vibrant lantana plants, butterfly milkweed and salvia plants, which provide pops of color throughout the grounds and attract native butterflies. A small accessible stage allows for impromptu performances by children and visitors, allowing their imaginations to temporarily transport them anywhere. The garden also includes walking paths, a nature art area, a relaxation area with seating, raised gardening beds, a wheeled toy path and interactive areas for children of all ages to engage in unstructured exploratory play.

The landscaping and hardscaping were a team effort, involving many different hospital departments, agencies, architects and contractors. The team took special care to select design elements that would comfort and inspire children during their hospital stays. Plants native to the area were chosen by experts to provide year-round greenery and visually captivate the attention of children.

We have been using the space in a limited capacity due to COVID restrictions this year. Children are using the space and meaningful therapeutic interventions are taking place on a smaller 1:1 scale. We are hopeful that next year will bring more opportunities to use the space with more children. We are also hopeful that volunteers and community partners will be able to join us again soon in the future. Without this support our staffing is limited in the space.