Recognizing the connection between the soul and our surroundings, a different kind of specialist is hard at work at the Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital during National Recovery Month, focused on revitalizing a rooftop garden which has become a part of the recovery process at this residential treatment program.
Charles Wepfer, gardener at Rogers’ Oconomowoc location, is applying his expertise to help transform the garden into something that better meets the needs of patients and staff. That includes adding plants that are more suitable for the rooftop garden’s purposes, such as varieties of grasses and perennials from the gardens located in the front yard of the main hospital.
“Right now we are focusing on removing invasive species that have overtaken the garden and creating a design plan that includes plants that will be able to withstand the conditions, yet still be soft to the touch so they can play an active role in the patient’s healing process,” he says.
The rooftop garden was originally constructed one year after Herrington was built in 2009, based off a vision created by Rogers’ staff and supported by the Herrington McBride Alumni Association. The association offered feedback for the garden’s design, including a 12-step walkway to represent the 12 steps of the recovery process, which was added to the garden this past year.
The walkway was purposefully designed in a way that leaves the first four steps clearly visible, representing the relative ease of finding support in the first few steps of recovery. The rest of the steps are partially hidden by plant life and are symbolic of the challenge of the rest of the journey. Bob O., a member of the Herrington McBride Alumni Association and contributor to the garden’s original vision, says, “The hidden steps reflect the idea that patients in the process of addiction recovery must thoroughly follow the path in order to be successful in their daily recovery. Not every part of the journey will be easily seen or understood, but it’s important for them to continue on the path.”
The current project to clean up the plantings will take some time. “The species is aggressive and multiplies easily. Our goal is to have the species totally removed by this spring,” says Wepfer.
Graduation celebrations from the program, outdoor yoga sessions and group reflections are the current uses for the garden. Cindy Suszek, LPC, manager of the Herrington Recovery Center, says, “We are looking forward to these updates to the rooftop garden because it is such a valuable addition to our addiction programs. It’s easy to see that nature has a powerful part in reconnecting a person’s mind, body and spirit.”
Each September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) sponsors National Recovery Month, an observance to raise understanding about mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as to celebrate those people who find recovery.