riverview-garden1Patients are allowed to get their hands dirty at the rejuvenated rooftop garden at Riverview Medical Center. (Photos by Peter Lindner; click to enlarge)


It sat idle for years, a tangle of ivy and weeds bound by three brick walls and one of glass.

A rooftop deck created on the fifth floor of Red Bank’s Riverview Medical Center had fallen into disuse, and then a state of neglect.

But a recreational therapist, Jo Ellen Ross, saw in it the potential to create an environment conducive to recovery for patients of the hospital’s rehabilitation program, says rehab manager Brian Walch.

At Ross’s urging, the hospital has revived the garden, starting from scratch and giving the area “a really dynamic facelift,” says Walch.

Volunteers from the Monmouth County Cooperative Extension’s master gardner program helped select plants that would provide a continual, year-round blooming of colors and fragrances, he says. Sickles Market donated the plants, and local Girl Scouts helped plant them.

The idea was to incorporate the “healing garden” into the inpatient rehab ward by making it available to patients who may be in the unit for days, weeks or longer while re-acclimating themselves to performing tasks after procedures that include amputations and brain surgeries, Walch says.

Patients are encouraged to plant and tend flowers and vegetables, or just sit and soak in the color. Through a wall of windows, they can also enjoy the garden from indoors.

“The essence of our unit is to be able to get patients to return them to their home environments,” says Walch. “This is very helpful in that. But just being able to get out and get some sunlight is an obvious benefit.”