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Garden offers respite from sounds in the hospital
Landscaper designs area of serene silence at Northeast Georgia Medical Center
A large fountain is the centerpiece of the Pope Family Garden in the Women and Children’s Pavilion at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

For more information about Mark Fockele, pick up Sunday’s edition of The Times. Fockele is featured in the next Georgia Original series.

Inside the waiting room is a cacophony of beeping alarms, hissing elevator doors, rushing feet and chatter punctuated by cough. But in the garden, all is quiet.

The four high walls of the hospital bordering the small garden muffle even the sounds of the busy highway outside. The only sound is a fallen Magnolia leaf scraping along the ground with the wind.

The Pope Family Garden located between the Women and Children’s Pavilion and the Infusion Center at Northeast Georgia Medical Center offers what walled waiting rooms can’t — a peaceful silence.

The Medical Center Foundation recently dedicated the garden in memory of Ocie and Ralph Pope, longtime volunteers of the hospital. The Fockele Garden Company designed the space along with the other hospital gardens.

Maggie James, campaign manager of the foundation, said the garden is a welcome respite for expectant family members awaiting the arrival of new babies in the adjacent waiting room.

“There is such a significant element of surprise,” James said. “Because if anyone walks in from this building they have this ‘Ah-ha-wow moment.’ There is this beautiful garden right here off of this waiting room in the hospital. It’s just a surprise element to it for visitors and families.”

Mark Fockele, founder of the Fockele Garden Company, said the garden’s unusual location served as the inspiration for the garden space.

“It’s surround by building on all four sides,” Fockele said. “The idea that really drove the design is we were imagining that enclosure as a terrarium. I wanted to just pack it full of just lots of lush vegetation. Particularly vegetation with big, bold dramatic foliage.”

When the garden space was originally laid out shortly after the construction of the Women and Children’s Pavilion almost five years ago, Fockele went ahead and planted Magnolia trees in the corners. Now, many of the leaves measure a foot or more in length.

Small decorative elements, like metal butterflies and frogs, are nestled in the garden around palms and bold, green leaves bringing an element of whimsey to the garden. A sign near the entry encourages young brothers and sisters-to-be to burn off a little energy by seeking out the different sculptural elements in the garden.

But making the garden wasn’t all fun and games.

Fockele laughed and said the soil compaction in the garden wasn’t able to support the originally planned water feature.

“So we junked it,” he said with a smile. “We came up with a new idea that turned out better. That was a fortunate problem that we encountered. It led to a better result.”

Though the garden is complete, it’s only just begun. As the garden matures over the years, the space will seem to become more enchanted.

Fockele said he can’t wait to see how the garden will continue to improve. For now though, he’s pleased with the result.

“I was really happy with the way it all turned out,” Fockele said. “I like that really close intimate feeling the way the vegetation is just packed in with those different textures and those colors of green. It just feels like you’re in a tamed jungle.”