Fort Lewis Fisher House gets landscaping upgrade
November 2, 2009
- Madigan Soldier volunteers to spruce up Fort Lewis Fisher House
Serving the military and country he loves so much has taken on another meaning for Sgt. Jeremiah Harcourt.
The landscape design expert working in the Department of Social Work at Madigan Army Medical Center, gave up his summer weekends to completely overhaul 700 square feet of the landscape at the Fort Lewis Fisher House.
The statistics of materials used don't match the beauty and healing aspects that it will bring to the Fisher House guests: more than 200 plants, four tons of stone, seven cubic yards of mulch and 200 labor-intensive man hours - all donated and volunteered.
A retaining wall, sprinkler system, picnic area and rock sculptures were just some of the improvements.
According to Harcourt, a professional landscapist for six years, the new landscape should provide a more private, intimate place for the Families staying at the house.
"It was landscaped to not make the Families feel so open to the rest of the world, especially with them hurting," Harcourt said.
The Fisher House could have chosen to rip up the existing landscape and start new, but that is where Harcourt's expertise came into play.
Close to finishing his degree in landscape design with a specialization in Japanese landscape and gardens, the 33-year-old native from Lancaster, Penn., decided to fuse Japanese and American landscape techniques together to create the new look for the Fisher House.
Japanese landscaping lends itself to small places, which works well for the Fisher House.
A giant 70-foot tree juts out of the ground in the back of the house, and it would have been incredibly difficult for Harcourt to remove it.
So he designed around it, finding Japanese plants and trees that can thrive underneath a natural canopy like the original tree.
Next spring, visitors to the Fisher House should be on the look out for Japanese maples, rhododendrons (also native to Washington state), azaleas, weeping birches, to name a few.
The hardest part of the project was finding the right rocks that wouldn't overpower the rest of the landscaping and look natural.
He said the problem with American landscapers is that they will implement very expensive rocks and create elaborate rock formations that look unnatural.
This is why he is so into the Japanese design element - creating a controlled, natural design using mostly non-native plants - that's the challenge for him.
"Creating a natural look that didn't feel out of place, yet seemed controlled - that really appealed to me," the volunteer gardener said.
The whole idea to transform the scenery started after the Fisher House installed a new patio in the back yard. "The area just looked so bare," he said.
"War hospitals during World War I and II had gardens, which helped people heal, and Madigan and the Fisher House should be no different."
Harcourt equated the generating of life through gardening to the peace-keeping and building up of communities that the military undertakes in a time of war, both home and abroad.
"There are many exciting things for Soldiers to do that make a genuine impact on peoples' day-to-day lives without the shroud of war to cover up the intentions," he said.
"Like the military, in gardening, spending time in nature heals the heart, and if you do a good job, what you have accomplished will last years beyond your own life."