Prior to the building of the new headquarters for the Massachusetts Medical Society, a committee was formed of Society members, employees of the Society, and members of the Alliance (spouses of Society members) to collaborate with the building and landscape architects to design gardens for the new campus and an atrium garden to be located inside of the new building.

Following the lead of the principal building architect, the committee chose the same two themes for the gardens as the architect had chosen for the building: (1) nature and (2) medical history and tradition.

The ad hoc committee for landscape design approached the task with the mindset of designing gardens for the campus site rather than selecting foundation plants to adorn a large building. The result is a number of gardens that can be perceived as a collection of garden short stories that includes a medicinal garden to tell an important story.

The idea for the medicinal garden originated with Dr. Shirley MacIver, whose vocation was a researcher in pulmonary diseases and whose avocation was designing, implementing, and maintaining gardens. A master gardener in her own right, Dr. MacIver, who worked on the herbal gardens of Plimoth Plantation and Heritage Plantation, designed the MMS HORTUS MEDICUS. Of all the gardens on the campus, including the wild flower garden on the banks of Pond B and the atrium garden, the medicinal garden ranks as “the signature garden,” we chose the name HORTUS MEDICUS because it best symbolizes the Society’s healing and teaching missions, and because it evoked the history and tradition of European medicinal gardens of the Renaissance. In addition, that garden confers a unique sense of a medical place to the edifice that sets it apart from other corporate headquarter buildings.