The Garden Path ~ Green, Growing, and Blooming Project emerged as a tangible remembered connection and, consequently, a pathway to engagement following my mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, thereby, enlarging her narrowing view of her world. She had been an inveterate gardener and had lived in tune with the seasons. The everyday visual signs of nature—sunshine, birds, raindrops, butterflies, blooming plants, or leaves falling from trees—all had meaning during her active life. Seasonal activities related to gardening remained benchmarks in her sense of time.
Journal Entry ~ Tapestry Memory Care
Journal entry #2 is the story of the garden path plantings in the courtyard of the Dominion Tapestry Memory Care, a for-profit assisted living facility centrally located in Sevierville, Tennessee. The mission of the garden path is to enhance the everyday lives of residents in communal living facilities and to contribute to the overall wellbeing of the residents of the facility. The garden path has a standing invitation to participate and is always extended to residents and visitors who show interest in gardening or planting activities.
My contribution to Tapestry Memory Care was by invitation to enhance already-planted areas in the courtyard and to add areas of focus in the main exterior entryway for the facility. Roses, flowering bushes, and other perennials were planted in the courtyard and flowers and live greenery was planted in an up-cycled watering fountain centrally located in the main entryway.
Plants in the ‘gathering room’ spark stories of birdhouses, plants grown from seed, vegetables, and fruit trees:
Reminiscing and storytelling became the standard as plants were carried through the gathering room to be installed in the courtyard. Residents grouped together at the windows or migrated into the courtyard to oversee our activities. Shared stories included when they planted, how much land they farmed, what vegetables they grew in their gardens, how they cared for fruit trees, and how to build birdhouses. Other residents were engaged, touching the leaves and blossoms, repeating the names of plants, or simply talking about the plants. Non-verbal gestures and smiles indicated the pleasure experienced by residents unable to communicate verbally.
Sweet potato vines spawn stories of a resident’s experiences growing up on a potato farm in Sevier County:
Residents present in the gathering room regularly questioned the names of plants I had brought into the facility. When informed that the plant in the pot was a sweet potato vine, one resident began to tell the story of her family’s yearly trek to the ‘big city’ to sell the potatoes they had grown on the family farm. For her family, the potato money was critical for buying food and supplies. All the kids worked in the fields, and when the potatoes had been put into the truck bed for the trip to market, the family climbed simply aboard on top of the potatoes, with the kids sleeping during the long drive. Although the potatoes made a very bumpy, lumpy bed upon which to sleep, the kids slept because they had gotten up so early to go to market.
Community Art-Shoe Show:
Artworks created by residents were an added feature to the courtyard garden, capturing the imaginations of residents and visitors alike. Individually painted and decorated shoe planters were strategically placed among the plants. The shoe planters reflected each participant’s preferred color combination—usually very bright and colorful, as well as the individual artist’s preference for the style of shoe used to create the planter. Work boots, snow boots, sneakers, sandals, oxfords, and high-heeled shoes equally showcased pansies, petunias, herbs, and blooming groundcovers. The shoe planters marched in place, rested in raised planters, and added a whimsical emphasis to plantings needing a bit of a color. The show was a celebration of the residents’ penchant for bright color combinations, their artistic sensibilities when decorating the common everyday shoe, and the benefit of engaging in shared activities. The Art-Shoe Show was declared a success by all who attended, generating laughter and giggles, as well as comments, such as “Ohhh, that is my Uncle Joe’s boot!”
Residents, staff, and visitors expressed appreciation for plantings highlighting the entryway and walks in the courtyard, enjoying newly planted groupings of blooming plants, the birdbath, and the art objects. A sense of community and the important connections community offers grew in this garden, as residents and volunteers offered advice, their ideas for grouping plantings in the existing beds, discussed how to maintain the flower garden, and shared in the enjoyment of blooming bushes, reflective of the participative and inclusive perspectives shared among gardeners.
-Story contributed by Carol P.