Darlene Ask, a resident of Harmony Healthcare, helps water the plants in the container garden outside the nursing home.
Darlene Ask, a resident of Harmony Healthcare, helps water the plants in the container garden outside the nursing home.
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Emma Every loves gardening and created a beautiful garden in her own home over the years. However, since becoming a resident at the Harmony Healthcare Nursing Home, she helps staff and other residents maintain the gardens in the nursing home's courtyard.

The memory garden on the west side of the nursing home contains plants given in memory or in honor of retired nurses and former residents. The benches that line the paths were donated by the Harmony Lions Club and allow residents to take a rest while strolling through the garden.

According to Janet Ewalt, an employee in the activities department, the garden is a sanctuary for many and a place where residents can get their gardening fix while helping water and care for plants.

The new Memory Garden was created last summer, with the help of volunteers and members of the Harmony Lions Club and the Greenfield Lutheran Youth Group. With a blueprint provided by The Treehouse in Chester, Iowa, the residents of the nursing home quickly began thinking of plants they would like to see located there.

Ewalt shared that residents remembered their mothers' gardens as well as their own and suggested their favorites - lilacs, roses, peonies and black-eyed Susans.

Members of the residents' families were asked to support the garden project, purchasing plants and flowers in memory or in honor of loved ones.

Sue Ommen, one of the organizers for the garden, shared that no one expected the overwhelming support from the community. Not only were people willing to supply plants for the garden, but local Girl Scout troops purchased some trees for the garden.

Veda Elston, a retired nurse, purchased plants in honor of her 29 years of service as a nurse at the care center and Dr. Franz and Diana Sattler purchased perennials in honor of his 40 years as being a dentist in the community.

Others donated plants from their own gardens, like Alta Bates, who gave hostas.

Ommen said it will take another two years before the garden is in its full glory as many of the perennials need time to mature before blooming.

Future plans include adding wheelchair-accessible swings, tables and chairs throughout the garden to create resting spots for those out enjoying the pretty blooms. Another dream, Ommen added, is to place a gazebo at the edge of the garden.

The garden now provides a special spot for the residents to sit and enjoy the flowers and foliage, to visit with friends and family and to share a memory or two of their favorite gardens of the past.

It is meant to also be a therapeutic spot, a place for residents to enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of a summer day or a place where the residents can dig their fingers into the soil and enjoy once again the process of making a seed come to life.

There are so many benefits to be found in the garden, including a bit of exercise as residents dig in the soil or water their emerging plants. While some heavy tasks are inappropriate for older residents, many gardening tasks offer a great opportunity for residents to stretch muscles and gently increase their heart rates. Planting seeds, pulling weeds and pruning flowers are great occupational therapy activities.

Gardening can also prove to be beneficial for one's mind as well. When one is in the garden, colors, aromas and the feel of cool soil and warm blooms can improve one's overall mood. Plus, interaction with others who enjoy gardening improves ones' wellbeing as a result of social interaction.

Finally, the nursing home's garden can simply provide an outlet for one's talents. Like Emma Every, who had to leave her garden at home, this Memory Garden provides her with a special place to participate in a hobby she loves.