Time spent at village ‘feeds my soul,’ says horticultural therapist
Horticulture is Nancy McPhee’s life; with her hands immersed in dark soil as she inhales the leafy aroma of garden vegetables or lush flowers, she’s in her glory, and sharing this passion with residents of the Village of Erin Meadows compounds upon this glory pure joy.
She says her day job as a specialist in landscape horticulture wholesaling pays her bills and “feeds my mortgage,” while time spent at Erin Meadows “feeds my soul.”
|Erin Meadows resident Violet Hale takes a moment to smell the lavender during one of the horticultural therapy sessions at the village, hosted by Nancy McPhee.|
Two nights a week and every Saturday Nancy helps residents enjoy the simple pleasures found in gardening. Through winter, the small greenhouse at the village is a hive of activity as the group starts plants from seed, and every spring planting day transfers that activity to the accessible raised garden beds outside.
As she reflects on the May 19 planting day, she considers the joy she sees on the residents’ faces as they participate in the act of giving life to new plants.
“It’s amazing how they react when it comes to gardening,” she says, noting that whether it’s elders who are fully cognitive or those living with dementia, reaction to the work is immensely positive.
She recalls one resident whose mobility is limited due to a stroke but nevertheless eagerly participates when it comes to the gardens.
“For her, spring is feeling the warmth of the sun on her back as she’s digging in the dirt,” says Nancy.
For many residents, Nancy says time in the garden allows them to recall fond memories of agriculture in their earlier lives — the village is filled with people from diverse cultural heritages, all with different connections to gardening.
“You should see the Italians grow their tomatoes,” she says with a laugh, noting that lessons she provides during sessions helps residents who are less familiar with the art of gardening to understand the process.
In spring, the village raises money through an annual plant sale and in autumn, dried flowers and plants are used in crafts that are then sold at the Christmas bazaar, after which time thoughts turn to starting seeds in the greenhouse to begin the cycle once more.
“We’re working with the garden, taking from the garden and giving back to the garden,” and the residents take extra pride in it, knowing they’ll raise a bit of money to go back into the community in the process, says Nancy.
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