Project brings disabled, elderly into the garden
Leavenworth There's a new reason for residents of assisted living and nursing homes to get outside each week: gardening in the Leavenworth County "enabling garden."
Sue Cobb, who has participated in the Leavenworth County-Kansas State University Extension Office master gardener program for more than six years, conceived the project for physically challenged and elderly persons.
"I see it as a teaching experience," Cobb said, "where we can take ideas and share them with the general public, which is a lot of what the master gardening programs is about."
The master gardener program requires participants to take an eight-week, once-a-week course and a subsequent commitment of 40 community service hours at one of several projects throughout Leavenworth County.
The enabling garden, which is at the extension office, 500 W. Eisenhower Road, is one of those projects, and didn't happen overnight: "It's been a long process; we've been working on it for about three or four years," Cobb said.
Joanne Jones, another master gardener who was involved with securing donations for the project, estimated that the cost of the garden totaled $14,500. Most of that - $11,200 -came from donated supplies and services, including concrete from Geiger and the construction of the shed by Hallmark. Home Depot donated the trellis that hangs over the planters.
The garden consists of five planters measuring about four by four feet, which rise two and a half feet from the ground so that persons in wheelchairs can garden. The garden's supplies include ergonomic tools for disabled users, such as spade with the grip perpendicular to the shaft and a forearm support.
Each planter is dedicated to one of the five senses: the "sight" planter features colorful flowers such as cosmos and spider plants; the "smell" planter of mint and other aromatic plants; "touch" features plants with different textures such as lamb's ears; and "taste" features vegetables including zucchini, squash, and eggplant. Still to be completed is the "sound" planter, which will have a fountain and perhaps wind chimes.
Cobb said her inspiration for the garden was the Buehler Enabling Garden at the Chicago Botanical Garden.
On a recent morning, about 20 residents from different retirement homes and assisted living communities in the area visited the garden, most of them for the first time.
Nicia Horn, a resident at Twin Oaks Independent Living across the street from the garden, said, "I'm real thrilled about this. I was excited about the flowers - you can see them across the street."
Lori Redford, director of Twin Oaks, said the garden was good for residents who participated because "it brings back memories from when they could work on their own gardens."
About nine of the participants on the recent morning were from Twin Oaks, Redford said.
The day's activity for the group was the creation of hanging, drip-proof "knee-high" planters for the participants to take home. The planters were made by stuffing plastic newspaper bags inside knee-high pantyhose, and then filling the bags with dirt. Then a hole was cut into the side, and a flower planted, so that it would come out at an angle.
Verna Bratton, Twin Oaks resident, said she might hang her planter, which featured begonia, inside her room. "I always had a garden at home, and planted all kinds of things," Bratton said.
Maxine Zweickel, another Twin Oaks resident who had visited the garden once previously, said she enjoyed the garden even though she doesn't garden herself. "We just sat and watched them plant," she said.
For information on participating in the enabling garden or donating to it, call Marilyn Judy at 651-5060, or the Extension Office at 250-0300.