PMG’s Therapeutic Horticulture Program Earns Applause

PMG Susan Seidler (top) works with Adult Care Center members to weed the Sensory Garden.

The Piedmont Master Gardeners’ Therapeutic Horticulture team won a recent shout-out from the Jefferson Area Board for Aging, which praised the volunteers’ work at JABA’s Adult Care Center in Charlottesville. The center provides daycare for older adults and for adults of all ages with disabilities, while at the same time offering respite and support for family caregivers.

PMGs coach and teach as they work.

In its latest newsletter, JABA recognized the Piedmont Master Gardeners who have been working since April to develop a “sensory garden” at the facility. Planting in raised beds that allow easy access for individuals with mobility issues, PMGs have helped center members establish plants that stimulate all the senses.

For sight, the garden offers visual interest from season to season with hostas, hellebores, foamflower, coreopsis, penstemon, Virginia Sweetspire, New England aster and much more. For touch, there are velvety lamb’s ears, feathery fennel and smooth Autumn Joy sedum. For scent, native vines such as coral honeysuckle and Clematis virginiana are complemented by fragrant herbs, from chocolate mint to pineapple sage to anise hyssop. These herbs appeal to taste as well, as do red-veined sorrel, parsley and chives. And for sound, a stroll through the garden offers the rustle of little bluestem grasses. The splash of a water feature will be added this summer.

The Adult Care Center garden appeals to all senses!

The sensory garden is one of the first major projects of PMG’s new Therapeutic Horticulture program, which uses hands-on work with plants to improve the lives of people with a wide range of mental and physical challenges. Among other goals, PMG’s aim is to help participants learn new skills and achieve a greater appreciation for the natural world, while also fostering their creativity, social interaction, and sense of self-worth in their community.

PMGs Nancy Watkins (left) & Kathy Thomas (right).

The committee that spearheads this work, including the sensory garden at JABA’s Charlottesville Adult Care Center, includes Christine Appert, Sheila Balian, Marie Callahan, Fern Campbell, Ellen Mayoue, Jane McCarty, Liz Stoner, Kathy Thomas, Nancy Watkins, Donna Vinal and Susan Seidler. Ruth Iwano also has supported the JABA project with donations of Green Elephant items, and Nancy Watkins’ spouse, Kevin, installed trellising to support climbing plants at the JABA center.

PMGs Marie Callahan & Sheila Balian (center) with Adult Care Center members tending herbs. Photo Credit: JABA