This article by Brenda Harivieux originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Northern Gardener.
The Episcopal Homes of Minnesota in St. Paul has a long history of caring for older adults and offers several care levels and services. With a large campus in the city, gardens are important to the residents. “There’s no green space looking outward from the campus, but when you come in, you enter this beautiful place and have no idea you’re in the city,” says Lindsay Becker, the housing manager at the Midway Point building. “It’s a huge deal to get outside in green spaces for residents, especially for people with mobility problems. So it’s important to make the space nice. The Minnesota Green program has helped us make big change in just two years.”
The campus has four interior courtyards, one big courtyard that links four buildings, raised beds on patios, a sensory garden, vegetable garden plots and other “little pockets of gardens,” Lindsay says. “It’s hard for people who always had a garden to not have tomatoes growing somewhere nearby,” says Lindsay, “so we let them plant what they want to truly make it their home.”
Gardening combats isolation and gets residents outside and interacting with others. “It can be as simple as waking up to water a geranium on the patio—sometimes that’s all it takes for a person to want to get out of bed,” says Lindsay. “They start talking about what they used to grow when they were younger, and they just light up when they remember those happy memories.”