A garden that took root during the pandemic has nurtured a new sense of community for residents at Alexander Mackie Lodge in Langford.
It didn’t take Mary-Lou Konrath long to get a handle on what could make a positive difference for the residents she shared home with at the lodge.
“I moved in just before everything shut down because of the pandemic,” she said. “My suite overlooks the back of the building and I had a vision of what we could do with a garden.”
Konrath met with some like-minded residents to see how they could transform the rough-looking patch of green behind the affordable non-profit seniors housing facility.
“It was all overgrown coming out of winter,” explained the 87-year-old, with an energy level that rivals people half her age. “We all love gardening and so we formed a committee to start a garden club with the approval of administration.”
Although the watering had to be done by hand when they first started, the irrigation system has been mostly repaired since then, Konrath noted.
There was a pagoda out back that wasn’t being used, so Michelle Stewart, in charge of community engagement at Alexander Mackie Lodge, sold it online.
“We used the money to buy four stand-up planters which we filled with vegetable plants,” Konrath said. “The residents donated some of the money we used to purchase soil and plants.”
“The club is a great social opportunity for all of the residents,” Stewart said. “Seeing the committee come together, and the fruit of their efforts, has been really rewarding and beneficial for all 130 of our residents. It gets them outside for fresh air and exercise.”
The garden includes a colourful variety of flowers, as well as tomatoes, kale, head lettuce, green onions, peas carrots, radishes and cucumbers, to which residents help themselves.
It’s also a favourite spot for hummingbirds, thanks to a number of feeders donated by Luv-A-Rug, a Victoria carpet cleaning company that’s raised $15,000 to provide feeders and birdhouses for care facilities throughout the Capital Region.
“The joy we receive seeing the reaction of the residents – some are very depressed, especially during the pandemic – and the smile on their faces when they come down to the garden to see what we’re doing is so rewarding,” Konrath said.
Elsa Bryan, 83, said she had a beautiful garden years ago and made a few suggestions to Konrath regarding what flowers to put in.
Ted Buchanan, 95, jumped at the opportunity to get involved. “I started gardening with my mom 90 years ago and never gave it up,” he said.
Other garden club members include Gordon Knill and Ted McMaster.
The club is organizing a garage sale to raise money for a tool shed and to purchase more plants for fall and summer. “We don’t want to ask the residents for donations again because they were so helpful getting us started,” Konrath stressed.
The public is invited to drop by the garage sale at Alexander Mackie Lodge at 753 Station Ave. on Saturday, July 24 between 9 a.m. and noon. Anyone interested in donating items for the fundraiser should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Konrath’s daughter, Jeannie Carlson, captured the difference the garden has made for the residents. “The dark times were lifted by rays of sunshine brought together by a vision and a hope that living life would return once again,” said Carlson, a nurse and life coach.