Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tips for Senior Gardening 2 - How to Design and Modify Your Garden by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker

Benches provide places to rest, photo by Donna Duffy
When I found out I had a degenerative disease I also learned I was part of a large group:  nearly 20% of Americans have disabilities. Although not everyone is handicapped, we all age. We need gardens that can take care of themselves as we mature.  My garden, like yours, needs to be easy to access, reasonably low maintenance but still beautiful. Following are a few design elements I learned, with advice from some experts, on transforming your gardening from a daunting list of chores into a rewarding, joy-filled activity. 

Design your Sustainable Garden
As your garden matures with you, plan its design to make the garden easier to access and maintain. Although it also needs to be easy to be tended by others not as knowledgeable on gardening methods, like grandchildren or the helpful next-door neighbors. By planting in clusters or more rigid designs it will be easier to tell helpers how to differentiate between valuable plants and weeds. Keep a notebook with detailed records of your garden for whomever takes it over in the future. 

Weedy patch or the Chelsea Flower Best Show Garden? Photo by Carol Russell
Design Tips
The garden should be mentally interesting, colorful, fragrant, and lovely throughout the year. Here are a few of my thoughts on therapeutic garden design.
  • Establish focal points.  They provide an anchor amid the chaos of nature.
  • Provide spaces and places to rest.  A bench in an enclosed courtyard provides a calming, encompassing feeling to the garden. 
  • Repetition of similar plant colors, shapes and textures gives a rhythm to the garden symphony. The brain gets overloaded by random, overstuffed, mixed-borders.

Pretty plant pairings, photo by Carol Russell
  • Minimize the lawn and mowing chores: Rather, think of putting in a horseshoe or boci ball court to spend time in the garden. 
  • Balance and harmony of the garden design is more restful and peaceful.
  • Contrast clean lines of bed edging with lush groups of verdant growth.

My friend Leota's Grand Junction backyard, photo by Carol Russell
Design Tips 
Sydney Eddison, author of the book, Gardening for a Lifetime - How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older recommends:
  • Substitution of low-maintenance plants for demanding ones; 
  • Shrubs can contribute as much beauty to the garden as perennials, and are easier to care for; 
  • Shady gardens are easier to maintain than sunny ones;
  • Timely pruning will help keep the garden from getting out of hand; and
  • Downsizing the garden, and getting some help, may be the best way to keep your sanity. 

The day we get the garden finished is the day we retire from gardening.

Additional References
Patty Casssidy, 2011.  “The Illustrated Practical Guide to Gardening for Seniors: How to Maintain a Beautiful Outside Space with Ease and Safety in Later Years”.

Patty Cassidy, 2013. “The Age-Proof Garden: 101 practical ideas and projects for stress-free, low-maintenance senior gardening”.

Janeen R. Adil, 1994. “Accessible Gardening for People with Physical Disabilities: A Guide to Methods, Tools, and Plants”.by Janeen R. Adil  (Author) Rosemarie Rossetti.