Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Aging Gardener

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Wednesday 25th of September, 2013 at the home of Marilyn Carter in Woodland.  Lynda Woodall was the cohost for the meeting. Members and guests were welcomed inside with refreshments and to meet Terri Edwards from Columbus and a member of the Windsor Garden Club.

When Edwards joined the Windsor club she noted she was twenty plus years younger than all the members, and they were at an age where they could no longer work in and enjoy their gardens. The club was a social one but not a working garden club.

Edwards, wife of a chiropractor, studied up on ways the aging gardener could maneuver outside, tools that made work safer and easier, plus exercises that helped the aging frame. Whether the aging problem is arthritis keeping the joints from full function or losing eyesight, balance or memory, Edwards had helpful tips that can keep avid gardeners in their element.

Raised beds and vertical gardens allow better accessibility to plants. They mean less stooping and bending and also allow wheelchair access. Marking paths is an easier way to find your way around the garden when the feet shuffle more than take steps.  Smooth surfaces improve movement; indicator strips mark pathways for those with memory loss, reflectors and focal points help aging eyes.

Using larger seeds allows arthritic hands to handle the seeds better also bright plants are easier on aging eyes. Gail Coffee seconded one tip that gave a positive review to hand massagers that are a proven help for arthritic hands.

Overall a change in garden routine is beneficial: work one hour a day for five days rather than five hours in one day.

Edwards had a list of tools that also help the aging gardener: power and ratchet loppers make trimming and pruning easier; longer handles increase reach instead of the gardener stretching and getting off balance; D shaped handles on spades and digging tools; fluorescent paint sprayed on tools so they may be found when lost in the garden; and hospital foam to spray on tool handles. The foam makes a handle that hardens into a custom grip. Battery powered weed eaters and blowers were a popular suggestion because of their weight, no gasoline smell, and no cords to trip over.

Edwards finished by showing the club exercises that help the legs and spine and core. Because our heads are our heaviest part, she recommends throwing back the head, stretching back the spine and opening the vertebras to let fluid in. She pointed out we are up to an inch and a half taller when we lie horizontal than when we stand.

To improve balance she recommended raising the knee then the arms and closing the eyes. Balance exercises are a key to staying healthy and active as we age and yoga helps with balance. To strengthen the back, Edwards demonstrated pelvic lifts. Rotating the ankles is a good way to keep strong ankles. One member shared a tip from her doctor to discourage spider and varicose veins: prop feet and wiggle the toes for ten minutes. This discourages the pooling of blood in the legs. Edwards also said don’t cross your feet when you sleep as that encourages blood clots.

After the program the club walked Marilyn Carter’s garden that is scenically curved around the end of a lake.  Beds and borders and unique art keep the eye focused and amused. One bedding area has lavender and purple flowers blooming in every season. Carter collected and painted bicycle rims in matching violet shades and they support the taller willowy plants.

Carter’s eye catchers sparkle in the sun. They are made from cut glass dishes she picks up at estate sales and thrift shops and then wires onto bike rims. One favorite area for the club is her woodsy outdoor gazebo anchored by a large metal machinery wheel over five feet in diameter. Hanging pots of blooms close in the outdoor room and Carter divided and shared ground covers and ferns with garden clubbers. Her blue wine bottle beds and art are attractive eye catchers whether on a bottle tree or lining the flower beds. Glass and pottery art and bowling balls add interest and color to the beds.  Her newest area is dedicated to Alice in Wonderland and features checkered paver walkways, elegant silver tea services, roses, and croquet mallets marking off the flower beds.

            After the garden tour members wound through Marilyn Carter’s equally intriguing home where they enjoyed lunch.  The day happened to have lower temperatures and we felt the first chill of fall. The huge pot of homemade soup and plate of sandwiches and tiramisu dessert were a perfect finish to the meeting.

          The next meeting of the garden club will be in October where the group will take in the fall plants at the Riner’s at Thunderwood Farm in Woodbury. We will be joined by master gardeners from LaGrange along with Helen Phillips.  Jackie Reynolds and Joan Allen are hosting the meeting.