As a Master Gardener, I have many opportunities to help many organizations and individuals. Very often these experiences result in a greater gift to me than the effort I’ve given to the particular group. Such has been the experience with my work with Holy Angels’ horticultural therapy program. After all, spending time in a greenhouse in February cannot be compared the cold weather we’ve suffered through this winter.
The horticulture therapy program at Holy Angels was started with the building of a greenhouse on September 30, 2000. Original funding of this project included Auto Carolinas Chapter, Gaston Christian School, Knights of Columbus, Pilot, Harley Owners of Gaston County, and Power of the Past Tractor Club. In fact the Power of the Past Tractor has sold tickets each year for the chance to win a refurbished antique tractor and this year appeared at the Southern Spring Show with the “Angel Tractor” to provide funds to the Holy Angels program.
If you haven’t been in this area for long, you may not know that Holy Angels provides care and enrichment for individuals with mental and physical disabilities. These individuals are often medically fragile and require constant attention from highly qualified care takers. Horticulture therapy provides the residents with a different venue and sensory experiences only to be gotten through interaction with plants. Residents participant according to the level of activity each can experience. Sometimes the residents participate through a “hand over hand” method, having the care takers place their hands over the resident’s to fill pots with soil and add plants to each. Other sensory experience may include smelling herbs as they are transplanted or to touch and hear the bubbling water of the fish pond in the greenhouse.
Gaye Dimmick is the person supervising the horticultural therapy at Holy Angels. She explained that residents are a part of the whole process of the gardens from the transplanting of seedlings to the planting of the plants in the square foot garden system to harvesting the plants, and on to the serving of the vegetables at the Cherub Restaurant on main street in Belmont. Extra produce goes to other group homes in the area so there is no waste.
The square foot garden is in its third season of operation and have just this year installed the “Green Waves” water management system. This is a timed system whose purpose is to use water efficiently through a series of emissions.
In talking with Sister Nancy, Public Relations Director, and Gaye Dimmick I become aware that the connection between the residents of Holy Angels and plants is greater than just the mere exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen gases. As all gardeners, these individuals at Holy Angels love the smell of soil and fragrance of herbs and vegetables.
Each person places that small plant into the “good earth” and waits for the harvest in the form of a ripe red tomato to be picked and eaten with joy.
Holy Angels is holding their plant sale, open to the public on May 6 and 7, 2010. Proceeds from this sale go back into the horticultural therapy program. The Master Gardeners Group in Gaston County and the herbal garden group, Rosemary and Thyme have been busily transplanting hundreds of plants into pots to sell at the this plant sale so I can attest to the vigor and variety of the plants available. The Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale is the week before on Saturday, May 1, 2010 and any left over plants (if any are left!) will be donated to Holy Angels Plant Sale
As usual, arrive early at these plants sales (8:00 am) to get your pick of the varieties available. Purchasing plants at these two sales is a perfect way to begin adding flowers, vegetables, and herbs to your own garden at a reduced price and support these worthy causes which provide such a positive impact on our community. Please go buy some plants at both of these plant sales and feel the sunshine of spring both on your face and your heart.