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Growing Community and Gardens at the Same Time!

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Although the ground is snow covered in much of our state this final week of February-my friends who study Chinese medicine insists we are on the trajectory for spring’s arrival. I have hope. My husband has ordered his seeds and several friends have tiny seedlings sprouting under sunlamps in their guest rooms. If you are not lucky enough to be spending February enjoying baseball Spring Training camp in Arizona or Florida maybe you are dreaming about a garden project? Recently I visited a coffee meeting at a village nearby and met the Vice-President of Silver Spring Village, Peggy Gervasi who shares the following examples of how her village is connecting with gardeners.

Gardening, & community : I didn’t expect to learn how to prune crepe myrtle!

By Peggy Gervasi, Silver Spring Village Vice President, Volunteer and Member

I’ve been with the Silver Spring Village since summer of 2013 – just a few months after I retired from the Federal Aviation Administration and just before the Village launched.   Before my retirement during the vulnerable years when my parents’ health declined I was a caregiver and learned so much about what people need during vulnerable times. We helped them make sense of medications, discharge instructions, and insurance, and taking care of paperwork and the house. As we provided care I wondered how people without our family’s education, resources, and support system managed these life transitions? Who do they turn to when they are at their most vulnerable and most confused?

In my encore career, I wanted to create a community of friends and neighbors who would help their older neighbors through difficult times and a community that would be there when my husband and I needed it. Imagine my delight (which quickly turned to relief) when I learned that just such a community was emerging in my city. I started volunteering with Silver Spring Village, joined the Board, and soon was more and more involved in creating and sustaining the Village.

I expected and got great satisfaction from helping the members with a variety of tasks such as transportation, grocery shopping and gardening. I didn’t expect to learn how to prune crepe myrtle or about ballet or Sondheim’s “Follies”.   But I did, and I now have interesting new friends who share a vision of a supportive community, and really enjoy working toward it together.

I’m not a gardener – weeding is about the extent of my “expertise”. Last spring, our village volunteers helped a new member plant her vegetable garden, and spent many hours weeding for another new member who loves her perennials but isn’t going to be able to care for them this year.  It’s amazing how much more fun the work is when you’re doing it with other friends!  After the weeding, we spent a lovely hour over an alfresco lunch.   Then in May a member had the idea to host our first Plant & Seed Swap.  Here’s the announcement:

Plant & Seed Swap: To paraphrase an old saw, one gardener’s surplus is another’s treasure.  If you have any spare plants, cuttings or seeds (or gardening books or magazines), why not share them with others and you may discover something new to grow.  If you don’t have excess plants or seeds, come anyway as there is bound to be plenty to choose from.  This event is open to Village members, volunteers, and their guests.  

It was a huge success.  About 30 people attended and I, for one, went home with about a dozen new – and free! – perennials and even an invitation to “come by anytime and take as much Lilly of the Valley as you want.”

 Our village also decided to invite one member’s landscape designer who is a master gardener to give a talk. Here’s our announcement:

Four Season Garden Design – Learn from a landscape designer how to create gardens with year-round interest. She will share some of her favorite plants.  She will help you extend the beauty into all four seasons. This can be accomplished using plants with long bloom periods, striking flower buds, persistent flowers, seed pods and berries, and through color, texture, structure or shape.  She is a Master Gardener and a local licensed landscape contractor, designing, installing and maintaining residential landscapes since 2002.  She loves helping homeowners envision and create the gardens they have always wanted.  She also teaches garden design to University of Maryland Montgomery County Extension’s Master Gardeners.

 Throughout the summer a couple of us member-volunteers helped another member beat back weeds and vines in her garden. This member who needed help is practically an expert on plants and gardening and provided a running tutorial about the plants, and guided our work.  Then in the Fall, she wanted me to prune her three 15′ crepe myrtles. I had the balance and strength and borrowed tools from neighbors. She taught me how to prune. I found that getting to know each other was the best payoff, though.

 Note from Carol:

So spring is coming! How is your Village getting ready for garden season? As our blog readers can see from Peggy’s article sometimes joining a village program can introduce new hobbies and interests into your life that you never anticipated.

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