MARIETTA - Marilyn Elston wasn't a gardener until she a resident of the Glenwood Retirement Community two years ago.
She grows tomatoes, peppers, xenias, roses and other plants in raised bed gardens behind the complex with 27 of her fellow residents.
"When you move into a new environment, you have to try things you haven't tried before," she said. "I like to see them grow, and I like to eat the tomatoes, and I like to share."
Hope Keith of the Glenwood Retirement Community waters her flowers in the garden maintained by residents. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
While Elston and other participants in the Glenwood garden program have their designated raised bed gardens, they also help each other and occasionally maintain unclaimed spaces.
"All the people that do it are fun. We have a good rapport," said Dottie Ramsey, another resident who took up gardening after moving to Glenwood. "We say if you want a flower, pick it. If you want a tomato, pick it."
The garden opened in 1998 has been in place, marketing director Debbie Brown said. As part of the facility's commitment to providing a lifestyle for healthy, active and independent seniors, it provides a hub of activity for residents throughout the summer, and many flowers from the garden find their way onto tables in the main dining room, as well as in arrangements throughout the building.
A solarium at Glenwood is also maintained by residents. Kathryn Graham took over those duties earlier this year, assisted by Gladys Stokes.
"We were kind of greenhorns, 'cause Mary Welch had it for seven years," Graham said.
"We haven't killed anything so far," she laughed. "Everything looks pretty good."
The solarium features a variety of plants, including flowers, like orchids, that provide a splash of color even in the winter months.
"They're beautiful," Ramsey said. "Everybody coming to visit usually comments about this."
Graham said she enjoys working in both the solarium and the garden.
"It's good to be busy instead of sitting ... so you don't get bored," she said. "This is your home. And you want it to look nice."
Residents who cannot work in the garden still appreciate it, and often tell Graham they've seen her out sweeping or working in it.
"People who can't get out here, they enjoy looking out," she said.
Resident Christa Cope is particularly proud of the lisanthus flowers she planted in the greenhouse in February and later moved to her outdoor garden. Only five of the 36 she planted survived, with several succumbing to excessive heat in the greenhouse.
"You have to grow them from seeds because nobody around here has the plants, and it's very difficult to get them to germinate," Cope said.