To 89-year-old Joseph Grindel, the Seeders and Weeders Garden at Canterbury Place is much more than a pleasant place to relax in this Lawrenceville retirement community.
"It's actually keeping me alive, to tell you the truth," he says quietly.
The genesis of the garden was in 1987 when Jean Robinson and Eleanor (Gishie) Scully asked fellow members of the Seeders and Weeders Garden Club to create an outdoor area for residents. Since then, there have been additions and renovations, all with help from club members.
The Seeders and Weeders were recently recognized for their work at Canterbury by UPMC. The club was named a Celebrating Senior Champions Community Champion for 25 years of service, designing and maintaining this garden. Canterbury Place is part of the UPMC network. On this day, Mr. Grindel and a dozen others start the process of putting the garden to bed and preparing for spring. Annuals are pulled out, hostas cut back and daffodils are sunk into the ground.
At the base of a large, round planter, Sarah Reed of Aspinwall gently puts a peony in place. She has brought from her own garden a peony with special meaning to her.
"It's called 'Sorbet' and was given to me by my older sister. Every time that flower comes up in the garden, you think of that person," she says.
She hopes the stunning double pink flowers will remind Canterbury residents of the garden club, but also "of ice cream, because it looks like rainbow sherbet," she says, laughing.
As she moves on to plant some perennials, she explains why she is there. "I love to take care of it because it brings such joy to the residents."
Gloria Aubele is one of the residents who spends warm days enjoying the garden. "It's so nice, it makes you feel good," she says.
Another resident, Anna Pasquarelli, says: "I like to sit in the sun. It makes you feel like you're at home."
In the back of the garden, Molly Widdoes, 13, of Aspinwall is hard at work, planting daffodils and pulling weeds without complaint. The daughter of club member Joan Widdoes, she has been coming here since she was a toddler.
"I really like to help my mom and this isn't like a chore. This is kind of fun for me. ... When we're done, it looks really nice."
Dressed in her garden clothes and blue headband, Rachel Stevens of Indiana diligently cuts back large hostas. Her grandmother was a resident of Canterbury Place until she passed away in 1994.
"This place is near and dear to my heart, coming back to where she spent her last years," she says. Residents "get to look at beautiful flowers, colors, birds and bees. It's a really pleasant place for them to enjoy. I like making them happy."
Donnie Scruggs, director of activities, appreciates the home-like feeling the garden provides. He's been known to climb the apple tree at the edge of the garden to pick fruit for residents, which they love.
"There's something special about having fruit in the inner city, growing here in Lawrenceville," he says.
Mr. Grindel, the only resident working this day, pulls white and pink begonias out of a bed. He started marigolds from seed in his room, then transplanted them to a raised bed. Other boxes held tomatoes, lettuce and onions.
"At home, when I was done with work, I was in the garden all the time," he recalls. "It's the same way here. It's just part of me. It's in my blood."