Originally Published: June 17, 2005 5 a.m.
PRESCOTT Not only is the sensory garden at the Margaret T. Morris Center an enjoyable and peaceful place for the residents to spend time, it also is full of interactive art that stimulates their minds and enhances their senses of touch, smell, sight and even taste.
Garden beds line the walls of the covered patio and colorful flowers, wind chimes, touchable sand and water features are accessible from the figure-eight path that leads through the one-acre garden.
Susan Rheem, director of the center, said, "the earth (where the garden sits) was untouched until we came in 1999."
Since then, they have been planning on creating a garden for the residents to "connect with their senses as their memory is failing. It's important to extend that part of living and capture it in a way that keeps them connected to life," she added.
Rheem said the Margaret T. Morris Center is a 56-bed residency "for people who need memory support. Our goal is to keep people connected to life while research on preventing Alzheimer's moves ahead. We're taking care of those who have it now."
The sensory garden, which is called "The Bob and Dudie Kieckhefer Strolling Garden," is full of flowers and plants that attract wildlife such as butterflies and birds; Rheem said the residents helped to plant them and continue to help maintain them.
Odessa, a resident at the center, said, "I helped to plant the peppers. This is a very special place."
"I've always lived on a farm and we had to work and we had to do the gardens," she said, adding that working in the garden brings back memories from her days of working on the farm.
June, another resident, added, "It's very peaceful. I love to look out and see all the different colors popping up."
Aside from the natural beauty surrounding the garden and the plants and flowers the residents planted, local artists helped design moveable, touchable, colorful art that the residents can enjoy.
Rheem said other organizations and businesses in the area participated in creating the garden.
Pamela Catlin, director of horticulture therapy at the center, said that "working with plants and flowers are our tools to getting people connected with nature and motivating them to move and display creative expression."
She said none of the plants, flowers or vegetables in the garden are harmful, and the residents can touch, smell or taste any of them.
"We select plants with interesting texture and fragrances," she added. "Nothing in the garden is harmful."
The garden has several water fountains and other water features for the residents to touch, and it also has a large container of sand called Zen Sands, that contains a swinging pendulum that allows residents to draw in the sand.
"They can draw in the sand and put their hands in the soft sand," Catlin said. "It's a real memory teaser because it brings back memories of the beach."
A "contemplative area" tucked away in the garden is a place "with a koi pond and lovely afternoon shade," Rheem said, that provides a place for the residents to sit and think.
She said the entire garden really adds a lot to the residents' quality of life.
"Memory loss is so depersonalizing," Rheem added. "You lose touch of who you were and now there's a way to reconnect with a sense of purpose. To regain some control is a joyful renewal."
The Margaret T. Morris Center, located at 878 Sunset Ave. in Prescott, is paying host for an open house for the public to experience the new garden from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
The event will include music, refreshments and a tour of the garden. For more information, call 445-6633.