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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
9:33 AM Mon, Dec. 17th

In the garden

Editor's note: To protect the identities of Alzheimer's patients, the Daily Courier did not publish The last names in this story.

PRESCOTT ­ Alzheimer's patients who live in the Margaret T. Morris Center are reaping the fruits of their labors in a garden, and stimulating their minds.

Ranging in age from 59 to 99, the residents at the 56-bed home transformed a walking path into a vibrant, relaxing garden that contains a variety of trees, vegetables, flowers and ornamental plants. The garden marked its first anniversary this past Saturday.

They raise basil, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and cucumbers from seed beginning indoors during the winter, said Pam Catlin, horticultural specialist with Adult Care Services Inc., the company that owns Morris and two other adult day care centers. The residents transplant the vegetables outside in mid-May.

Catlin said chef Niels Knudsen uses some of the vegetables in the kitchen and residents grow some vegetables for different cooking projects. They make salsa and pesto from the tomatoes.

However, the garden's main value is therapeutic, Catlin said.

"As people age and go through the process of memory loss, having activities where their senses are involved really connect more (Alzheimer's patients) with the world around them," she said. "Plants give them an opportunity to be caregivers."

As Catlin strolled through the garden during the anniversary open house, she explained that the home separated the garden into different neighborhoods, including a hummingbird garden, a butterfly garden and an apple orchard.

The garden also has water features and tiles that the residents and their families created.

The residents ­ many in wheelchairs ­ their guests and staff members relaxed and socialized outdoors. An elderly woman played a fiddle while an older man strummed a guitar and sang.

Residents Esther and George have participated in the culinary garden program since its inception three years ago, Catlin said.

"I can see the things we enjoy ­ food," Esther said.

Esther said that she plants tomatoes, slices them and puts the slices in salads. She also bakes apple pies.

George, a Prescott native, said, "I'm not crazy about tomatoes."

Instead, George said that he planted some flowers. He said he likes flowers because of their beauty and pleasant aroma.

Flowers also appeal to Martha, the eldest resident at 99. She referred to petunias and geraniums.

"Some of these plants in here, I had in boxes last summer," Martha said.

Martha, who plans to mark her 100th birthday Oct. 1, said that she concentrates on the covered patio, which has potted plants.

Sounds ­ not smells ­ inspire Wilma, who found comfort in the trees in the garden.

"Sometimes, they can be so silent," she said. "I just love to walk through the whole garden and to the fencing and back."

During the week, the sounds of children emanate from the Prescott Child Development Center's playground next door.

"When we are out there in the garden, the kids are screaming," Catlin said.

The garden is located at the Morris Center at 878 Sunset Ave.

Contact the reporter at khedler@prescottaz.com