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Aged care gardening joy grows to entrepreneurship

Fairways RAC Garden Club Jenny Cole and Shirley Johannesen.JPG

The residents of Bolton Clarke’s Fairways residential aged care community know well the joy of tending to a garden. Their twice-monthly Green Thumb Gardening Club has drawn a wonderful crowd of plant enthusiast - and it’s not just the garden that’s growing, but the friendships among club members.

So far, the residents involved have made a communal terrarium and planted a variety of houseplants, flowers, an edible herb patch and succulent garden. More recently, they’ve been branching out to entrepreneurship, flexing their green thumbs to propagate plants to sell ahead of the upcoming second Fairways community market day.

Shirley Johannesen and Jenny Cole are two of the residents involved with the gardening club and say that it’s the highlight of their week.

“I enjoy gardening and potting,” said Shirley. “It’s gratifying to see things grow that I planted. When I first found out that the gardening club was starting, I was thrilled! It’s good fun, and it’s therapeutic. Getting my hands dirty is better than a blood transfusion.”

Jenny agrees.

“Everyone enjoys the club” she said. “It’s social, and it’s good for companionship.”

Neither Jenny nor Shirley are strangers to the propagation process and have been sharing their knowledge with the other gardeners.

Jenny says her experience comes from moving around a lot with her family, which meant starting from scratch to create new gardens several times over.

“We moved so often that it would have cost a fortune to buy all those plants each time, so I used to take cuttings from other people’s plants and that’s how I grew my gardens,” she said.

“It’s good to see everyone sharing their knowledge.”

Shirley too has some powerhouse propagating skills.

“My daughter had a wholesale nursery and I used to work for her one day a week propagating plants,” said Shirley. “I could propagate up to 800 plants a day!”

Shirley’s also no stranger to the market stall, having had one herself for many years.

“I used to sell potted plants and handicrafts at the Shalom College markets every Sunday,” she said.

“I’d get up at three o’clock in the morning to get to my parking spot so I could set up my stall. I sold enough to keep the shop going.”

The gardening club is led by Fairways Activities Coordinator Shari Westcott who says that the group comes alive when they garden.

“The residents are growing with the plants,” said Shari. “There’s been lots of new friendships as a result. We’ve got nothing but smiles at garden club.”

Shirley says having Shari in charge is a blessing.

“I can’t thank her enough for doing it for us because it’s one thing that really brightens up my day,” she said.

The first Fairways market day, held earlier this year, was a raging success involving the whole community. Shari was instrumental in helping bring it all together.

“We all had a great time at the last market, and it was a huge success. So, we thought, why not show some of the incredible work we’ve been doing and sell some plants? The money raised from the stall will help keep the gardening club going.

“We’ve also had great support from Bunnings who have donated pots, soil, plants, seedlings, hats, tools and a birdbath.”

The event is being held with support from the Bargara Paradise Markets, with 23 stalls confirmed so far. It is a combined effort with the whole Fairways community.

“Everyone is involved,” said Shari. “Not just our aged care but our retirement village too. There will be stalls all around and refreshments set up in the community hall.

“We invite everyone to come and visit us for all things homemade, handcrafted and of course – plants!”