Garden Photo of the Day

A Healing Garden at the Harriman Care and Rehab Center

Coming together to make a garden at a care facility

Ailene Radcliffe in Kingston, Tennessee, sent in these photos of a wonderful project. I’m happy to share them on New Year’s Eve. I know they’ve inspired me to add something to my list of New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve heard that to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. It was a difficult time when my sister, Linda, moved into a care facility after her latest hospital stay. She is in a good 24-hour-care facility at the Harriman Care and Rehab Center in Harriman, Tennessee. I can’t say enough about how hard everyone works at the facility to help and enrich the souls who live there. I wanted to do something to give back.

I noticed they had a courtyard with a nice gazebo, but it was barren of any plants or bushes. There wasn’t anything living or colorful to rest your eyes on or smell when you wanted to go outside and feel the sun on your face or the wind in your hair. The connection to nature was missing. These people have serious health concerns and don’t know what tomorrow brings. Getting outside in a beautiful garden gives them hope.

I decided to get my Harriman Garden Club and Master Gardener friends into action. There was no budget, but my Garden Club had a little in the treasury that they were willing to donate. We planted lots of perennials that we propagated from our own gardens. We purchased knockout roses, drift roses, and hydrangeas from our local nursery. We weeded, put down mulch, and purchased annuals during plant sales. Everyone who worked on the project was 70 years old or older! We are in planting Zone 6b/7a. Here are some before and after pictures from when we started the project in May 2019 through the end of the season this month.

The gazebo before.

And after.

Another before shot.

And after. We planted forsythias, Knock Out roses, and daylilies. We have two containers with seasonal plants or for other arrangements.

Enjoying the sights and smells.

Perennials starting to fill in a new space.

crape myrtle

Roses and a crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia, Zone 6–9) tree.

queen lime red zinnia

Tall queen lime red zinnia (Zinnia elegans ‘Queen Lime Red’, annual) from seed, zahara fire zinnia (Zinnia × marylandica ‘Zahara Fire’, annual), and blue jean baby Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Jean Baby’ Zone 5–9).

dreamland yellow zinnia

Daylilies, Russian sage, zahara yellow and dreamland yellow zinnia (Zinnia × marylandica, annual).

Winter interest container

Winter interest container.

We can’t wait to see how the gardens look next year when all the daylilies are blooming. We have many more projects we want to do, including a handicap-accessible vegetable garden. We had so much fun with this project doing what we love and giving back to our community. Get your hands dirty; it’s good for you.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    Keith_Clark11 12/31/2019

    I like the whole transformation. It's wonderful...

  2. user-7017435 12/31/2019

    The members of the Harriman Garden Club has done a terrific job & this project will bring a lot of joy to the residents. My mother in law was in a nursing home & the highlight of her days there were garden visits.

  3. sandyprowse 12/31/2019

    A truly inspiring story.
    A big Bravo to everyone involved. Well done!

  4. nwphillygardener 12/31/2019

    Quite a noble and worthwhile project, Ailene!
    Should you need more planting material for this effort, I imagine a strategic plea in your community, with these pictures to show your effective start will yield lots donations. That might even include local garden retailers or even big box sellers of plants who generally have a small budget to award materials for community based programs.

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 12/31/2019

    Such a beautiful and inspiring story, Ailene, and, whew, talk about a picture being worth a thousand words...the one labelled "enjoying the sights and smells" says it all. Kudos to you and your garden club members for giving of yourselves to enrich the lives of others.

  6. User avater
    Lshrum1111 12/31/2019

    Such a great story and accomplishment of this garden club. I’m sure residents will enjoy the beautiful garden now and for many years to come.

  7. User avater
    treasuresmom 12/31/2019

    Ailene, your work is amazing. What a great contribution to the home that all can enjoy.

  8. SWFLgardener 12/31/2019

    Why a great feel good story to end 2019 and fresh start for 2020. I believe you have inspired lots of gardeners such a beautiful project for all involved. Cheers!

  9. cheryl_c 12/31/2019

    Such a wonderful way to show your love for the community! Love your annuals - will the zinnias reseed? I like nwphillygardener's suggestion about donations from the larger community. Best wishes to all for a new gardening year.

  10. User avater
    pattyeckels 12/31/2019

    What a wonderful idea you had. It’s beautiful and I’m sure everyone there has a big smile on their faces. You did a kind, generous thing for them.

  11. btucker9675 12/31/2019

    Lovely - what a fantastic way to start the New Year by celebrating our best behaviors! Happy New Year to all!

  12. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 01/01/2020

    Well done!
    Your efforts with generate rewards for years :)

  13. User avater
    simplesue 01/01/2020

    What a great accomplishment. I was a member of my neighborhood garden club and all they did was have luncheons and guest speakers...Your group made such a difference in the world.
    I think hospitals and care homes underestimate the comfort and good feelings a garden gives to people.

  14. Chris_N 01/02/2020

    A beautiful garden. Well done! It is sad that many such facilities have no budget for healing gardens. Several studies have shown that such gardens can shorten stays and reduce the need for pain medications of residents who have access to them. It's also good that your garden club plans to return and do more. One of the biggest problems with this type of garden is when well meaning people plant them but there is no follow up care. Without maintenance by a knowledgeable person or people they turn from beauty to an eyesore and end up being removed. Thank you to you and your garden club for taking this on.

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