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FEA wiarkim16p Michael Walker points out some flowers to staff member Jacob Mason.
Michael Walker points out some flowers to staff member Jacob Mason.
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Published: Wednesday, 5/21/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago

Weed It & Reap

Helping others through gardening


Kimberley Somers voluntarily cares for the greenhouse garden at Advanced Healthcare Center in South Toledo. Kimberley Somers voluntarily cares for the greenhouse garden at Advanced Healthcare Center in South Toledo.
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The long greenhouse connecting two medical-care buildings in South Toledo was built 30 years ago; it’s now Advanced Healthcare Center (formerly Communicare at Waterford Commons) on Garden Lake Parkway off Detroit Avenue.

When a volunteer who looked after the plants in the greenhouse left a few months ago, Kimberley Somers volunteered. She’s here for up to five hours every day with her mother, Elizabeth Babcock, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

Often joined by her father, Charles Babcock, her three young-adult children, and grandchildren, they spend countless hours in this common space visiting with dozens of residents and staff. She waters, deadheads, sweeps, and keeps beautiful this bright corridor that residents, staff, and neighbors enjoy. Some employees eat their lunches at tables. Residents walk through, doing physical therapy, or sit a spell. It’s like being inside a snow globe when the white fluff is falling.

This is a busy place, Mrs. Somers says, especially at coffee hour in mid-morning. It serves as a window on the world for people for who aren’t able to get out much. They had a good laugh recently when they watched a rogue goose chasing a paramedic coming into the building.

Mamie Alfred helps with the sweeping. Mamie Alfred helps with the sweeping.
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Kept at 79 degrees (warmer when the sun shines), the greenhouse is freshly painted and open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. There are large wooden planters and Mrs. Somers’ husband, Todd Somers, built another one that she quickly filled. She tucks in colorful annuals and has dedicated planters to residents who like a particular flower, herb, or vegetable.

She’s open to receiving donations, including a water fountain (residents say they’d enjoy the sound of splashing water), plant labels so people can learn the names of plants, bird food and bird feeders that can be hung on trees outside the windows, large pots, and plants. If you have an item to donate, call the facility at 419-382-2200 and leave a message for Mrs. Somers.

Garden specs: About 70-feet long and 14-feet wide.

When and how did you start gardening? About 20 years ago, learning from my husband and my father-in-law, who has a big garden. At our home [near Highland Park in South Toledo] we start vegetable seeds inside [including the fiery ghost pepper]. We have tons of houseplants that we take outside this time of year. Among the plants I’ve brought from our house are coral cactus, shrimp plant, and tomatoes.

The greenhouse at Advanced Healthcare Center. The greenhouse at Advanced Healthcare Center.
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What do you grow? In the greenhouse, rubber plant and two banana trees [that produce bananas], sweet potato vines, foxtail fern, night-blooming cereus, Moses-in-the-basket, Song of India, papyrus, wandering Jew, mother-in-law’s tongue (sansevieria), amaryllis, and bougainvillea. Also, begonias, parsley, rosemary, lavender, philodendron vine. Some of the staff winter-over geraniums [that approach bushy proportions like their robust Italian siblings]. And for three winters, social worker Cathie Schwarz has brought in a mandevilla vine received at her father’s funeral.

Favorite plant? Resident Maymie Alfred, 91, comes in daily to visit with Kim’s family and to sweep: “When I was a child growing up in Toledo, my mother grew flowers and always had bouquets on the table.” Lawrence Willis, also a resident: “I like to come out here and smell the air. You get a peace of mind.” Resident Mike Walker: “I’m the one who picks tomatoes. I come in about five or six times a day.” Admissions director Lindsay Duke: “This is a beautiful relaxing spot, especially in the winter. Three of us have our lunch here every day.”

Give us a tip: Deadhead (remove withering leaves, flowers, stems) so the new will grow, and feed plants when needed.

Hours spent gardening per week: I’m here for about five hours every day. My mom and Miss Maymie are in here most of the time with me.

Annual expense: About $60 so far.

Challenges: Trying to keep everything alive.

I’m proud of: Being picked a couple of months ago to be the gardener.

What do you get out of gardening? I love doing this for the people who stay here and the staff. I try and give them something to look forward to and a beautiful place to go to. By taking time out of your day, and by helping others through gardening, you bring pleasure to others.

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.

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