Local Master Gardeners, residents create oasis at Oaks Nursing Center

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

BURNET — It’s just a collection of raised beds populated by a variety of plants — some flowering, some not so much. Yet this area serves as an oasis for residents of the Oaks Nursing Center in Burnet thanks to the Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association.

“There was nothing growing back here before,” said Lavona Fry, a Master Gardener who helps keep up the site. “It was just bland, nothing. Now, we have these raised beds and the plants. It gives the residents a place to come out, relax and enjoy.”

Fry is just one of the many Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association volunteers who keep the Oaks Nursing Center garden going. Peggy Sweeney found herself heading the cadre of volunteers for the project this year.

“It’s a continuing work in progress,” she said. “We’re always looking to make it better. And it’s definitely challenging sometimes, especially during the summer when it’s so hot. Somebody has to come out here every day to water.”

The garden, which is on the verge of erupting in blooms, serves as a place to where the residents can “escape.” Research continues to show interaction with nature and gardens offers a plethora of health benefits for people of all ages including helping reduce blood pressure and stress.

While there were no residents working in the garden or enjoying it this particular day, Sweeney said as the weather improves, she expects the residents to use it more often.

In the past, Master Gardeners have even offered gardening classes for the residents, only to watch as the residents gave them a lesson or two.

“Many of these ladies have been gardening their whole lives,” Fry said. “They’d come out and get in the dirt and just start working it with their hands.”

Fry pantomimed the working with the dirt.

“At first we’d be like, ‘No, you don’t have to do that,’ but they’d just look at us and say, ‘This is how you do it, you’ve got to get your hands dirty,” Fry said.

That’s one of the beauties of gardening — once you start doing it, there are not a lot of reasons to stop. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of providing people the opportunity to garden.

The Master Gardeners started the nursing center garden several years ago. Since then, the volunteers have added raised beds and other things. One strip features a collection of day lilies. This particular section was made possible by the family of former Highland Lakes Master Gardener Grace Alexander.

Alexander was a nationally renowned day lily enthusiast and judge. After her death in 2005, Alexander’s family donated the funds for the creation of the day lily section of the garden.

“Oh, they look incredible when they’re blooming,” Sweeney said.

The idea for the garden originated with two Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association members: Suzanne Labry and Bill Ludecke. Both had parents at the nursing home, and both realized the benefit of a garden for not just their parents, but the other residents as well.

“And so, here were are,” Fry said with a smile. “It’s a wonderful gift to the residents.”

Sweeney agreed.

“This is a great way to give back to the community,” she added.

The Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association provides educational and volunteer opportunities. This is one of their many community projects. Go to www.burnetcountyhighlandlakesmastergardener.org for more information.

daniel@thepicayune.com