Resident-Grown Gardens at Brooksby Village Are Beautiful and Bountiful

April 11, 2024

Nestled among 90 lush acres at Brooksby Village, an Erickson Senior Living community in Peabody, Mass., are three resident-grown gardening areas, teeming with fragrant, flowering annuals and colorful, tasty veggies.

"We have about 40 'patches' at each garden, for a total of 120," says Allison Dolan, who manages the long list of resident gardeners--called Patch Stewards. "That's a lot of patches!"

Two gardens offer 10'x10', ground-level patches, and one garden also features 4'x4' elevated beds that offer increased accessibility. All three locations are surrounded by rail fences and include gravel walkways, handy tool sheds, comfortable benches, convenient faucets for watering, and compost bins. 

"These gardens mean a lot to the community," notes Allison. "The other Brooksby residents love them as much as we 'green thumbs' do!"

Plethora of plants

Allison, who has been gardening since she was a child, tends to two patches of her own.

"They're mostly filled with perennials, but I try to squeeze in a tomato plant or two," she says, with a laugh. "One patch has lots of spring bulbs with daffodils and winter aconite, which are reliably rabbit proof. I also have catmint, lavender, sage, echinacea, garden phlox, liatris, sedums, alliums, and iris."

In her other patch, Allison inherited a mature Rose of Sharon bush from the prior Patch Steward. "It's a real bee magnet when in bloom," she notes. "I also added two rhododendrons and a rose bush. Since it's a shadier patch, I have Lenten rose/hellebore, hostas, fern, and clematis."

When asked to pick a favorite, she couldn't choose just one. 

"My favorites are the ones that the rabbits don't eat, attract beneficial insects, come back every year, and don't require much attention!" Allison says. "Catmint and lavender fit the bill, with garden phlox not far behind."

Popular patches

The garden patches accommodate a mix of vegetables, flowering annuals, and low-growing shrubs. All Patch Stewards are always on the lookout for nature's little pests, including rabbits, chipmunks, voles, snails, squirrels, and--believe it or not--woodchucks.

"Luckily, we haven't had any deer problems this season," Allison notes. 

Those interested in a patch can contact Allison, but fellow green thumb Nancy Wechsler notes just how popular the patches are. 

"It seems like everyone wants a patch!" says Nancy, with a laugh. "Frequently, there is a waiting list for one." 

Allison adds, "Many residents are referred to me by the sales staff--sometimes before they even move in. Every year, I wonder if there will be enough vacancies, but we always manage. One Steward has had her patches since Brooksby opened in 2000!"

Sights to behold

"You don't have to like getting your hands dirty to appreciate the gardens," says Allison. "When I had a butterfly bush, resident photographers would stop by to try to get pictures of butterflies, hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, praying mantises, and other flying insects."

She continues, "The gardens are located along main sidewalks, so lots of people stop in during their daily walks with friends or their dogs to see what is blooming. When families visit, residents like taking their guests for a stroll around campus to see the stunning landscaping and the variety of plants cared for in the patches."

Sarah Kokinos, vice president of community living for Erickson Senior Living, notes that outdoor activities and amenities--just like Brooksby's gardens--help residents stay active and engaged. 

"Studies show that spending time outside supports physical fitness, mental health, and overall well-being," Kokinos says. "All of our communities are professionally designed and maintained, creating picture-perfect, scenic landscapes for residents to enjoy. Brooksby's gardens enhance the community's beauty."

'Sense of purpose'

Looking back on her seven years at Brooksby, Allison says she can't imagine life without the flowers and friendships she's cultivated. 

"Watching my flowers grow and seeing how they interact with other plants and beneficial insects has had such a positive impact on my life here," she says. "And I've made tons of friends along the way! All of the Patch Stewards love supporting each other."

She adds, "Most Patch Stewards are like me, in that they have always gardened. Being able to continue that hobby in their new home gives them a sense of purpose."

To learn more about affordable, independent senior living at Brooksby Village, request your free brochure to get the scoop on amenities, floor plans, and so much more.