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Cedar Crest Garden Club Members Cultivate Flowers and Friendships

By Susan Ingram
April 18, 2024
Cedar Crest Garden Club

At Cedar Crest, an Erickson Senior Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J., resident gardeners are busy tending to their favorite flowers, herbs, and vegetables--while cultivating friendships with fellow green thumbs. 

"Anyone with a 'square' in the community garden is considered a member of the garden club," says club member Emilia Rykowski. "We're a fun, nature-loving group!" 

Founded in 2011, the club now has nearly 80 active members, a number of whom cited the community garden as an important factor in their decision to move to Cedar Crest.

"For me, the garden was one of many draws," says Carol Boerger, who loves growing rhubarb and blueberries.

"Gardening is very important to me, so Cedar Crest's community garden was a big plus," adds club member Linda Schweighardt. "In fact, I was fortunate enough to select an apartment home that overlooks the garden--and all my flowers!"

Plethora of plants

The garden club oversees 95 ground-level, 8'x8' garden squares and 19 elevated beds that offer increased accessibility. 

With the early summer sun already shining, the community garden is filled with the scents of flowers and ripening produce. 

"Vegetables, especially tomatoes, are prevalent," says Linda. "But I'm strictly a flower girl. The begonias, marigolds, and pentas in my square do really well in early spring, bringing lots of color to the garden."

Her perennials--like phlox, sage, lavender, and zinnias--bloom at different times, but they usually last until September.

"After visiting some local garden centers, I want to plant some more pollinator-friendly plants too," she says. "Seeing everything grow and bloom together is wonderful. I don't even mind the weeding! For me, the garden is a place of pure happiness."

Working together

Cedar Crest's garden club is run jointly by three committees: membership, grounds and maintenance, and programs and publicity. 

Residents who are interested in claiming a square contact the membership committee, which handles assigning the spaces. The process is first come, first serve, and if there are no squares available, they can join the waitlist.

Cedar Crest Grounds Worker Kenichi Matsumoto advises the grounds and maintenance committee and ensures that guidelines are followed to preserve the health of the community garden. 

"Invasive plant species are not allowed," Matsumoto explains, "nor are shrubs or trees that will grow over four feet tall."

The programs and publicity committee organizes educational programs and speakers so residents can learn more about different plant species, especially those that thrive in the northern New Jersey climate. 

"We have five meetings in total each year--in April, May, June, August, and September," says Carol. "Our meetings usually have a speaker who talks about raising a particular flower, such as roses, African violets, or dahlias. And sometimes meetings have a broader topic, like invasive species or raising bees."

Educational and social

The August club meeting, however, is more social than educational. Resident gardeners gather for a potluck dinner, called Fruits of Our Labor, to highlight the delicious fruits and veggies they've cared for all summer. 

"Dishes using zucchini and cherry tomatoes, like zucchini bread and bars, are very popular at the potluck," Carol says. "And we use fresh flowers from residents' squares to decorate each of the tables."

Emilia appreciates that the potluck and garden club meetings create opportunities to meet new people and learn tips and tricks from neighbors. 

"Members are always willing to help others with their squares," she says. "Gardening enhances residents' lives because of the beauty and the people involved."

Outdoor amenities 

Sarah Kokinos, vice president of community living for Erickson Senior Living, couldn't agree more. 

"Shared outdoor spaces--just like Cedar Crest's community garden--enhance residents' active, engaging lifestyles," she says. "Studies show that spending time outside supports overall well-being."

Matsumoto adds, "Gardening is great for your mental health. Whether you like tending to flowers or harvesting crops, there's a goal that you're working towards, and it takes a lot of patience. Not much can compare to the gratification you get from seeing your own garden flourish!"

Carol notes that gardening is great for your physical health, too. 

"It's good exercise!" says Carol. "Our garden supports other residents' wellness journeys as well. Lots of people like walking through the garden because it's such a peaceful, lovely place." 

'Pursue our passion'

Like her fellow club members, Linda is thankful to live in such a plant-positive community. 

"We love what we do!" she says. "We're so grateful that Cedar Crest provides the resources we need to pursue our passion."

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