How Do Those Preston of the Park Cities Gardens Grow?

With club meetings, Dallas Arboretum advice, and resident ingenuity, care

By: Karen Chaney

When residents said they wanted to grow vegetables, The Preston of the Park Cities staff happily added a garden club to the senior community’s Watermark University program. 

Watermark University boasts diverse programs, including painting, yoga, dancing, and language classes.

Six residents attended the first garden club meeting in June and heard from a Dallas Arboretum’s speaker’s bureau member. 

“The speaker talked about plants to plant in the spring, and they will come back and talk about fall flowers,” said Debbie Dickerson, community life director at The Preston of the Park Cities. 

Based on the advice they received, Dickerson and garden club member Antoinette Chatham went to a local nursery and bought seeds. The garden club planted garlic chives, peppermint, spearmint, basil, squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, zucchini, sweet onions, tomatoes, rosemary, and more.

“Our garden club gives some light to those who used to garden,” Dickerson said. “Socially, this is a great way to interact with different people.”

Chatham cited mental and emotional benefits as her reasons for joining.

“I had a lot of fun gardening with my mother-in-law, who passed away. I like plants, and this brings back a lot of happy memories,” Chatham said. “When you’re around nature, you relax, and there is a lot of tranquility.”

Since the initial planting, the garden club has continued to meet monthly, but members haven’t done additional planting due to the intense summer heat.

They have, however, enjoyed the fruits of their labor as staff chefs often harvest fresh produce for use in meals.

“I didn’t even realize we were growing mint until I made mint juleps and couldn’t find any (mint) in the grocery store,” Dickerson said. “I asked the chef if we had any mint, and he said, ‘You’re growing it outside.’”

Club members and other residents have created their own botanical spaces throughout the facility, such as the garden on longtime resident Joanna Wasserman’s patio.

Wasserman said she started gardening in 1960 because the owner of the house she wanted to buy said she would only sell the house if Wasserman promised to tend to the impressive rose garden.

“I maintained the garden and then started gardening on my own,” Wasserman said. “I wanted to nurture what they had put their time and effort into.”

Wasserman is happy to report she has a producing fig tree, blooming bougainvillea bushes, an oleander shrub, and much more. She explained how each pot has a watering system connected to a central one.

Chatham said plucking ripe fruit is her favorite part of the garden club, but she also sees benefits beyond the tangible.

“It’s a nice way to feel involved and find solitude and tranquility,” Chatham said. “And you can always grow new friends.”

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