A unique partnership played out earlier this month at a pair of group homes run by Clearbrook, and its Getz Building, home to its workshop and vocational training program, all located in Palatine.
Members of the Palatine-based Plum Grove Garden Club launched their "garden therapy" project, where they not only turned out to plant flowers at these locations, but they worked alongside of the Clearbrook clients.
Its members live in Arlington Heights, Cary, Palatine and Rolling Meadows, and it turns out, their new initiative blossomed and yielded benefits not even these lifelong gardeners could have predicted.
"We call it garden therapy because the residents can do it with us," said Connie Sanofsky of Palatine. "It's a sensory activity, where they can learn about how to grow flowers and vegetables, and enjoy the benefits afterward."
The six men who live in the Whitcomb group home eagerly donned work gloves to help plant flowers in front of their raised ranch home.
While a pair of landscaping companies -- Bolder Landscaping in Mount Prospect and Acres Group in Plainfield -- donated the mulch and helped to trim and reshape the beds, the gardeners got down on their hands and knees to plant the flowers.
They ranged from perennials, such as purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and day lilies; to annuals that included begonias, marigolds and petunias, as well as rose bushes, ground cover and native grasses.
"This is fun -- and rewarding," said Kay Marguerite of Palatine, a near 40-year member of the garden club. "And it's nice to see all the residents working hard and so excited about this."
Mostly, the clients were interested in the vegetable garden, planted in a raised bed in the backyard. The chance to cultivate their own garden sparked memories -- and conversation -- about how they grew vegetables at their homes, back when they lived with their parents.
"Back home, we had a garden," said Scott Bennett. "My parents always grew tomatoes and cucumbers."
William Good now takes a horticulture class twice a week at Little City in Palatine, consequently his housemates looked to him when deciding what vegetables to plant. In the end, they settled on tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and rosemary.
"I like working with my hands," Good said, "and returning to the earth."
The project came about through a grant from the Palatine Jaycees, whose members saw the benefits of Clearbrook clients learning to garden, as well as the outreach possibilities of the garden club members extending their expertise.
Tim Jones, the activity director for Clearbrook's 50 group homes, says the project is unique in that the Plum Grove gardeners will return every week during the summer, to maintain the new flowers and vegetables, and their new relationships.
"This is the first of its kind, that I know of," Jones said. "It's not just a one-day spruce up. This kind of partnership sets the foundation for the clients to continue, after the gardeners leave."
Nora Mack, the club's new president, said that in the past her members had visited nursing homes and senior centers, where they taught flower arranging and perhaps how to make wreaths.
Garden therapy, she said, was going to be ongoing, as they work to teach Clearbrook clients about how to care for their new plantings.
"We're excited to do something different, that's impactful," Mack said. "We really believe gardening improves people's lives."