Andrea Lutz and Chris Lambton                RoundTable photo

Chris Lambton, host of HGTV’s “Growing Yard,” came to Evanston on Nov. 3 as, one might say, a working guest. Slated to be the keynote speaker at GROW, the fundraiser for Random Acts of Flowers (RAF) that evening, Mr. Lambton met with staff and residents of Dobson Plaza to create a concept design for an enabling garden.  

A blue spruce tree, some yews, and a short lawn comprise the little green space at this health-care and rehabilitation residence at 120 Dodge Ave.

Within a few months, that space will be transformed: After listening to the residents, Mr. Lambton came up with plans to beautify the space with flowering shrubs and bulbs and engage the residents through an accessible path to an enabling garden
of raised beds.   

Dobson Plaza Healthcare is a regular drop-off for Random Acts of Flowers, which repurposes floral arrangements from banquets, weddings, and the like for hospital and nursing home patients, so it was easy for RAF to select Dobson Plaza to receive a new garden at no cost.

Andrea Lutz of RAF said Dobson Plaza was chosen “because we deliver flowers here; it’s very close to our facility. We know there’s limited green space. We wanted to pick a nursing home that could benefit” from a new garden.

The garden with its raised beds will “help with the emotional health and well-being of the residents, and, because it’s a small-scale project, we can learn, too,” Ms. Lutz said. “There are many things people can do, even with limited motor skills.”  

Fiskars, the global consumer-goods company, will donate the tools needed to make the garden, and Home Depot will contribute labor and materials, Ms. Lutz said.

Perennial – and nearly year-round – color and texture will come from azaleas, hydrangeas, and long-lasting blooms from Jacob’s ladder and rudbeckia, Mr. Lambton said.

The cedar planter boxes will be about three feet high, three feet wide, and five feet long, Mr. Lambton said. The height allows people in wheelchairs to be part of the planting, weeding, and harvesting, and the width allows a good reach from a sitting position.

Pots of herbs such as basil and rosemary can fit on the corners of the boxes in summer and be brought inside for the winter.

Mr. Lambton’s speech that evening was to be on the healing properties of flowers, and he brought that conviction to his plans for the Dobson Plaza garden.

Looking over the garden-to-be in the morning, Mr. Lambton said, “The residents can get outside in the sunlight and fresh air. The feeling of total ownership of the garden will give them hope and energy.”

A couple of benches and a pergola would offer more opportunities for residents to enjoy the area, he added.

Dobson Plaza administrators appeared very happy with the prospective makeover for the yard.

Facilities administrator Charlotte Kohn said Dobson Plaza residents look forward to and appreciate repurposed bouquets from Random Acts of Flowers.

Ms. Kohn has practically grown up with Dobson Plaza. As a high-school student, she volunteered there.

Later, as a college student, she worked at Dobson Plaza. She now supervises the entire facility, which offers rehabilitation services – including Medicare rehab – as well as intermediate and skilled, or long-term, care.

Though none of the other staff has had quite the tenure that Ms. Kohn has, she says “many of our aides and nurses have been with us for 15 years or more.”  

Ms. Kohn’s children have volunteered here, and now her grandchildren come to visit. Residents, whether grandparents or not, also welcome children from local schools, such as Oakton Elementary, Chiaravalle Montessori, and Bais Yaakov Elementary school.

The blue spruce  that is crowding against the northeast corner of the building  was planted in 1966, when Dobson Plaza was built, and is now much taller than the building itself.  It may be removed to make room for a sunroom for the residents. And Dobson Plaza staff and residents will welcome spring with their new garden.

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...