Meadowood is one of the few retirement communities with its own horticulturist, and today she is sharing her insights into her multifaceted role. Patti Loughridge, Meadowood’s resident horticulturist, has been with the community for 16 ½ years, and has helped many garden projects across campus blossom and thrive in that time.
Patti, who earned a degree in Landscape Design and a certificate in Horticultural Therapy from Temple University and formerly worked as a private estate gardener, talks about the many ways in which she beautifies Meadowood’s campus and nurtures new projects.
“I wear lots of hats,” says Patti. “I essentially serve as a resource to management and staff for all matters concerning landscaping on the grounds. I oversee projects for Meadowood. I also assist, along with other staff, the residents with their individual gardens around their homes. And the last major hat is that I serve as a Horticultural Therapist — I conduct nature-related programming in the health center.”
Why does Meadowood need a horticulturist? “To my knowledge, there are no other communities that have a horticulturist in the area — it does set Meadowood apart,” Patti explains. One reason it’s important to have this position, she says, is “our 130 plus acres — they are very rich and diverse, and they deserve the best of care and oversight. I’ve seen that most other communities in our area are not like ours, with such an eclectic variety of garden space and unique water features.”
It Takes a Team — the Meadowood Grounds Team
Patti doesn’t go it on her own. She gives a huge shout-out to her grounds team for all of their talent, dedication and hard work. “I cannot do all of this alone,” she stresses. “The grounds team members are professionals and really know what they are doing, in terms of the fine details of true landscaping and gardening,” she goes on. “They receive guidance from lead grounds worker, Mike Ulmer, as well as our supervisor, Jeremy Schwenk. The three of us have been able to train a good team that really get it done. We’ve really upped our game.”
That dedication is in evidence everywhere across the spectacular Meadowood campus. Here are just a few creative projects the team has been working on:
The New Memory Care Gardens
The team is currently working on the gardens and landscaping for the new Memory Care Building. “There will be two highly specialized therapeutic gardens inside the building that will be very specially designed toward people living with dementia,” Patti explains. ”We want the plants and artwork to be stimulating to all the five senses. Plants have to be non-injurious and nontoxic, and we’ll have four seasons of interest. We lean toward native plants, and we are including bird feeders and other elements that attract wildlife. We will incorporate interesting artwork — anything from sculptures to fountains.” That artwork includes a really cool butterfly bench sculpture — a true conversation piece. Very large, fun, colorful gazing balls will also be placed at each of the six garden entrances to assist with wayfinding for residents returning to their residences.
The Grove Landscaping Project
The Grove landscaping project includes a stunning outdoor area with seating and a fire pit to serve the four new buildings. “We oversaw the landscaping and plant selection, including a large retention pond,” Patti says.
The Resident-Inspired Courtyard Gardens
Patti is very proud of the courtyards that these beautiful homes are grouped around. “Over the last 12 years, we’ve taken each one of the 13 courtyards and transformed it into a sitting area with a theme and a patio and beautiful landscaping,” she says. “In the beginning of the process, we meet with the residents of each courtyard neighborhood. We build the courtyards around their very specific ideas. We want each courtyard to be distinct and different than the others — nothing cookie cutter.”
“Two of the gardens have a soft Japanese feel,” she goes on. “One is a butterfly-friendly garden, and color is a central theme in others. Some residents want very large patios to accommodate many people sitting together, while others prefer an intimate space where a few residents can gather.” The pièce de résistance is the water features. “We have 12 water features and no two are alike,” she says.
The Multi-Functional Stratton Wellness Garden
When Patti first came to work at Meadowood, she identified the space where the Stratton Wellness Garden is located as prime real estate. She had the dream of transforming the space to become much more usable. “I wanted it to be a place for passive enjoyment as well as a place to discover, exercise, entertain, hold concerts, have picnics and watch movies.” Now that the project has come to fruition, she says, “it’s an incredible feat with distinct garden rooms developed with specific purposes in mind, although anybody can use any part of the garden at any time.”
The Stratton Wellness Garden includes a therapy garden, a pool patio with a fire pit and a Nano wall that completely opens the lap pool to the outdoors, a fitness patio for classes and other activities, and a dining area that includes an outdoor kitchen, two water features and an herb garden.
The Taj Mahal of Victory Gardens
When the Victory garden at Meadowood had to move a few years ago, it was the perfect opportunity to redesign it. After visiting every community garden within miles of Meadowood, Patti decided she was going to go for “the “Taj Mahal of all Victory gardens.” Happily, Meadowood said yes to everything she asked for in the new garden! The result: “I think our Victory garden is the best,” she says. “We have 38 raised plots of different sizes, including two ADA accessible plots, two garden sheds for tools and two composting bins. The garden is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. And right now, in August, it’s at its finest!”
Other Outdoor Features
Meadowood’s natural gifts don’t stop with its gardens. Other outdoor features include:
- The Trail System. “The Woods and Trails Committee, which is completely resident-run, maintains our trail system. We also have a new paved walking path that follows our loop around.”
- Garden Club. “We have a fairly newly established garden club — completely resident-run — that meets and goes on trips to different gardens.”
- Resident Landscape Committee. “The staff works closely with them to address any issues they identify.”
- The Bluebird House Project. “Residents build bluebird boxes, hang them all over campus, and monitor them to see how many birds take up residence in them each year.”
- Other Amenities. “There are bocce and shuffleboard courts, a playground, and a dog park.”
What Patti Would Say to People Considering a Move to Meadowood
“If nature and outdoor activities are things that you greatly value, Meadowood is the place for you. And, once you move in and get settled in, our awesome grounds team and myself can assist you with your gardening needs, questions and requests. We have a landscaping department with a variety of skills sets and all the equipment you could possibly need for landscaping and gardening right here on-site.”
We invite you to come for a visit, and see our 131 acres of naturally beautiful grounds and gardens for yourself. Call 610.584.3998 to schedule your tour today.