Keeping gloves on her hands is hard for Cynthia Lee, a Woodland Pond resident, who has been gardening for 67 years and loves to feel the moist earth between her fingers and in her hands. She grew up on a farm and began planting and tending her family’s garden at the age of eight. Now she continues her passion for beautifying the environment at her cottage in the New Paltz continuing care retirement community. Finding the setting both serene and beautiful, many residents at Woodland Pond at New Paltz are quite fond of gardening. To celebrate this passion, the community will host its 4th Annual Garden Tour on Friday, June 26th for residents and invited guests to enjoy. The event will showcase their extraordinary gardens that are bountiful with exotic flowers and fresh fruits and vegetables. Residents living in ground-floor apartments and in cottages will be presenting their gardens during a group tour and self-guided tours. In addition to private gardens, the garden show will also showcase The Resident Community’s Garden and The Memory Care Garden which groups of residents tend together. While this event is not open to the general public, the media is invited to attend and capture this very interesting tour as it takes place.
“I lose track of time very easily and can get lost in my garden for hours at a time,” said Lee. “It is very peaceful, and every problem seems to just go away when I am in the garden. I have to be careful that I don’t overdo it, as I can get very determined and caught up in the happiness that gardening brings me. I started gardening on our family farm in Binghamton, New York when I was eight years old. Life was peaceful and refreshing on the farm. My four sisters and I learned to garden, sew, cook, take care of chickens, cows and pheasants, bale hay and lift stones off our land. We exhibited many of these talents at the county fair. My mother would always scold me for putting off studying for my June Regents, but I just loved being in that garden. I learned how to nurture flowers and plants from my grandmother and my mother. During the summer months I would spend a whole week with my grandma, and she would show me how she tended to her vegetables and flowers. I am fortunate to have grown up on a farm and been exposed to all the joys of nature.”
In addition to being in her own garden, Lee visits the gardens of her Hudson Valley neighbors. Just last week she traveled to Hyde Park to a famous garden designed by Beatrix Farrand, located next to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Wallace Visitor’s Center. At the end of this month, Lee will visit her neighbors’ gardens at Woodland Pond when the community hosts their annual garden show. This year’s theme is “Summer in Bloom ~ The Joys of June.” This event is put on by The Garden Committee, and it is held for fellow residents, their friends and families. The event will begin at 10:00 a.m. and last until 12:00 p.m. A group tour will commence at 10:00 a.m. under the awning in the Dining Courtyard. Attendees are also welcome to do self-guided tours. A “self-guided tour” with campus map will be available for those who wish to do the tour on their own. A shorter route is planned to accommodate those who prefer an abbreviated tour that is “mobility-friendly.”
“During the 40 years I lived in Highland, I grew potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus, carrots, eggplants, fennel, basil, oregano and other vegetables and herbs, in addition to my flowers. In my gardens at my cottage at Woodland Pond, I have planted a plethora of both unique and classic plants and flowers,” said Lee. “I created a new garden recently, as I keep buying new plants and don’t have anywhere to put them. Some of my plants are very old and full of history or have traveled with me from other places. Last year a dear friend of mine passed away, and she had requested that I dig up her mums and nurture them in my own garden. That meant the world to me. In the spring, I have daffodils bloom that are 100 years old. They were from my first home, in Highland, which was built in 1860, and moved with me to Woodland Pond. I also grow peonies, which I purchased from the Heritage Garden at Locust Grove in Poughkeepsie, the former home of Samuel B Morse, painter and inventor. My husband and I used to travel to Europe and I got much of my inspiration from English and French gardens.”
Lee’s walkway is lined with marigolds, and her cottage is surrounded with perennials, some in a raised garden off the patio. She also has hanging plants which invite the humming birds to a feast. Hollyhocks are the most difficult plant she has ever grown, due to the length of time it takes to get the plant established. She will also be showcasing a Japanese maple bush, lavender, a perennial hibiscus, hostas, foxglove, low-growing shrubs, Knock-Out roses and Autumn mum plants that she devotes extra time to by pinching the buds twice a week until July 4th to ensure that they open with extra blooms and more compact plants. She enjoys adding new plants to her gardens, ones that she have never tended to before, as it challenges her and keeps things interesting. She thinks it is important to try something new every year.
“Over time, I have developed a talent for arranging flowers, both inside of my garden as well as in floral arrangements,” said Lee. “In the past 20 years, I have spent more time on structuring the layout of my garden to give it depth and texture, as it makes it more pleasing to the eye. Some colors look better together, as well as low plants next to high plants there are more intervals in the sections. This has made me more appreciative of the way other people arrange their gardens and the visuals they take into consideration. I am excited for the garden tour, as I cannot wait to see other residents’ gardens and see their reaction to my own. I like to share my joy. My favorite time of year is spring, because I love seeing everything come to life again. Seeing these beautiful flowers instills hope and life inside of me, as I feel connected to the earth when I am in my garden.”
“One of the most delightful things about gardens is the anticipation they provide,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director of Woodland Pond. “The Garden Committee and Woodland Pond would like to express sincere appreciation to the nearly 60 participating gardeners for the time that they have invested in planting and nurturing their gardens to make our community so beautiful. It is evident that they all had gardens that they left behind when they moved to Woodland Pond, and we are happy that they are able to continue gardening here for everyone to enjoy. It is certainly a visual feast for the eyes, and we all find pleasure in seeing the varied and colorful gardens.”