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Superior amenities

From gardening to genealogy, Maris Grove has something for everyone

Created date

August 10th, 2016
This past spring, Maris Grove’s garden club co-chairs (from left) Joe and Mej Blake, and Annette and Ransom Jenks, admire the vegetables Annette will plant in her garden spaces.

This past spring, Maris Grove’s garden club co-chairs (from left) Joe and Mej Blake, and Annette and Ransom Jenks, admire the vegetables Annette will plant in her garden spaces.

This year’s lingering winter and capricious spring tested the patience of many a Pennsylvania gardener, including the resident gardeners at Maris Grove, Erickson Living’s retirement community in Delaware County.

But a plaque in one of Mej Bernard-Blake’s two garden spaces uphill from Maris Grove’s pond sums up her feelings about her weather-dependent hobby: “Mej’s happiness,” it proclaims.

“During the growing season, everyone knows that’s where they can find me,” says Mej. 

She and her husband Joe have cochaired Maris Grove’s garden club for three years with Annette and Ransom Jenks. Mej grows flowers, and Annette grows vegetables. 

Joe does whatever Mej asks him to do, and Ransom plays somewhat of a caretaker’s role at the gardens. He’s put up shelving in the club’s garden sheds and uses his small rototiller to help out some of his neighbors. 

Maris Grove’s 98, 10- by 10-foot community garden spaces are a big hit with gardeners and spectators alike.

Come summer, a steady stream of residents visit to tend their own gardens or to simply enjoy the view.

The club only meets in spring and fall. Grounds Supervisor Randy Waddell briefs members about his tilling schedule and tells them when and how to close their gardens. A font of knowledge about all things botanical, Waddell previously worked at the area’s renowned Longwood Gardens.

Serious downsizing

Many of Maris Grove’s gardeners purchase seedlings, but Annette Jenks starts her vegetables from seed in the couple’s two-bedroom apartment home. As the plants develop and the weather warms, they’re moved to the Jenkses’ patio and then to Annette’s three garden spaces.

At their 20-acre property in Vermont, Annette had tended huge flower and vegetable gardens. “Having our hands in dirt is part of our life,” Ransom says. “Annette would go from one garden to the next and weed all week long.” 

After 21 years of caring for the property, for a 3,200-square-foot home, and for the long driveway that needed plowing throughout Vermont’s snowy winters, however, the Jenkses wanted some relief. 

“Our family told us, ‘You have too much to do here,’ and we agreed with them,” says Annette. 

So their daughters, Julie in Wilmington, Del., and Laurie in South Carolina, started looking for retirement communities that met their parents’ requirements: “We’d said we would love to be able to walk out onto grass,” Annette says, “ and we would love to not look into someone else’s window.”

They ultimately discovered that nothing compared to Maris Grove. 

So the Jenkses moved in 2011, and the first thing they did was join the garden club. 

But also just after their move, Ransom had hip replacement surgery. Conscientious about doing his presurgery therapy exercises, he spent just three days postsurgery at Maris Grove’s on-site rehabilitation and continuing care neighborhood before returning to their independent living apartment home.

The Jenkses take advantage of everything Maris Grove has to offer. They attend the campus performances, lecture programs, and town halls.

Ransom heads for the woodshop every day where he turns bowls, makes tables and chairs, and repairs furniture for his neighbors. He has joined the billiards group and is membership chair for Maris Grove’s veterans club, which has more than 160 members.

A former librarian, Annette patronizes Maris Grove’s library. 

She tends three gardens spaces, growing at least half a dozen different vegetables and selling them at Maris Grove’s August “market days” to benefit its resident care fund (details about the fund are in the Residence and Care Agreement). 

She also swims laps in the indoor, all-season pool; works out at the fitness center; and belongs to the indoor gardening, genealogy, and computer clubs. 

“We looked at every place on Julie’s list,” says Annette. “Maris Grove’s amenities are far superior.”