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Avamere celebrates senior gardeners

Business honors two seniors as Gardeners of the Year


Many of us enjoy the beautiful flowers and plants that line the streets in small towns, but few often give thought to the individual who plants or maintains the living decoration.

Felicia Romzek, director of community relations for Avamere at Sandy, said she has seen the residents of Avamere become very passionate about gardening.

She decided it was time they got some credit.

Romzek has put together the first Gardener of the Year Awards. Every year, Avamere at Sandy will hold a ceremony to honor the work and effort local seniors have put into beautifying their communities.

“We have a whole lot of seniors doing these things for a lot of years,” Romzek said. “We all walk by and say ‘that’s lovely.’ But there’s someone behind that, and by and large, it’s seniors.”

Avamere at Sandy will build a public rose garden with every senior it honors. Each award recipient will have a rose bush planted in his or her honor. Romzek said she hopes eventually to have a rose garden that can be enjoyed by the whole community.

In preparation for the event, Romzek contacted local garden clubs asking for nominations of seniors who deserved to be recognized. She received responses from gardeners in Government Camp and Estacada.

This year’s awards will be given to Lee Perry of Government Camp and Penny Vogel of Estacada.

Government Camp planters

Perry has enjoyed gardening in his community for nearly 12 years, since before he retired.

With the help of other modest gardeners, Perry has turned Government Camp Loop Road into a colorful thoroughfare.

His loving touch is particularly apparent in front of and across the street from the Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum.

His hollowed log planters have become a community project, as he has been taking polls on how he should utilize his newest log.

Across the street from the museum at a picnic area, you can see the immense work that has been done by Perry and his landscaping comrades.

The area has three flowerbeds, two of which have been raised from sloping with the ground so they are better seen from the road — Perry said his van has carried copious amounts of soil and rocks needed to make the beds perfect.

The third bed is ground level and still needs some work, according to Perry. He said he and the rest of his crew hope to move a large boulder further up the slope to expand the flowerbed to be more easily seen from the road by travelers.

The grouping of flowerbeds, put in a couple years ago, held 960 plants, ranging from tall brightly colored snapdragons to sprawling rainbow petunias, when replanted.

However, Perry said the collection has since dwindled from becoming meals for moles. But Perry remains upbeat, laughing about the fact that they ate the apparently tasty flowers, leaving the weeds for Perry to take care of on his own.

“You’ve got to have a sense of humor about it,” he said.

Perry said he enjoys gardening because he likes to see the growth of the plants.

“And when you’re that close to the general public, it’s great to see the reaction of people coming by and saying, ‘thank you, we really enjoyed your flowers,’ “ he said.

Tending Kinzy Faire

Penny Vogel leads a quiet life gardening and working at Estacada’s local library.

After moving to the area, Vogel was adopted by a local farmer and gardener, Millie Kiggins.

“Penny, of course, spoke to her parents about it, and her mother said ‘no one could have too many mothers,’” Romzek said.

With the help of Kiggins, Vogel built Kinzy Faire, a now private garden in Estacada.

Kinzy Faire was once open to the public, but is now only available to be seen by appointment.

“Kinzy Faire has a distinct sense of peace and calm, with a background of buzzing bees, more birds than I could count, the smell of fresh apples and flowers everywhere,” said Romzek, who visited the gardens with Vogel.

Vogel continues to work in the gardens, hoping to expand them to include locations closer to her home, including working in “old growth” gardens and a memorial rose garden for her husband located where he used to tend vegetables.

Vogel has a fondness for clematis, a group of plants within the buttercup family, and honeybees.

She lives with her two dogs next door to her son, who has also taken up the family legacy and is currently planting blueberries.

The ceremony

The gardener of the year awards will be handed out at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30, at Avamere at Sandy, 17727 S.E. Langensand Road.

Rep. Mark Johnson will present the awards.

Romzek said the ceremony should take no more time than an hour. Following the presentation Heartland Country Band from Estacada will provide music and Avamere will hold its weekly Happy Hour event.

Romzek said she did not receive nominations from Sandy’s garden club, but hopes she will in the future.

She also said she may want to open up nominations for gardeners in communities such as Boring and Damascus as well.