Submitted by Design for Generations, LLC
Challenge: The bulkhead, a combination of steel frame and wooden pilings, had failed, making it impossible for residents to enjoy one-half of the garden area at The Atrium at Navesink Harbor senior living community in Red Bank, New Jersey. The design and development of the gardens has been a key component to helping residents maintain wellness in nature, and the bulkhead problems had affected the River Garden, the oldest and largest of The Atrium’s gardens.
Situated along the Navesink River, the River Garden offers a commanding view, not only of changing seasons, but also of scenes that change almost on an hourly basis. Something is always happening along the river, and a well-planned design could ensure more would be happening in the River Garden as well.
Solution: In 2007, when construction of a new bulkhead began, the entire garden area had to be redesigned and rebuilt. The area in the center was compacted soil/fill; gravel was brought in and compacted before the concrete was poured. Topsoil for the planting beds was also imported.
Many features from the previous garden were restored, and new features, such as a putting green and shade structures for gatherings, were incorporated. Walking paths were expanded, and the area now can host additional activities such as gardening, cookouts, movies, “happy hour,” and many other social events.
Although there is already an area where residents can grow their own plants, they have asked for more space to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers, so raised planters will soon be incorporated into the garden area for residents’ use and enjoyment. The esplanade apple trees, which grow along the perimeter of the garden, were once used only for decoration and screening. Today, the apples are being harvested for use in the kitchen.
The area may also be used for other activities, and discussions are underway about some other programs that are not specifically focused on gardening. Shuffleboard is popular, but space is somewhat limited, so the use of portable shuffleboard surfaces is being considered.
New garden ideas develop as people move into the community, bringing with them new interests and experiences. The River Garden has been designed to be flexible and incorporate new interests, making it a great example of how to face the challenges of incorporating wellness elements in an outdoor garden setting.