Marion Vorhees in the garden she created behind the Eastern Plumas Health Care's Portola skilled nursing facility. Photo submitted

Marion’s Garden Club builds a dream

Portola’s Skilled Nursing Facility Director Lorraine Noble has started a Wednesday garden club and she’s asking volunteers to help “preserve and enhance Marion’s Garden.”

Marion Vorhees is a nursing facility resident who has spent several years bringing a patch of dirt and gravel behind the facility to colorful life. Eastern Plumas Health Care’s previous groundskeeper, Robert Hayes, used to bring cuttings from home and worked with Vorhees in her garden.

Initially, according to Noble, Vorhees planted hens and chick, a succulent, in one corner. Then, Noble gave Vorhees a private room where she could look out on her garden and “she just went crazy.”

Noble said she showed Vorhees the plans for a landscaped space that an architect drew up back in 2001. That seemed to motivate Vorhees even further. When she could come out and help, Vorhees would. When she didn’t feel up to it, Hayes would bring her outside and she’d direct him to do various tasks from her chair.

Over the past few years, Vorhees and Hayes planted several trees, daffodils and iris.

“Marion physically planted all that stuff herself,” said Noble. “Now, her yellow roses line the entire side of the building and her tulips are open.”

Noble explained that Vorhees was upset because her health has deteriorated. Noble started the Garden Club to encourage Vorhees to come out whenever she could.

“Last week,” added Noble, “it was raining out, but I could still plant the pansies. … ‘Next week,’ I told her, ‘we’ll plant the lilies. Hopefully next week will be warm and we’ll be able to take you out again.’ I’m hoping this will spark her to eat right and kind of get back to life again, cuz she’s my favorite girl.”

Noble said that getting out in the garden is good for Vorhees because she gets to “go play in the dirt for two hours.”

However, it’s what Noble is doing for Vorhees that stands out. Noble cuts flowers while she’s out in the garden and brings them back into Vorhees’ room and arranges them in a vase for her.

“She’s my mom when my mom’s not here,” Noble explained.

Noble said she has several steady helpers in master gardeners Linda Rutherford and Lorene Fitzsimmons. Jeanne Harper, EPHC’s occupational therapists, is also helping, along with Don Bliss, who has recently drawn up plans for the walkway and patio area. Vorhees’ daughter brought large rocks from home with flowers planted in them.

Noble hopes to put a cement walkway in and another pathway made with pavers so that physical and occupational therapy patients have places to walk “with different surface areas.”

Noble would also like to build a big patio, “so residents can come out and enjoy it. Eventually — but that’s just a dream — I’d like a doorway where the library is. It would have steps and a ramp. That would be great for physical therapy. And, I have to put up a pen for the dog. Lawton, our new therapy dog is here. And, I have to find someone who will do cement work. … I need volunteers,” said Noble.