The Blog at MRC The Crossings Retirement Community

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Creating an Outdoor Sanctuary

Pictured back, left to right is Carroll Harrod, Zanna Bickham, Grace w/ Yellowstone Landscaping, Wayne Jordan, Craig Wood, Bert Loudon, Barbara Chalk, Lou Ellen Ruesink, and Dave Ruesink.                                                         Pictured seated front, left to right: James Hughes, Jan Hughes, Joyce Nies, Peter Witt, and Mary Loudon.   

Years ago, a garden renovation was led at Arbor Oaks at Crestview by residents Bill and Mary Lay. Since that time, the outdoor space has become a monarch waystation that boasts a multitude of impressive blooms each season. While the Arbor Oaks Garden has long been a source of awe and inspiration, it is now credited for prompting new ideas to bloom as well.  

Residents of The Langford, Arbor Oaks’ sister community in College Station, Joyce Nies and husband Peter Witt began to daydream about the possibilities within their own courtyard, a space that is quite literally the centerpiece for the community.

“When Joyce and Peter came to me with this idea it was an immediate yes. The courtyard can be seen from the moment you walk in the doors at The Langford, so I knew this project could make a big impact. Joyce and Peter gave a great presentation to our residents about the idea. From there, it just became a matter of getting the plans pulled together to get it done,” said Stacey Nehring, Executive Director of The Langford.

“Over some 25 years at our house in Bryan, I had the pleasure of developing and working in my backyard garden.  I was excited when the opportunity to develop a garden came about at the Langford and pleased that the residents have been so supportive of the garden development efforts.” - Joyce Nies (pictured) 

With the community behind them, Joyce and Peter faced the challenge with great enthusiasm, each applying their individual talents to the project. Joyce, a master gardener, was the perfect lead to design the plantings and layout of the garden. She had help from the landscape designer from Yellowstone Landscaping, Grace Canady, a master’s student in landscape architecture at Texas A&M.

Meanwhile, Peter put his energy towards raising the funds necessary to see the dream come to fruition. Several significant gifts initially launched the effort with other donors joining along the way. All in all, over $80,000 in donations was raised from thirty individuals and couples, each designating their gift specifically for the garden project.

With ample funds in hand and a vibrant plan on paper, the development of the infrastructure was step one. Workers began by removing surface clay while installing a drip irrigation system with water conservation in mind. Sidewalks were also poured to reroute the flow of the space, along with the new garden beds that were constructed. Completing these components proved to be a major milestone from the vantage point of the residents. Peter recalled, “When the paths went in during spring 2023, residents got excited. There was really going to be a garden. Excitement grew when the beds and watering system were installed and built to a crescendo the day the trucks and workers arrived to undertake the initial plantings.”  

Joyce Nies and Nan Matush

With the paths and beds under construction, it became time for Joyce to get her hands dirty, literally. She began to hone in on the selection of native and pollinator plants, shrubs, grasses and trees, including plants from a list of Texas Superstars developed by the AgriLife Research and Extension Service at Texas A&M. Katy Peterson-Garcia, a member of The Langford staff and Master Naturalist, joined Joyce in making selections, each understanding the goal was to select plantings that would thrive given the many variables of climate, sun, and soil, among other considerations. “As the Texas climate evolves, native plants have the best chance of surviving. They’re drought tolerant, and able to attract butterflies, beneficial insects, bees, and hummingbirds,” explained Joyce.

The group held their breath through the excruciating heat of summer hoping the recent plantings would thrive despite rising temperatures and water restrictions put in effect by the city of College Station. It was through the watchful eye and tediously timed watering schedule upheld by the resident gardeners that they made it through the harsh season virtually unscathed. Come Fall, the blend of colors and variety of blooms left the group with an overwhelming sense of pride. The garden they had imagined, funded, and nurtured was finally taking shape. “It’s a pleasure to look out in the courtyard and see people sitting on a glider under one of the arbors, walking from the dining room back to their home through the garden, and hearing people talk about the latest blooms over lunch or dinner,” expressed Joyce with a smile.

While some enjoy the space as a way of leisure, others enjoy the satisfying work the garden provides to their routine. For example, resident Craig Wood volunteered to personally care for the Texas superstar hardy hibiscus which he recommended be included in the garden. The three plants bloomed profusely throughout the hot summer and into early November prompting Craig to document the spectacular blooms with daily photos.

Some might say the population at The Langford has grown as a result of the project’s completion with new residents joining the landscape, a couple of young rabbits, butterflies and moths, hummingbirds, bees, anoles, dragonflies, and a variety of beneficial insects.

Joyce and Peter recently hosted resident representatives from Stevenson Oaks in Fort Worth who are   actively contemplating taking on a similar effort. The idea of a resident inspired garden was a seed initially planted at Arbor Oaks that is now beautifully blooming at The Langford and is currently being pollinated in Fort Worth.  It seems ideas and gardens require the same things to grow, a supportive environment and careful nurturing. A huge thank you to the key donors and contributors for seeing this idea grow into a lovely reality.

Bert and Mary Loudon enjoy regular strolls in the garden.
Wayne Jordan poses with the memorial arbor and glider in his wife, Dorothy Jordan’s memory.
Barbara Chalk poses with the garden bed and tree in her husband, Robert “Bob” Chalk’s memory.


Visit to see for yourself.

The Langford Senior Living Explore Arrow, College Station