The Osborn has held steadfast to its founder Miriam Osborn’s initial vision, providing the elderly with exceptional care in beautiful, natural surroundings since 1908.
By Caitlin Brown
The Osborn has held steadfast to its founder Miriam Osborn’s initial vision, providing the elderly with exceptional care in beautiful, natural surroundings since 1908. The sprawling 56-acre property was modeled — with the guidance of her attorney John Sterling — on the old pleasure grounds of England, and still boasts many of the 2,258 trees originally planted. The landscape continues to evolve for caregivers, patients, and visitors to admire and enjoy thanks to patrons and residents who have taken a vested interest in its care.
A perfect testament to this is the Betty Neagle Garden, begun in 1999 as a tribute and memorial to the late garden enthusiast and beloved member of the Osborn Board of Trustees and Board of Managers. The adjacent lower garden and seated courtyard were also created then. In recent years, these gardens have struggled to adjust to Mother Nature’s ever-changing conditions.
Three years ago, landscape designer Katie Brown was asked to spruce up the garden. Some plants had not fared well and the deer were eating many others. The designer sought to bring in color and texture with plants that were relatively low-maintenance and deer-proof. Landscape contractor Curtis Spacavento, who installed the original garden in 1999, implemented her plan.
To inject more color into the garden, she chose lots of burgundy plants (smoke bush, royal burgundy, barberry — all complimenting the existing Japanese maple) and chartreuse/yellow plants (Japanese forest grass, Lady’s mantle, and mellow yellow spiraea). Three different grasses added structure, texture, and movement. The result is a calming, Zen-like space where people gather for occasions, or, on a quiet day, merely contemplate. The residents clearly appreciate this space.
The upper parterre garden, which contains a beautiful rose arbor and cascading fountain, frames the newly opened Memory Care Center, which provides state-of-the-art care for those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. This garden was altered to provide long-term seasonal interest. Unlike the lower garden, this garden is gated, what The Osborn calls a “secure wander garden.” It is where patients from the center can appreciate the beautiful outside garden safely in a contained space.
Here, Brown brought in fragrant Miss Kim lilacs that flower in May, Endless Summer hydrangeas, and Little Lime hydrangeas that brighten the spot in August. An 8- by 10-foot area was set aside to give patients a place to garden.
The lower, more whimsical garden, and the upper, more formal garden require constant care. Brown honored the existing layout, but made necessary changes that suited changing conditions.
Osborn resident Margaret Cheney, who was a good friend of Mrs. Neagle’s, is grateful for the additions to the garden. She calls the garden “beguiling … it’s beautifully done … I couldn’t bear the thought of letting a garden dedicated to my best friend go.”
Thanks to designer Brown and the support and attention of residents, staff, and patrons, it hasn’t.
For more information on how to contribute to this historical property and how to contribute to the landscaping legacy, visit http://www.theosborn.org/documents/neaglearboretum.pdf.