Gardening offering solace during COVID-19 pandemic

WHEELING — While there was an increase in the number of area residents interested in learning more about basic gardening skills this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, for two Wheeling gardening enthusiasts, their long-time hobby continues to offer tremendous solace during a difficult time.

For Wheeling residents Kathryn Voorhees and Marlene Ingram, who live about two blocks away from one another in the Edgwood section of the city, gardening has been a big part of their lives for many years — but this year the pay-off was even more wonderful.

Voorhees’s yard, which was once an overgrown organic vegetable garden prior to her family moving to the residence 27 years ago, now flourishes with dozens of varieties of colorful flowers and plants surrounded by rustic fencing, topped off with a moon arch entryway covered with Sweet Autumn Clematis. In all, Voorhees believes there are more than 70 different varieties of plants surrounding her home.

“Being high risk, I am housebound, which means for six months I have just worked out here,” Voorhees said. “For me, weeding my garden and watering my garden is an act of meditation … and it lowers my stress and it keeps me close to the earth, and I just love it. … It’s a complete part of my life.”

Before the pandemic, Voorhees said she never seemed to have enough hours in the day to accomplish all the creative gardening things she wanted to do in her yard. She said local resident and Master Gardener Judy Fahey, has been a tremendous friend in helping her design and work on the many flowers and plants surrounding her home. Some of the many plants in Voorhees backyard garden include: day lilies, sedum, hostas lilies, coreopsis, Black-eyed Susans, and her personal favorite, the more than 20 varieties of heuchera.

Voorhees said while her gardens do serve as kind of an “aesthetic palette” for the neighborhood and it is very satisfying when neighbors often compliment her on the beauty of her gardens — she really creates the gardens for her own meditation and peace of mind.

“It is really such hard work, but the pay-off is just so wonderful,” she added.

For Ingram, gardening has also been a part of her life from an early age. She said reconnecting with something you are so passionate about throughout the pandemic has been very important.

“It just gives you such a feeling of accomplishment, especially in this day and time,” said Ingram, a longtime member of the Ohio Valley Master Gardeners. Ingram has been a member of the group for more than a decade and took care of the garden at Peterson for nearly five years with a lot help from other area master gardeners.

In addition, she said the local master gardeners group is taking care of the Corson Butterfly Garden outside the Schrader Environmental Education Center in Oglebay Park. She said the butterfly garden is a place where they can still congregate while being socially distant and still get that feeling of accomplishment.

“I like color and I like all kinds of flowers. … I enjoy perennials, because you plant them and they come back every year, but I do buy a lot of annuals,” Ingram said.

A Greenmantle hydrangea is just one of dozens of plants included in Ingram’s garden which is surrounded by a six-foot wooden privacy fence.

“It’s a solace I think for a lot of people during these times,” Ingram explained, while talking about the pandemic and a time people are expected to follow safety guidelines and properly socially distance. “I think it is a time we have never seen and I think from my point of view and my faith — it’s a time to step back and reevaluate and calm down.”

Karen Cox, West Virginia University Extension agent in Ohio County, said there was a definite increase in people with an interest in gardening, especially vegetable gardens. She said plants seemed to sell quickly at local garden centers this year with many people seeking advice.

“This spring we had many beginning gardening questions and were encouraging people to join our Facebook group (Ohio Valley Master Gardeners) to get reliable research based information from our Master Gardeners,” Cox explained.


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