Growing Together: Colonial Acres Conservatory

Norm Wente in the conservatory at Colonial Acres

Norm Wente in the conservatory at Colonial Acres

The Covenant Village of Golden Valley retirement community has independent living apartments, assisted living apartments and a nursing home and rehabilitation center called Colonial Acres, where the new conservatory is located. Originally constructed as a greenhouse in the 1970s, the spaced was later converted to a gift shop. Recently, resident Norm Wente (a.k.a. Plant Guy Norm) was asked to change the gift shop back into a green space for the therapy program.

“I was thrilled. Working in the conservatory is the highlight of my day,” says Norm. “Plants are therapeutic. A staffer told me that when a resident is having a bad day, a visit to the conservatory works better than anything else. It’s green, fragrant and so different from a hospital room.”

Residents built the benches for the conservatory, which is filled with a variety of potted plants. Azaleas, African violets, orchids, primroses, begonias, daffodils, hyacinths, amaryllis and tropical foliage plants fill the space fall through spring. The conservatory closes in June due to summer heat and Norm takes the plants to his summer cottage to flourish outdoors.

He also holds plant seminars in the conservatory and is training others to tend the plants. “It’s uplifting and refreshing to be around plants, especially in winter when everything is bleak,” says Norm. “The staff also appreciate breaks from their routines by seeing the lovely flowers, touching the leaves, sensing the humidity and hearing the fountain’s splash.”

The Colonial Acres Conservatory is an inspiring example of the healing power of plants.

—Brenda Harvieux

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