Neighbors continue to maintain ‘Memory Garden’

Although it’s a City of Portland park, find out why volunteers still spend Saturday mornings to keep this unique garden in beautiful condition. And, learn about a special fundraiser ‘Movie in the Park’ event they’re holding there in August …

Inside these gates, caregivers can feel safe and comfortable bringing folks who are memory-challenged.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Not long ago, we revisited the Portland Memory Garden, located in the southeast corner of Ed Benedict Park on SE Powell Blvd.

> To read about our first visit: CLICK HERE.

Patty Cassidy, the President of Friends of Portland Memory Garden, talks to us why she tills a flowerbed at the garden.

At one of twice-a-month Saturday morning “work parties”, we met up with the President of the Friends of Portland Memory Garden, Patty Cassidy. “Although we consider this to be a very special garden, with a special purpose, it’s open to the entire community.”

The garden – one of only eight such facilities in the entire nation – was dedicated in May 2002, Cassidy reminded us, and was designed to give respite for caregivers of people with memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“It was a project of the American Society of Landscape Architects, to observe their 100 year anniversary,” Cassidy told us. “Their goal was to create 100 gardens in 100 cities. When they decided to build a ‘thematic garden’ in Portland, we decided to make it a Memory Garden.”

This pavilion structure serves as a “way-finding marker” that helps people keep from feeling lost.

Design prevents ‘feeling lost’
When the caregiver of a loved one, or a staffmember from a health care facility, brings memory-challenged individuals to the garden, Cassidy explained, “They can close the gates to the garden, and the guest won’t wander off. Once the person is secure in this garden, its circular design keeps them from getting ‘lost’.”

All paths in the Memory Garden lead back to the pavilion near the center gate. “The pavilion can be seen, pretty much from anywhere in the garden,” Cassidy pointed out. “If they’re feeling anxious to return, they look at pavilion; it’s a way-finding visual cue.”

The texture and scent of the especially-chosen plant life helps stimulate memories, horticultural therapists say. The raised beds make it easy for folks to sit and enjoy the greenery.

Year-around garden stimulates memories
Throughout the four seasons, there’s always some kind of plant blooming, even in the darkest days in January, Cassidy mentioned. “These flowers and plants, many of them in raised garden beds, have been chosen to stimulate the senses and to spark past memories.”

Cassidy, a trained horticultural therapist, often meets with individuals and groups in the garden. “We will take flowers or part of plants from the garden, and sit in a shady area. When we pass them around, people will start talking about memories that come to them related to the plant material. It’s really great to see their senses engaged.”

And, at times, groups will also have lunch at the Memory Garden. “It’s really a great place for a Senior Community outing, especially for some of those who are memory challenged,” Cassidy said.

Volunteer Ann Smith, says she gives ofher time and labor because, “It’s lovely here, and a great resource for our community.”

‘Friends’ maintain garden
Their non-profit organization raises the money to complete the support the ongoing care of the garden, Cassidy pointed out.

“Although it’s owned by Portland Parks & Recreation, they’re budgeted for eight hours a month; that money’s used primarily for projects involving “heavy lifting” and distributing materials in the park. We volunteers do most of the maintenance and upkeep.”

Sue Stegmiller says she’s volunteered at the garden for about four years. “The garden also gives access to people in wheelchairs, in addition to people with memory problems. I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.”

The group of eight board members helps keep the organization of about 50 members operating. “There are a lot of hours donated; we really appreciate our volunteers,” Cassidy commended.

From 9:00 a.m. until noon, on the first and third Saturday of the month, the garden’s Friends hold a “work party” to help keep the garden in top shape. “The Portland Garden Group has adopted this garden and come once a year with about 20 of their wonderful, make that great, women gardeners. We get a lot of work done in those three hours, thanks to that crew,” Cassidy said.

Special benefit and fair – with a Movie in the Park – scheduled for August 24
Later this month is the Portland Memory Garden Senior Movie Night in the Park and Resource Fair on August 24.

  • From 4:30 until 7:30 pm, the Senior Resource Fair will feature information about housing, medical care, insurance options, and more.
  • The Friends volunteers will lead garden tours, and horticultural therapists will offer nature crafts for families – those are especially great for children. Learn about the garden by playing “Botany Bingo” – fill out a Bingo card by finding special plants and trees in the garden. And, there will be a plant sale table, sponsored by Portland Nursery.
  • At 7:00 p.m., enjoy live music with “The Sounds of Rayvis (Elvis)”.
  • At dusk, on their “Really Big Movie Screen”, Portland Parks & Recreation will show “That’s Entertainment” with Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, and Gene Kelly, and directed by Jack Haley Jr.

The Portland Memory Garden is located just off SE Powell Boulevard at SE 104th Avenue, in the southeast corner of Ed Benedict Park. It’s open daily from 8:00 a.m. until dusk.

To volunteer or to learn more, contact Patty Cassidy, Friends of the Portland Memory Garden, at, or see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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