A green thumb! Gardens of St. Francis resident has a passion for planting

Tammy Walro

        “Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years.” – Unknown.
        The quote holds true for Dorothy Czaja, resident of the Gardens of St. Francis in Oregon.
        Dorothy, who turned 94 years old on July 24, finds endless joy in planting and maintaining a flower garden located in the grotto located on the Gardens of St. Francis grounds.
        “When I came to live here in January 2019, I thought the grotto – a stone structure with a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary – was such a beautiful place,” she said.
        To add to the idyllic spot’s beauty, she started planting flowers and adding garden décor, including angel statues she picked up at garage sales and flea markets.
        “I also added some stepping stones – some of which people gave to me, others I bought,” she said.
        Over time, she has continued to add to the grotto landscape. “My daughter, Jackie, who has a beautiful garden, gave me some perennials, which I planted,” she said.  
        She also purchased and chose plantings that would provide different colors and visual interest throughout the season, including purple coneflowers, Shasta daisies, lamb’s ears, rudbeckia, vinca, begonias, dusty miller, wave petunias and others.
        “Hostas came up so beautiful for me,” she said.
        “I tell everybody I should have been a farmer,” she said. “I just love to get my hands down in the dirt and work, planting and transplanting,” she said. “I was born and raised in Toledo, but I came here from Temperance, Michigan, and at my home I had nine hanging baskets, flowers around the yard and a vegetable garden.
        “When I moved here, I was able to have a couple of hanging baskets, but I really missed my gardens,” she said. “So, I started planting and it just grew and grew from there.”
        She also planted petunias near a tree outside her window at the Gardens.
        It has been a labor of love, despite having back surgery April 24.
        “I’ve slowed down a little,” she said. “I’m able to fill up the sprinkling cans with water and carry them to the garden on my scooter.”
        “Also, we have been fortunate to have had periods of rain when I didn’t have to water,” she said.
        “I get so much enjoyment from gardening,” she said. “I encourage staff and other residents to go out and enjoy the beauty.”
        “Dorothy has created such a lovely spot,” said Rosanne Kalinowski, Gardens of St. Francis activities director. “There are benches out there and it’s great to see people go there to enjoy the peace and quiet, to pray and meditate.”


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