Volunteer Spotlight: Shirley Priest and the Sensory Garden
A hidden gem in the middle of downtown Smyrna—in a courtyard off the Smyrna Community Center to be exact—Keep Smyrna Beautiful’s Sensory Garden was created to be seen, touched, smelled, tasted, and heard.
“We see the beauty of the plants, hear the sound of the water from the beautiful fountain, enjoy the fragrance of the lavender, basil, and other herbs, feel the wooly texture of the lambs’ ears, the taste of the thyme, and more,” says longtime Forest Hills resident and Master Gardener Shirley Priest.
Jonquil Garden Club’s Involvement
Shirley, who retired as an educator in 2003, serves as Sensory Garden Team Lead. On garden workdays, she enthusiastically leads a group of volunteers from the Jonquil Garden Club. Club members spend hours each month tending to, watering, and nurturing the garden.
Guiding the crew of gardeners comes naturally to Shirley, whose passions include travel, floral design, teaching, and, of course, gardening.
Susan Austin, Gerhard Braunberger, Kim and Noel Byrne, Kelly Clark, Debbie Deluca, Jean Hanson, Heidi Hunt, Janis Jones, Diane Marchi, Debbie Rosebrugh, Beth Moore Williams, and Lucille Zapotochny are also a part of the team.
A Place to Learn and Enjoy
Originally dedicated in 2000, volunteers completely redesigned and restored the Sensory Garden in 2018. From the beginning, the gardeners designed the space for both public enjoyment and education. They even created a handout for children to facilitate their exploration of the garden. However, the garden is not just for children. It has something to offer to those of all ages and experience levels.
“Our team is composed of veteran gardeners as well as those new to gardening pursuits, and all of us enjoy the learning that occurs every time we’re in the garden,” says Shirley. “Humor, good cheer, friendship, learning, and dirty gloves are all part of what we find by working the garden. I’d say it’s a joyous place.”
Smyrna residents can find the Sensory Garden by walking all the way through the game room on the first floor of the Smyrna Community Center (200 Village Green Circle SE, Smyrna). If the double doors are locked, the front desk staff at the center are happy to unlock them.
Shirly encourages Smyrna residents to stop by. “Come and experience the Sensory Garden,” she says. “Bring the children and a picnic lunch!”
By: Eloise Holland, published 12.12.2022