The Healing Power of Nature of nature Lucy Cardella inspects yarrow plants that are thriving in a nature area she helped develop near the two Town Square apartment buildings in Vermillion. Not long after the second of the two Town Square apartment buildings was constructed in Vermillion, resident Lucy Cardella couldn't help but notice that something was missing.
Workers had done an excellent job of landscaping. The lawn by the Town Square I and Town Square II buildings is lush and green, even in July's heat.
But, Cardella said, there were "dead zones" around the dwellings.
Those areas are now teeming with life, thanks to flowers and medicinal herbs that Cardella and others have planted as they develop a nature area behind the buildings.
"I just can't stress why it's important to surround ourselves with native plants," said Cardella, who resides in Town Square II. "It's important that we have these natural areas."
Town Square II, located at 507 West Main, and its older counterpart, Town Square I, at 505 West Main, are managed by Oakleaf Real Estate Management Company.
The apartment buildings' main goal is to provide quality affordable housing to senior citizens in the Vermillion area.
Anna Aust, 92, moved into Town Square I shortly after it was constructed in the mid-1970s. She's gratified by the local efforts to bring nature so close to her home.
"Before I moved into town, I lived out in the country," she said. She may still live in the city, but the times she spends surrounded by blooming plants reminds her of her past.
Beverly Blatchford, who first lived in Town Square I before moving into Town Square II shortly after it was completed last year, also spends time in the new nature area.
Cardella estimates she's planted approximately 1,000 flowers and herbs in both the nature area and near the two buildings. She's also worked to rid the area of noxious weeds.
While many residents of the apartments are quick to praise her efforts, Cardella said the back to nature approach wouldn't have happened without the help of several individuals.
"Ann Iverson donated so many of the plants that we've used," Cardella said. "She really kick-started this whole thing."
Cardella also doesn't know how the project could have gotten off the ground without the support of Jerry Holbrook, the manager of the apartment complex.
"He has helped so much," she said.
Cardella, Holbrook said, has helped fulfill the wishes of many of the two apartment buildings' tenants.
"Everybody wants flowers and plants," he said. "But it's difficult for people to get out and do the work, especially many of our older residents. When Lucy came along, she jumped at the opportunity."
Soon, more than 700 plants were in place around the buildings and in the newly developed nature area, thanks to Cardella, Holbrook said.
"Her work has received compliments from many people in the community," he said.
The nature area is attracting more than people who enjoy the feel of fresh soil between their fingers, or the sweet-smelling plants.
Birds are attracted to the plants and herbs, in part by fresh bird seed hanging from a feeder, and by a bird bath set near the plants.
"I didn't realize this was going to develop into what it's become," said Bernice Johnson, 92, who views the activities in the nature area from the second floor window of her apartment.
Johnson admits she's growing too feeble to go out and be much help in the development of the nature area.
Cardella said that one doesn't necessarily have to be pruning and weeding and watering plants and herbs to enjoy them.
Just watching them develop, she said, is beneficial. Cardella is certain that Johnson and others at Town Square are faring better as they watch the plants grow.
"It is the healing power of nature," she said.
Cardella has studied herbology at Emerson College, Montreal, Canada. She is known for her expertise in natural and medicinal foods.
Nearly everything that she's planted near the Town Square buildings and in the nature area provides nourishment or healing to one's body or soul.
Aust and Blatchford enjoyed chatting in the shade of the nature area Monday, surrounded by yarrow, motherwort, mullein, echinachea, catnip and violets.
Near one of the buildings, a comfrey plant is thriving. Cardella snapped one of its leaves. Out oozed a soothing gel, much like aloe.
"This is very good for the skin," she said.
Located not far from sweet-smelling spearmint and peppermint plants is a more pungent stand of dill in full bloom.
Cardella also has planted herbs that would make any gourmet cook envious, including tarragon, chives and basil.
"Everybody can see the progress we've made this year with our plants around the buildings," Holbrook said.
Next year, he hopes to complete improvements to the nature area that will allow residents to enjoy it to a fuller extent. He hopes to install a trellis, benches, a walking trail, and outdoor furniture, including a table and chairs, so people can more easily view and smell the plants as they blossom.
The plants, Holbrook and Cardella said, aren't just for Town Square residents. Anyone is welcome to stop by to view and enjoy the plants.
"They're for everybody," Holbrook said. "They are the people's herbs. Anybody is welcome to come and take a look."
What Cardella finds most gratifying is the life force the plants appear to be emitting throughout the Town Square complex.
Johnson's health has improved, Cardella said. At one time, it didn't seem like she looked forward to the future.
That's all changed.
"I just love the scenery," Johnson said. "I can look out and see people walking out there and see Lucy weeding. When I was young, you couldn't hardly see my house for the flowers."
"Now Bernice says she wants to be here for spring," Cardella said.