Virginia (Ginnie) Somerville with her raised garden plot

Nature Nurtures

Outdoor Living at The Covington Retirement Community, Aliso Viejo

Nestled in the hills of Aliso Viejo, The Covington greets its residents and guests with a Mediterranean-style landscape that invites you to stroll the grounds and enjoy the ideal weather of South Orange County. Tucked away under the trees is a “Secret Garden” where one can sit and meditate on the koi slowly swirling in the pond, and listen to a babbling brook nearby. Residents and their guests can be found leisurely cruising the manicured walking paths or pacing through their daily “power walk;” many with their dogs, who also enjoy an invigorating social stroll.

Marilyn, a recent arrival to The Covington and 50-year resident of greater Los Angeles – most recently Rancho Palos Verdes, is no stranger to landscaping, having kept an abundant backyard for years. When it came time for Marilyn and her husband Dale to move, a few things were non-negotiable: “We wanted to downsize, we wanted to stay near the beach, and we wanted outdoor space to enjoy.”

An opportunity came to lead The Covington’s Landscape Committee, and Marilyn took on the role of Committee Chair with enthusiasm. The committee’s 12 members, many of whom have downsized from larger homes and gardens, share a passion for planting and cultivation. They meet monthly with The Covington team to learn about upcoming initiatives and discuss areas around campus that could use some sprucing up.

Recent projects include re-planting of a prominent area, affectionately referred to as “the slope,” with 3000 plants sure to add beautiful color and greenery once mature. Varieties planted include Laparanthus, Baccharis, Rosemary, Acacia and Bougainvillea.

The committee works closely with Sterling Land Care, The Covington’s professional landscapers, who provide two full-time gardeners 5 days per week. The partnership with Sterling also enables residents to receive professional assistance in their personal gardening pursuits as needed.

Residents remain cognizant of the ecology and ongoing water conservation. They use cardboard instead of plastic and plant lots of Coral succulents, which require little water and provide the garden with beautiful dashes of orange, pink and green.

“Many of us with cottages have our own patios where we grow flowers and entertain our friends and family,” Marilyn says. “The surrounding pines and jacarandas provide lovely color and shade.”
For those who really enjoy getting their hands dirty, there is a resident garden with raised plots and panoramic views of the surrounding valley.

When Virginia “Ginnie” Somerville came to The Covington 14 years ago with her husband, she didn’t intend to make gardening the focus of her next chapter; but, as it turns out, she is known around campus for her green thumb. “I’m a Midwesterner who grew up on a farm,” Ginnie says, “so I have an affinity for working in a garden.My garden plot has been a great outlet for me to express my creativity and sense of humor.”

Ginnie eats much of what she grows. Her friends and neighbors also enjoy the literal fruits of her labor. Among the many things Ginnie is known for, rhubarb pie is near the top of the list. She even has a dwarf lime tree, which she jokes about planting solely for her gin and tonics. And neighbors in need of a pick-me-up can always count on Ginnie to be there, fresh roses in tow.

Others stop by to take it all in and enjoy its bounties – marigolds, roses, tomatoes, and blueberries. Ginnie says it’s also the perfect place to do yoga, tai chi and, sometimes, vent your frustrations! “We get together. We lift stuff,” she says. “You see the rewards of what you put into the garden and it’s therapeutic.”

Over the years, improvements have been made, and interest has grown – there are now 12 raised beds, with gravel for drainage and steel mesh to guard against gophers. “Everybody’s interested in what’s going on with our planting projects. There’s always lots of support,” she adds, “You don’t have to do it on your own.”

Like everything else at The Covington, the gardens and pathways provide the freedom to live creatively. You can move here without missing out on the things you enjoy. “If someone has been gardening over the years,” Marilyn says, “living here means they’re still able to express their creativity and passion for planting and cultivating.”

“Everyone has their own preferences for rest, relaxation and stimulation,” Ginnie adds. “You can find something that interests you. Gardening is just one of many.” From card games and mahjong to music, theater and choir, there truly is no shortage of activities happening.

Ginnie enjoys music and theater. She coordinates with local musicians to put on concerts, enjoys dinners out with friends, and visits local museums regularly. “I co-produce a show called Covington Fabulous Follies,” she says. “This year, my co-producer and I opened the show in sequin jackets and sang the opening number from Chicago.” Not too shabby for an 87-year-old!

Marilyn and Dale make a point to state how much they enjoy their new home at The Covington. “We are extremely happy here! The residents are very friendly, eager to meet and share stories of their backgrounds. Inevitably, we find common interests to share. Activities abound, with exercise classes daily, Daiken brain games on the computer, cultural and entertainment offerings all within arm’s reach. The food is excellent, on par with fine dining, all sorts of variety and very accommodating of special dietary requests. It’s the most effortless way to have a rich and fulfilled life. We are thrilled we made this decision.”

Marilyn and Ginnie stress that you don’t have to be a gardener to enjoy The Covington campus. But if you do stop by, remember to abide by the rules. Well, the one rule anyway: “If you didn’t plant it, don’t pick it!”

About the Covington

The Covington offers exceptional senior living in a secure, gated neighborhood in Aliso Viejo. Our relaxed, maintenance-free living and beautiful accommodations provide the perfect setting for pursuing your passions and living life on your terms. Find the choice you deserve, freedom you desire and flexibility you can count on at The Covington. Because life is what you make it. Your legacy is now.

Contact us today to learn more. (949) 209-3829 |

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