The Lakelands Master Gardeners have a new home away from home, and it'll be the site for a new, intergenerational learning program with the Piedmont Agency on Aging.

The agency moved to its current site at 808 S. Emerald Road in 2000, and started an intergenerational daycare called Lifetime Discoveries. The program was part of an effort to provide intergenerational day care services where seniors from the Greenwood Senior Center would participate in supervised activities with children. Tracey Bedenbaugh, PAA's chief operations officer, said the same spirit of intergenerational education inspired her to apply for a grant to put a greenhouse on the property.

"I applied for it, and didn't have a clue what to do with it if we got it," she said.

Staff had planned programs where seniors and children could garden together, but soon the effort and maintenance of building planting boxes and working the garden became too much. A resident at PAA was a master gardener, and she helped maintain the garden for some time, but after a while it became more work than the agency could handle.

"Tracey called us one day and said they have this great greenhouse and don't know what to do with it," said Missy Lowery, president of the Lakelands Master Gardeners. "Our primary focus is on education, so we thought this would be a prime location."

Bedenbaugh said she wanted to offer the space to the master gardeners because of their educational mission, as well as the know-how they bring to the table. Together, the two groups want to build an intergenerational curriculum that brings children and seniors together to learn how to cultivate plants and care for the insects, birds and wildlife that the garden will attract.

"We wanted to be sure that by the time the community is ready to open its doors again, we'll be ready here," Lowery said.

Ann Barklow, a longtime master gardener, said they're working to grow pollinator-friendly plants to complement Greenwood's role as a Bee City USA partner. Through this, they can teach people about the roles of various pollinators and the plants they're attracted to. Teaching and advocacy go hand-in-hand, in this case.

"We want to encourage people to grow pollinator and rain gardens themselves, in their own homes and communities," Lowery said. "This location is perfect. Where else could you go that's in the middle of the community, with intergenerational opportunities and have the setting for educational programs?"

Bedenbaugh said this is the kind of partnership and programming she wanted to see in this garden to begin with. The PAA staff and volunteers from the senior programs worked hard to keep the garden and greenhouse running, but they struggled to keep the garden growing. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and it gave Bedenbaugh time to plan and set up a partnership.

The master gardeners usually work on one-off projects, Lowery said, and not long-term programs. This is an opportunity to create a lasting source of natural education for the community.

The kickoff for the site will be the master gardeners' upcoming plant sale on April 10, at the PAA greenhouse. Already, the gardeners are moving cultivated seedlings from the Greenwood city greenhouse they're allowed to use out to the new, smaller greenhouse for storage before the sale.

After the sale, however, Lowery said she's interested in exploring what other educational opportunities the group could seize. She mentioned wanting to do online videos teaching people gardening basics and working with other local organizations, as well as seeking out community gardens to share the knowledge and experience the master gardeners have.

Already, crisp vegetables and lush flowers are blooming in the planting boxes at the garden, and pale, green sprouts are maturing inside the greenhouse. Bedenbaugh said she's thrilled at the possibilities this partnership opens up, and the potential it holds for the future.

"We'll just keep working and making things better and better," she said.

Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.