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    Featured Project

    Riverside Patients Unwind at Garden, Farmers Market

    Kathy Van Mullekom, Daily Press Newspaper

    A farmer's market at a hospital may seem like a strange fit. Riverside Regional Medical Center views it as another way of helping people get healthier and happier.

    This year's new farmers market, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays now into fall, is another promising project for Randy Pingley, 45, grounds manager for the hospital on J. Clyde Morris Boulevard in Newport News.

    "Riverside is continuously searching for ways to provide healthy alternatives," says Pingley.

    "The newest thing is the Riverside Farmers Market. A year ago, Dr. Eric Stone, our associate administrator, came to me with the idea, and sent me numerous articles on this trend in health care, establishing farmers markets on hospital grounds. He wanted our patients, visitors and employees to have the ability to walk outside the hospital and obtain locally grown produce, which is a direct and visual correlation between health, wellness and diet."

    So far, the farmers market at the Tower entrance features Grandma's House Bakery, Of the Earth Body Care, West Village Barkery, Sinful Treats, Penn Farm Produce, Mawmaw's Stuff, Todd Health and Wellness, Zeb's Bees, Oberweis Dairy, State Farm Kettle Corn and Southside Virginia Catering. The hospital is working with vendors to have a portion of sales donated to the Riverside Foundation.

    Year-round, Pingley sees to the many gardens that embellish the hospital's landscapes. In 2010, Riverside won a Newport News Green Award. In 2013, Riverside placed 14th among the top 20 most beautiful hospitals in a 300-hospital competition sponsored by Soliant Health; in 2015, the hospital placed fourth.

    "This was one of my first major projects for Riverside," he says.

    "It was just a grass area at the front of the hospital parallel with the cafeteria. I wanted to give people a place to sit and reflect, take a break from being in the hospital — give people a place to walk out and take their children to see the fish."

    Pingley is also proud of the Cancer Care Center patio and pergola project in Newport News.

    "There was already funding available for a healing garden, but not enough room to do a large traditional garden," he says.

    "I decided to take a nice patio that was already at the facility, and plant it so that it felt as if you were in your own private garden. We had a large shade pergola constructed as well as installed several water features. I lost a grandfather to cancer in 1989 and my mother-in-law in 2012. She was actually treated at Riverside and really enjoyed coming out to the cafeteria pond as well as the Cancer Center patio garden. Both of these areas mean a great deal to me."

    In addition, landscaping has been upgraded to feature more flower beds, paver pathways, lighting, interior courtyard with pondless waterfall, parking lot screening with plant material and Bermuda sod installed as much as possible.

    "In 2009, Riverside made a new commitment to beautifying not only the grounds but also the interior d?cor of our lobbies, patient rooms, cafeteria and more," says Pingley.

    Pingley's preferred plants

    Tulips. They are inexpensive, and provide an instant "wow" factor. "I went to the Keukenhof (tulip capital in Holland) as a young teen and I can remember to this day how in 'awe' I was of the flowers," Pingley says. "When I went to Busch Gardens to work, it was my favorite time to plant. Busch Gardens installed thousands of tulips every fall. It was neat to design my own patterns and combinations. And then you sit and wait to see your results in the spring. At Kingsmill, I worked with a great friend of mine Willem Van Den Akker from Holland to have a tulip named 'Kingsmill,' and it's registered with the National Bulb Society."

    Lantana. The plant grows and spreads quickly, and offers continuous blooms throughout the summer. It has no issues with disease or pests, and comes in a good variety of vibrant colors. Some lantana comes back as a perennial.

    Loropetalum. The evergreen plant comes in different growing sizes, and features burgundy foliage, which is something different from your typical green shrub. There is pretty much a Loropetalum available for any application in your landscape — small low-growing varieties such as Purple Pixie to medium growers like Daruma, Ruby and Blush. Larger varieties like Zhuzhou grow to be 10 feet tall and wide.

    Variegated abelias. The semi-evergreen shrub has brightly colored foliage that compliments plants like loropetalums, hollies, boxwoods and nandinas, especially like Kaleidoscope, Radiance, Confetti and Mardi Gras.

    Anything tropical. "I love to use tropical plants in all of my landscapes and containers. Hibiscus jumps out as my favorite tropical plant," Pingley says. "I will plant entire flower beds with six-inch multi-colored hibiscus." Other tropical favorites include standard patio tree hibiscus in containers, diplandenias, mandevillas, plumbago, croton and palms.