Troudy Gouse: Witherell’s Plant Lady

Whether it’s an overwatered philodendron, a wilting orchid, or an African Violet infested with mealybugs, Witherell volunteer Troudy Gouse is the first person staff, residents, and rehab patients turn to if there’s a problem with a plant.

Affectionately called “the plant lady,” Gouse comes in once a week for several hours, watering the plants in public areas such as the entryway, hallways, solarium, auditorium, cafe, and rehab center, and she takes care of the greenhouse. In addition, she always makes time to respond to the requests of residents and rehab patients who ask her to come to their rooms to tend to their ailing plants.

“People at Witherell often receive plants as gifts and sometimes those plants become infected with insects or disease. I take the plant from the room, spray it and treat it. That improves its chances of recovery. Sometimes it just comes down to proper watering,” she says.

Gouse’s green thumb goes back a long way. She had a life-long love of gardening, but after raising her family in Mill Neck, Long Island, she decided to turn her hobby into a career. In the early 1970s, she enrolled in the horticulture program at SUNY Farmingdale and took additional classes at the University of Hong Kong while residing oversees with her late husband, Donald, who worked for IBM. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1976, the couple settled in Cos Cob and Gouse became involved as a volunteer in the Garden Education Center of Greenwich. Several years later she was hired by The Nathaniel Witherell Auxiliary to work three days a week tending to the facility’s plants.

“My main time was used in making sure that the plants throughout the building and in residents’ rooms were watered properly,” says Gouse. “I worked with almost a dozen volunteers.” She also tended to plants in the greenhouse (now part of the Rehab Center), which was added during her 11-year tenure, and coordinated with various garden clubs that came to the Witherell to teach residents how to do flower arranging and other activities.

When her husband retired in 1990, Gouse spent some wonderful years travelling on the Intracoastal with him on their boat. After he became ill and passed away in 2006, she returned to the Witherell as a volunteer. Gouse says she felt like she had never left, and recalls that many things hadn’t changed. “Some ficus trees have been there since the late 80s! They are real survivors,” she says.

Gouse is among the many volunteers who make the Witherell a special place. She says she sees the volunteers who work so hard to make residents and rehab patients feel better and more comfortable. As for her role, she says, “A room without a plant is a dead room. A plant has a purpose; it’s not just cleaning the room, absorbing carbon dioxide. If I can help people here enjoy a plant, then that makes me feel good.”

Read more about volunteering at The Nathaniel Witherell here.

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