"I believe there is a very strong connection between the landscape industry and the community,” says Mike Maloney of Mapleton Nurseries in Kingston. “After all, it could be said that man’s very first occupation was ‘tending the garden.’ There is something I have lightly touched on in the past: that each and every one of us is a gardener, that in our gardens, that which we choose to grow is defined only by our choices, that the size of our gardens is defined only by the perimeters we set around them. And no matter how we look at it, in today’s world, in today’s times, the fact of the matter is that the privileged have an ongoing responsibility to and for the underprivileged.”

In the summer of 2009, Mapleton Nurseries was given the perfect opportunity to further that mission, a mission shared by the New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association, an organization Mapleton Nurseries actively supports. The management at Princeton Community Housing’s Elm Court property, a housing complex at 300 Elm Road for low-income elderly residents, contacted Mapleton about the need for a community garden for the residents.

Maloney, a landscape designer for Mapleton Nurseries, and Dave Reed, the owner, donated all the materials for the garden and in October, 2009, began work on the initial phase of the garden project, which was completed in May of this year. It is a self-contained garden including a patio with raised planters for those in wheelchairs and a large garden area for residents to grow vegetables.

The garden project itself led to the creation of The Two Thousand Ten Commission (www.thetwo-thousandtencommission.org), an organization for the greater Princeton community, says Maloney, “meant to be seen by others, something meant to be a ‘seed’ of sorts — to be picked up and ‘planted’ by others — in their communities, in their gardens.”

In October, 2009, Maloney happened to see the screening of a documentary called “Luckey” on the Sundance Channel — and he knew he had found the perfect person to help with Phase Two of the garden.

Tom Luckey, a sculptor, architect, and playscape designer and owner of Luckey Climbers in East Haven, CT, himself knows the challenges of being wheelchair-bound. In 2005 Luckey’s life changed in an instant. He was desiging a three-story-tall climbable sculpture, the masterpiece of his career building interactive art, when he fell through a window and became completely paralyzed. The lives of Luckey and his family became a roller coaster ride in the year after Tom’s accident, as they learned to negotiate the unfamiliar territory of paralysis. Filmmaker Laura Longsworth produced “Luckey” to share his extraordinary story and explore the process of Luckey’s remaking his life and rebuilding his career.

Though wheelchair-bound, Luckey is still working. The documentary shows, for example, a beautiful climber Luckey; his son, Spencer; and their team installed in Boston shortly after Luckey became a quadraplegic.

The film had its world premiere at the International Documentary Fesitval in Amsterdam in November, 2008. After its North American and New England premieres, it was nationally broadcast on the Sundance Channel. The film will receive its New Jersey premiere on Thursday, September 29, at Princeton Public Library. In addition to Mike Maloney and Dave Reed, Spencer Luckey will be on hand at the screening as well as filmmaker Laura Longsworth.

“When I saw the Sundance screening, I was so impressed I sent Tom an E-mail,” says Maloney in a phone interview. “He E-mailed back overnight, which led to some phone calls, I sent him the 2010 commission website and we continued talking. While this was all going on, I sent Janie Hermann (public programming librarian at Princeton Public Library) an E-mail, telling her I thought ‘Luckey’ is a wonderful, very compelling film.” That led to the planned screening on September 29.

The Luckeys have not been to the Elm Court project yet, but they have been reviewing the plans for Phase Two, which Maloney sent them, and will be involved. They are currently thinking about designing either a bridge or a water feature for the site. Phase Two will also include the redesign and regrading by Maloney of some of the walkways leading to the gardens, which have inclines that are too steep for some of the residents, both wheelchair-bound and not. “Tom and Spencer are consulting with Phase Two to make it a better project,” says Maloney.

In the end, says Maloney, the gardens at Elm Court and the 2010 Commission are “about something each and every one of us can be about — leading, caring, communicating.”

Film Screening, Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street. Thursday, September 29, 6:30 p.m. Screening of “Luckey,” a documentary about Tom Luckey, the interactive artist who fell and became paralyzed. He and his son, Spencer, have been working with Mapleton Nurseries to improve the gardens for residents of Elm Court. Mike Maloney and Dave Reed of Mapleton Nurseries, Spencer Luckey, and filmmaker Laura Longsworth. Free. 609-924-8822 or www.princetonlibrary.org.

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