One of the jobs I have been most grateful for is the one I have directing volunteers at Eagle Park Health Care Facility Gardens. I look forward to each Monday morning when I arrive at 777 Jones Street in Qualicum Beach and start my rounds of the gardens to see what the priorities are for the volunteers and myself for the next few hours. As the weather has gotten cooler and the watering routine in the front planter beds slows down, we have shifted our focus to improving the soil by adding mulches, and composting spent plant material and leaves from the trees. The greenhouse has become our "Action Central". It is a great place to brew some coffee or a pot of tea, and it is currently decorated with dozens of hanging baskets filled with succulents and winter greens.
Last Monday was a real beehive of activity. Bunches of greens arrived along with volunteers. There was delicious apricot cake, ginger cookies and shortbread. The aroma of delicious, fresh, locally roasted coffee filled the air. The volunteers are selling herb blends from a local company as a fund raiser for the garden. There were samples set up for people to try. The wreath maker volunteer set us up in a loose sort of assembly line. Two volunteers tie up fir boughs in a simple pattern, and then hang the wreathes up in the greenhouse for finishing. Sprigs of holly, pine, and cedar are used to fill in and give the wreath colour. One person brought a beautiful piece of rolled bark that is now a centerpiece for the wreath surrounded by holly and some bright berries. Another volunteer has brought a truck load of variegated holly. Volunteers disappear, and then return with more greens from their yards. The edges of the salal leaves are sprayed ever so lightly with gold paint, and they glow against the green background. There is a definite buzz in the air. The morning warms and everyone comments on how lucky we have been with the weather. It seems to us that we have had good weather nearly every single Monday morning since May!
Some of the volunteers have been gathering compost and working on our hanging basket project, One of the volunteers, a budding Horticultural Therapist, along with her woodworking husband, made dozens of darling little wooden birds to put into the baskets, and some of the residents have taken to painting them with gay colors to brighten up the short winter days. We have gathered succulents from donations and plant sales, and have propagated and divided the ones in our yards. We found a large pile of compost at the edge of the woods and now it is getting employment in our baskets. We are all are working hard to get them ready to be hung outside each resident's window for the Christmas season, and we hope to change the ornaments with the seasons. The succulents should survive with very little watering, which is a must if we are going to do a lot of baskets. Even our dedicated group of volunteers will have a hard time keeping up with the watering if the baskets are too thirsty. A revamp of our drip irrigation system is on our wish list, and is one of our fund raising goals.
The long term dream of mine for Eagle Park is to develop all of its gardens into beautiful, natural looking, low maintenance gardens. Another thing I would like to do is to be able to use some of the land to grow food. Food for the residents, perhaps, or perhaps we can get some sort of co operative deal going with the Kwalikum Secondary Student-Operated Salad Bar Project which will offer high quality soup, salad, and smoothies at a reasonable price. This type of project helps keep our food money in our own community. We could be accomplishing a number of things at one time. Volunteer activities can train people in growing gardens, and most importantly, growing food. The results of their work can provide an increasingly beautiful environment for the residents, their visitors, the staff, and the volunteers, along with the availability of fresh, local food. Right now in the flower beds we have broad beans, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and a bit of hardy lettuce, and all of it should life through the winter. The big picture is to see if we can, as a team of volunteers and staff, with input from residents, develop of mix of flower gardens, food gardens, and accessible space that can be reasonably maintained by a small group of volunteers. We are always looking for volunteers. We can use both green thumbs and purple thumbs with willing hearts. We would love to have people join us who are interested in gardening, producing a news letter, serving on an auxiliary board, or just bringing their ideas to the table. Donations are always welcome. This project brings us together as a community. All of us; old and young, and in-between, growers and enjoyers, good food lovers, and those who are just plain donating their time to make life a little nicer for all of us. Come join us!