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Community rallies to bring Black Diamond gardens back to life

Staff of the hospital in Black Diamond are grateful to volunteers who have donated time, money or expertise to the project.

Cleaning up neglected gardens is no easy task. Overgrown plants, weeds and poor soil quality can make the job seem overwhelming.

But when the gardens are located at a community hub like Oilfields Hospital and the Rising Sun Long Term Care Centre, people come together to share in the work.

A garden courtyard at the long-term care centre fell into neglect over the years, along with plant beds along the hospital's perimeter. It became clear to hospital staff that restoring them would be a monumental task, but worth it for residents in long-term care.

Several weeks ago, a call was put out to the community to help fix up the gardens. Scores of volunteers and businesses donated time, products or expertise to the cause, said Janet Scott, a co-ordinator with volunteer resources at Oilfields General Hospital.

“There was talk about bulldozing the beds and returning them to grass,” said Scott.

It had been many years since any work was done on the beds, and weeds were knee-high in places, she said. Residents enjoy the courtyard in the summer, and staff want to make the environment as nice as possible.

There have been donations of everything from plants to mulch, birdseed and bird feeders, and soil and compost. Staying true to the agricultural roots of the area, baler belts have been donated to be used as edging, Scott said.

Most of the work up to this point has been edging and weeding the beds to prepare for new planting, and there is plenty of expertise to draw on from the surrounding area. About 25 people from across the community have spent hours and hours helping with the grunt work, she said.

Volunteers were initially found through social media and personal connections, and it grew from there.

“It was the Millarville Horticultural Club who kind of took the lead and saw the vision and didn't run away when they saw the magnitude,” Scott said. “(Club member) Patty Webb was the person with the vision and knowledge to see what it could be.”

Webb said the enthusiasm from volunteers has been infectious.

“And I think with people that are involved, you all feel you have some ownership and pride in it. So I think that's the bonus part,” Webb said.

Going into the planting stage of the garden rejuvenation, the new plants will be easy to maintain and suited to the climate, Webb said.

“We're going to be very selective about what we plant,” she said, adding they want the gardens to be easy for volunteers to maintain in the future.

“Everybody feels so good about it."

Scott recalls when volunteers were digging in the flower bed near the hospital’s entrance.

“All of the residents were lined up at the window, kind of cheering us on and laughing, and they thought it was a great thing,” she said. “We are grateful to those who have helped.”

She added they are still open to involvement from others, whether they want to help physically or by donating towards the project.

“I think, for me, the best part and the most humbling part was just how when people learned what we're trying to do, just so many people wanted to be part of it.” Scott said. "They were willing to do whatever was within their means to do.”

The best way to get in touch is through Volunteer Resources at the hospital, Scott said.  

Robert Korotyszyn

About the Author: Robert Korotyszyn

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