more articles >

Most Gardening is Voluntary

Gary Westlake


Although gardening is a job for landscapers, growers, and people working in garden centres, for most of us gardening is something we do because we want to. That is probably why so many people take up gardening when they retire. This voluntary aspect of it extends to wanting to spend time helping others enjoy the activity. Gardeners are a very generous bunch, sharing ideas, sharing plants, and opening up their gardens to visitors.

Going on a garden tour is a great way to decide what to do in your own garden. We organize tours through private and public gardens, and I am struck by the generosity of homeowners that open their gardens for people to walk around. They spruce up the place for us. They greet us and explain what they are trying to achieve and offer advice on how to do it. A number of organizations have garden tours. The most well known in town is the Art Gallery Tour in June but most of the Horticultural Societies organize tours as well. When you are visiting these gardens, you will want to be respectful of the property by staying on the paths and only looking. One time when we were hosting a tour in our garden, a lady came to me with a flower from one of our flowerbeds in her hand asking what it was. Now this was not a critical flower, but perhaps it might have been better for her to point to the flower instead.

Often when we have been visiting public gardens, we have stopped to talk to the gardeners working in them. These workers are always friendly and willing to talk about what they are doing. You would be amazed at how many volunteers work in the public gardens as well. For example, volunteers took us around at the Montreal Botanical Gardens, explaining to us the details and making our visit memorable. The Peterborough Horticultural Society looks after Fleming Park downtown. One of our members, Kathy Hewitt, has been in charge of the looking after Fleming Park and has worked hard to keep the garden in shape. Unfortunately, she was recently in a serious car accident and will not be able for a while. Other volunteers will be taking up the slack starting with an Earth Day cleanup on April 21.

The generosity of gardeners was very evident at the Garden Show at the Evinrude last weekend. It is too early to tell exact numbers but it looks like we brought in about 7000 visitors, perhaps more. The show is almost entirely the work of volunteers. Believe it or not, meetings start next week for organizing the 2008 show. I am proud to be one of the volunteers of the two organizations that put the show on, the Master Gardeners and the Peterborough Horticultural Society.

The show offers booths for free to non-profit organizations. In addition to our own, there were a number of volunteers from organizations like Hospice Peterborough, the Parkinsonís Society, the Social Planning Council, the Peterborough Art Gallery, Kawartha Food Share, the Hosta Society, the Peony Society and many more who man these booths so that their organizations can get exposure and raise funds for these worthwhile endeavours. There is an exciting new project in town being developed by another group of volunteers, who are building a miniature village to be located by the little train at the zoo. We were pleased to offer them space to show off some of the buildings they have made. Some of the proceeds from the show may even assist with the landscaping for the project. The proceeds from the show will go to many worthwhile community projects and to scholarships for students.

In our Horticultural Society, we count on volunteers to create and distribute workshops and newsletters; to manage our library; to keep track of finances; to take minute of meetings; to organize bus tours; to handle publicity; to manage projects and plant sales; to find students for our scholarships; to organize speakers and workshops and to do many other jobs. Without volunteers, we would have no society and Peterborough would have no garden show.

I know that if you are a volunteer, you do it for the satisfaction it gives you but on behalf of everyone, thank you for being there for us.