Sharing the joy of gardening

About 200 people visit gardens in Ladysmith area during Rotary Garden Tour, Show and Sale.

Erica and Gerry Clarke's Louise Crescent garden was one of the stops on the 15th annual Rotary Garden Tour

Erica and Gerry Clarke's Louise Crescent garden was one of the stops on the 15th annual Rotary Garden Tour

Erica Clarke loves being in her garden.

There are rhododendrons, azaleas, wisteria and even palm trees and banana trees in her Louise Crescent yard, but, more importantly, there is a sense of being close to her late mother.

“I’ve always loved gardening, but not to this extent, and the reason why I think I really got into it is because my mom really loved gardening,” said Erica. “She passed away, and when I’m in here, I feel like she’s with me. She’s the one who really inspired me. I feel closer to her when I’m here.”

Erica and her husband, Gerry, feel a lot of family and community connections when they walk around their beautiful backyard because many of their plants have come from friends and family. They have flowers from Erica’s parents’ garden, there’s a fragrant wisteria plant given to them by Tom Beames, a jacaranda tree that was a gift from Brian Childs and a little mauve azalea they call Nanny because neighbours gave it to them when Gerry’s grandmother passed away.

The Clarkes shares some of these memories with visitors during the 15th annual Rotary Garden Tour, Show and Sale May 27.

Gerry and Erica moved to the property in 1999 when Gerry built their house and detached garage, and they started gardening in 2000.

“It’s been an evolution,” said Gerry, adding with a laugh, “A lot of this is Erica, and all the heavy lifting is me.”

Over on Delcourt Avenue, Gillian Ames was proud and excited to share her garden with others during the Garden Tour.

Ames has worked very hard to transform her front lawn into a garden filled with native ferns, columbine, rhododendrons, pansies, a pink dogwood and more, along with winding pathways made with rocks Ames brought in from Holland Creek Heights. Ames also created a tiered pond in her backyard.

After her husband John passed away in 2003, Ames started developing the yard, converting the front lawn by killing off the grass and turning the sod herself, and it has come along in stages.

“It was almost entirely a do-it-yourself project,” she said. “I had some help with the larger rocks. I take a certain amount of pride in the fact you can do something yourself. I used to say I re-invented myself at the age of 71 as a landscape artist.”

Nine gardens from Yellow Point to south Ladysmith were included on this year’s Garden Tour.

“We think this year looks like the best community response and the best-attended event,” Rotarian Andy Bohay said Sunday morning.

The day included a Show and Sale inside Aggie Hall featuring 10 vendors, a video presentation about square foot gardening and a raffle draw, and a deluxe continental breakfast.

Bohay believes about 200 people went to the gardens and even more took in the breakfast.

“We’re feeling very positive about the whole event,” he said Sunday evening. “We don’t know what the bottom line will be, but it will be in keeping with other years.”

All the money raised by the breakfast, raffle and tour goes toward Rotary projects in the community and abroad.

“Our motto is ‘service above self,’ and we like to feel we somehow contribute to the improvement of our community,” said Bohay. “We also support international projects.”

These international projects include microfinance. Donated funds are turned into small loans and distributed to entrepreneurs in third-world countries, explained Rotarian Dan Spence, who is on Ladysmith Rotary’s international committee and is a board member of Disaster Aid Canada, another international project the local Rotary Club is connected to.

“We’re talking usually $200, but these loans are life-changing,” said Spence.

Disaster Aid Canada provides boxes filled with items such as a tent, blankets, small tools and toys for children whenever there is an earthquake or flood anywhere in the world, and Ladysmith Rotary has been involved in that international program as well.

“This provides  accommodations and emergency supplies for a family of 10 for up to three or four months,” said Spence.

While supporting international programs, Ladysmith Rotary’s focus has always been the local community, and the club has completed countless projects over the years.