North Columbia Environmental Society coordinator Hailey Ross’s Farwell-area garden ekes out a living on the steep banks of the Columbia River overlooking the Big Eddy Bridge. The combination flower and food garden features a steep stairway leading to an ultra-private seating area by the river. The NCES is searching for gardeners who want to showcase their work in the Aug. 9–10 event.

In search of Revelstoke’s hidden gardens

NCES Garden Art Tour one of many new and ongoing Revelstoke gardening initiatives this season

I checked in with North Columbia Environmental Society coordinator Hailey Ross to find out about gardening-related events the local environmental society is cultivating.

Many will be familiar with the ongoing Garden Guru series featuring weekly gardening events in town, many focused around the Revelstoke Community Garden at the United Church.

That’s just one of many exciting initiatives on the go, I learned. Here’s a snapshot of some others.

A committee headed by Laura Stovel has brought together many of the people involved in creating the Revelstoke Museum’s First Tracks ski history book to create a Revelstoke gardening history book.

The book will pair pioneer and senior gardeners in town with young interviewers to explore practical aspects of gardening in our mountain environment. It will be packaged into a gardening coffee table book full of locally-specific gardening wisdom, advice and knowledge.

“There’s a new movement to bring that stuff back,” Ross said of the compact, instructional format coffee table book. “I think it will be a nice result, because it has a lot of the players involved.”

NCES Urban Junior Farmer Sara Jeffery and NCES Garden Coordinator Keenan Way have been working on youth initiatives and the downtown community garden, respectively.

Jeffery is focused on finding out what motivates young gardeners and urban food producers to do what they do. “It’s about finding out what aspects interest them,” Ross said. There are lots of reasons people garden – for food, fun, food security, relaxation – but not a lot is known about what motivates local youth gardeners.

The community garden has moved towards a more communal model this season. The square-foot format used to be divided up into individual plots, but this year the focus is on group learning via the collaborative model.

“We thought that if the place was gardened as a whole we could make it more efficient and increase the yields,” Ross said. “[It’s about] the learning, less than it is having a significant space to contribute to their kitchens.”

(story continues below photo)

PHOTO: North Columbia Environmental Society coordinator Hailey Ross is helping sprout new events and grow ongoing ones. Photo by Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Times Review

Over at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre, Ross said the NCES is involved with the art centre’s landscape expansion plans. They hope to help the centre create a “food forest” which is a perennial garden including nut trees, fruit-bearing shrubs, perennial herbs and medicinal plants. (It’s sort of like permaculture, Ross explained, but different because it doesn’t follow the same methods.)

The food forest will feature raised beds and other design considerations to make gardening more accessible to those with mobility challenges. “It’s easy access,” Ross said. “You don’t have to bend over as far.”

The NCES is working on a land share program to connect those with garden-able land with the landless. “We’re actually going to get a website going,” explained Ross. Part of the idea is to create a link between seniors who have under-utilized property and young gardeners. “We’ll try to involve seniors in their own yard if they want to get involved.”

Part of the the idea is to connect gardening enthusiasts with more square footage to work.

Food gardeners looking to grow big with their gardens can take in a presentation from Curtis Stone of Kelowna-based Green City Acres. Stone has created a living by converting larger urban plots into conventional, market-focused, organic urban gardens that deliver directly to restaurants and through a food box program. “It’s teaching you economic and business skills associated with local gardens,” Ross explained. See the Revelstoke Times Review community calendar for the date.

The big, new upcoming event is the NCES Art Tour aimed to excite art and garden lovers. The Aug. 9–10 self-directed tour will partner unique gardens with Revelstoke artists. The artists will set up their works in the garden and Revelstokians will get a chance to check out secret gardens and new works on this map-based tour.

“We’re trying to find some of those little hidden gem gardens from around town,” Ross said. “It’s a celebration of people who are already doing interesting stuff.”

Sarah Harper and Jackie Pendergast are assisting with the event, which will also tie in with the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre’s spring show; artists will be invited to attend the Art Tour and create their own works based on the event, which will then be featured in the spring show in 2014.

“I want people to suggest gardens for the garden tour,” Ross said. “We’re still looking for artists.”

***

How’s this sound: Herb-infused cocktails, regional wine from Larch Hills, Mt. Begbie Brewing beers and a multi-course meal prepared by Olivier Dutil-St-Pierre and Sonia Ratte of La Baguette served up in Terra Firma’s farm overlooking Revelstoke from the Begbie Bench. That’s the plan for the Midsummer Night’s Green local cuisine celebration this fall. “We’re excited to bring a formal dining experience to the farm,” Ross said. They’ll be formalizing the date soon – expect a quick sellout.

The next Garden Guru workshop is July 2 at 7 p.m. The composting and vermiculture course at the Revelstoke United Church will be led by Rory Luxmoore and Sara Jeffery. Check the Revelstoke Times Review community calendar in print and online for Garden Guru series events and the events listed above that don’t yet have a firm date set.

 

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