The Cornwallis Community Gardens Association hosted the event at the corner of South Broadway and Brig Lane in the Cornwallis Park, and it’s the culmination of a four-year series of events commemorating Canadian Confederation in 1867.
Annapolis County Town Crier Peter Davies welcomed the crowd just as the weather cleared.
“Since its formation, this community garden has not only grown in the number of beds being used, but also in the range of plant material grown and the people doing the plant husbandry,” said Davies. “Each participant has gained significant knowledge from the exchanges between fellow gardeners.”
That was the plan – and it wasn’t just for grownups. The intent was to bring children and seniors together so they could learn from each other and help each other out.
It was obvious at the Wednesday garden party that the goal has been achieved with children and adults turning out for the event that boasted cookies, tea, and even watermelon soup that was ladled out by Andrea McNeil.
For gardens founder and general manager Elizabeth McMichael, the mix of ages is the joy of the entire endeavour.
“That was the aim of the garden in the first place – intergenerational learning and sharing. It’s very exciting for me personally to see how that has developed,” McMichael said. “We have two grandmothers here today with their grandchildren and we have seniors in their 80s. I guess we span from four to 82, and that’s worked out very well.”
“It was wonderful the number of people who turned out today considering the weather,” said McMichael. “I thought we might get 10, but before we were really ready to roll a bus pulled in with 11.”
She estimated the crowd at about 50 and they took part in a presentation and discussion on hay bale gardening during the afternoon.
The Cornwallis Community Gardens Association was established by McMichael in 2010 with the aim of facilitating inter-generational exchange of information, practical results, and increasing knowledge of all residents in various aspects of gardening.
They built the gardens on the pipe- and concrete-strewn site of an old barracks that had previously served, among other uses, as the former navy base’s military jail -- or brig as it was popularly known.
“Six adults and some school children surveyed the site and knew there was a lot of work ahead,” said McMichael. “But, we and many others cooperated – and worked hard – and today we have a community garden of which all can be justifiably proud.”
The garden has upwards of 40 beds available for lease. Some are one foot in height, others are three or four feet high; all to enable gardening by individuals with varying physical capacities. In addition, there is a greenhouse, compost beds, apple trees, a peach tree, blueberry bushes, grape vines, rhubarb bushes, and a new rock garden.
The Cornwallis Community Gardens Association has formed associations with other organizations, such as the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens, with the aim of cooperating in all aspects of gardening.
For the past four years, the Gardens has been engaged in an important historic and heritage project: The Path to Confederation.
Beginning in 2014, there has been a summer garden party each year to commemorate the historic events of 1864, ‘65, ‘66 and culminating with Confederation in 1867. Officials with the PEI provincial archives have greatly contributed to this endeavour by supplying historical recipes and other pertinent information, McMichael said.
Period costumes have been worn by some and Davies and his wife and escort Valerie Davies have added to the splendor of these parties. This year’s garden party was the last in this series but, doubtless, there will be other projects in the future, McMichael said.
She was lavish in her praise for those individuals, organizations, businesses, and governments that have greatly assisted over the years and looks forward to increased growth in the Cornwallis Community Gardens.
Because of the success of the gardens, McMichael has found herself being consulted more and more as a resource person and mentor from those who wish to set up community gardens. She has two main guidelines: there must be strong, intergenerational support and there must be a supervisor who is willing to be in the garden each and every day.