By LeRae Haynes –
You don’t have to be an astonishingly accomplished gardener to join the Williams Lake Garden Club, but with all the sharing of ideas, resources, inspiration, and expertise, you may turn into one.
The group encourages and supports the horticultural interests of local residents through educational sessions that appeal to both experienced and new gardeners. The monthly meetings include keynote speakers, networking, and contests and they collaborate with like-minded groups in the area to enhance their gardening knowledge.
Chris Coates has been with the Williams Lake Garden Club for several years, serving on the executive and recently taking on the program director position.
She is a lifelong gardener. “I love being in gardens–my parents and everyone I know had gardens,” she said. “My mom grew flowers and my dad had a vegetable garden.
“I always enjoyed being around living, growing things, and I love the outdoors in general. Having beautiful things in your yard is so satisfying, and it encourages bees and birds,” she continued, adding that she really likes visiting nurseries.
The Williams Lake Garden Club is easy to join. You just come to a meeting, either paying a $2 drop-in fee or a $10 membership fee for a year. “We had more than 40 people at our February meeting,” said Coates. “Our guest speaker, a master gardener from Prince George, talked to us about growing fruit in your backyard.”
She said that some nurseries will give discounts to garden club members.
On Saturday, May 26, the Station House Gallery is hosting a Williams Lake Lilac Festival in honour of the City’s official flower/shrub. One of the events that day will be a Best Designed Cake competition.
“Also in May, instead of holding our monthly meeting indoors, we’re carpooling out to Horsefly to see a beautiful alpine garden,” said Coates. “The owner will show us around the garden and tell us how he grows it. And in September we’re touring a xeriscape garden as one of our club activities.
“That gardener told us that when she came home last summer after the wildfires, her xeriscape garden was fine.”
The much-enjoyed and highly anticipated garden tour is back this year. Held every two years, the event features 8-10 different gardens with a wide range of themes, décor, and foliage.
Coates said people are looking forward to the garden tour on July 7 this summer, especially after the wildfire events last summer. “It’s truly a celebration that the tour is on that date–a year from the beginning of last year’s fires,” she said. “The garden tour is a wonderful, inspiring, calming experience. Having a garden yourself is very therapeutic, and getting to visit other people’s is just as good.”
Garden tour organizer Gerry Gebert explained that the self-guided event has beautiful, unique characteristics. “The layout, the views – trees, shrubs, flowers, perennials, and veggies – I love the variety and learn something every time,” she said.
She started the garden tour in Williams Lake because when she lived in Kelowna, the garden tour was enormously popular. “It was a great outing for people to have a nice lunch and tour beautiful gardens.”
The response to the tour in Williams Lake has been appreciative and enthusiastic.
“In my own garden I have perennial flowers, shrubs, and trees,” she continued, “and I’m getting better at veggies.”
The garden tour is a stunning combination of nature and art: a partnership between gardeners and painters, potters, spinners, weavers, quilters, and musicians.
Visitors on the tour will be surrounded by beauty – lovely hand-crafted local quilts, pottery, and water paintings decorating the gardens, with spinners and weavers set up with a loom or a wheel and live music on some of the locations.
Gebert explained that only 200 tickets are sold for the tour, adding that they start selling them in June in places like the Open Book. Posters go up all over town, and ticket locations will be announced closer to the event.
“I love planting a garden with my hands in the soil,” she continued. “I like to see growth and beauty and eat veggies fresh from my garden – you just go to the garden to get your supper.
“Spring is so exciting: seeing what survived the winter,” she said. “Every year we don’t know, and there’s such anticipation in the spring.
“We all love just being in the garden.”
For more information about the Williams Lake Garden Club, including the tour, follow them on Facebook, and watch for posters.
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.