Sunday, April 21, 2024

Botanical Florence Nightingales

Submitted by Jenifer Robertson

gardenhelpers270April’s chilly showers heralded the launch of another season for the volunteers who tend the gardens at Meaford’s hospital, but this year the season of renewal also marked an important milestone in the hospital’s horticulture. Pat Parsons, the tireless leader of the gardeners, has stepped aside.

It all started ten years ago when Pat was making a pitch for money for the Hospital Foundation and was bluntly rejected. The potential donor told Pat, “If the state of the outside of the hospital was reflective of care inside, there would be no donation from her.” Pat looked around: there were really no gardens, no cherry trees, no walkway, no brick patio, no triple mix, no furniture, no beautiful plants, no beautiful shade trees. But there was lots of particularly nasty garlic weed. Single-handedly Pat donned her gloves and set to work.

She rounded up donations of landscape services and products, and hundreds of hours of volunteer time. The gardens were transformed. But, Pat did not stop there. For ten years she has led the team of volunteers who keep all fifteen gardens on the property healthy and beautiful. They not only work the soil, they also donate plants from their own gardens every year.

One volunteer said, “Gardening there is a happy experience; staff, patients, and visitors stop to talk about how they value the gardens, how they reduce stress and help the healing process.” “They instill a pride in our community.”

All thanks to Pat. There must be a gardeners’ heaven, with a special place for Pat Parsons. But she is a long way from that. Pat has chosen to step down, but she has not taken off the gloves. The volunteers were delighted to learn that Pat will still be both a trusty worker bee and a needed expert to have at their elbow when trying to sort a weed from a flower, or how to prune that mystery shrub.

You can help make the grounds at Meaford Hospital a healing oasis as well. To pay for the mulch and mix and manure these botanical Florence Nightingales raise money by holding a plant sale. The plants are splittings from both the hospital and the volunteers’ own gardens, so you know they come from a good home. Why not drop by to purchase a plant, help the hospital and say thanks to Pat.

The sale is Saturday, June 1, 9 a.m. to noon, at the Meaford Hospital Gazebo, 229 Nelson Street.

Photo:

Kneeling – Pat Parsons

Standing Left to right – Linda Fleming MacInnes, Bette Sweatman, Cynthia Loucks, June MacPherson, Ginny Sedik, Lynn Munkley, Elsie Brown (missing volunteers: Laura Simmons, Maureen Scott, Marie Donovan, Phyllis Mitchell, Teresa Kingston, Jenifer Robertson, Suzanne Brown). Photo: Jenifer Robertson

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