Botanical garden needs help to take advantage of two gifts

Christine Wood/Staff Writer / Staff writer
October 4, 2013 01:00 AM

These are some of the beautiful rhododendron bushes in Ron and Carla Knight's garden in Pender Harbour that are being donated to the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden.

The Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden Society (SCBGS) has been given two generous donations of rhododendron collections from two well-known horticulturists, and they need help to prepare the grounds to receive them.

One collection of 24 mature rhododendrons has been gifted to the society by Alleyne and Barbara Cook of North Vancouver. Alleyne is well known for his work in most major Vancouver gardens, including Stanley Park's Greig Garden. He spent 23 years planting and maintaining the public park.

Now retired, and at "just a month off 89," Alleyne wants to give some of the rhododendrons in his private garden, including some transplanted from Stanley Park, to the SCBGS.

"When I go, I feel they're going to bring a bulldozer to this place, and I want the rhodos to go somewhere they will be appreciated," Alleyne said.

His wife Barbara noted Alleyne has always "been a most generous man," and he "tries to place things where they will be looked after and appreciated."

"We were impressed by the botanical garden's foresight and the manner in which they work, and we always said we'd like to get them started with a rhodo garden," she said.

Volunteers plan to go to Vancouver later this month to dig up and transport the rhododendrons, and society members need help to prepare the ground here for planting. They could use a truck with a lift to make things easier in Vancouver.

"We're looking for some young muscle and some skilled muscle. We hope to attract some local landscapers," society president Paddy Wales said.

The society must clear land within a wooded area of the botanical garden for the Cooks' donation, install an irrigation system and create a pathway to the site.

In addition to offers of labour, the society is looking for monetary donations to help pay for the irrigation system and some of the landscaping materials needed.

"The projected cost is about $15,000," said Gerry Latham, a society member who is leading the project.

In addition to the Cook donation, the SCBGS recently found out Pender Harbour green thumbs Ron and Carla Knight plan to give 30 to 40 rhododendrons to the garden in the fall of 2014.

Many have visited their beautiful gardens in Pender Harbour and the Knights will be donating some of their high quality hybrids, including a number developed by the late Jack Lofthouse, one of North America's leading authorities in rhododendron hybridization.

"As we get older we feel that we want to leave a legacy," Ron said noting he and his wife are "pushing 70."

"We have a whole acre garden to maintain, and as we've gotten older we've realized we've got a monster on our hands, so we're closing two areas of the garden."

The rhododendrons from those areas will come to the botanical garden.

The SCBGS is thankful for the gifts from the Cooks and the Knights. The two collections will be situated beside each other in a woodland forest setting to the northwest of the Sparling Pavilion.

"We always had a vision of a spring garden someday, but with these two generous gifts, the time is now," Latham said.

If you want to get involved and help with the labour or the financial needs of the society, contact the SCBGS main office at 604-740-3969.

© Coast Reporter


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