“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”—Gertrude Jekyll, Wood and Garden, 1896
I love gardens—always have.
As a child growing up in rural Eastern Washington, I spent many hours in the gardens of my German and Czech grandparents. These were largely gardens of utility that produced food for the family and canned goods for winter meals.
But they were also gardens for aesthetic purposes. My grandmother’s love of border gardens brought massive bouquets into her home. I was invited to learn from her tutelage—the names of the plants, their care and feeding, the seasons for planting and harvest, the organic remedies for pests and maladies, the design of the gardens. My brothers and I had free rein to explore, play, create and work in her garden.
Gertrude Jekyll, horticulturalist, garden designer and writer was a major influence in garden design in Great Britain and beyond. When she wrote the above words in 1896, the concept of a garden was in transition—just as today’s concept of gardening is evolving.
My garden has many of the same elements of my grandmother’s garden—utilitarian vegetables and plants that encourage pollinators to do their work, flowers for cutting, places for play and reflection. But my garden, unlike my grandmother’s, is expanding to include native plants, watershed and drought-tolerant elements, habitat that supports flora and fauna of this region, and more sustainable horticultural practices.
My garden has been a most excellent teacher, and I am continuing to learn from it. I feel it is that place where I can make a contribution to our planet in some small, sustainable way. The excess produce now goes to a local food bank as well as to my neighbours (whom I have come to know because of my garden).
President Kris Bulcroft’s garden. Photo submitted.
Our summer dinner parties with family and friends find us surrounded by the glory of the garden. We are, so it seems, sheltered from the realities of the world outside. My garden is the place where I can go back to the inner-self. For a few fleeting moments, I am that same six-year old girl in my grandmother’s garden—exploring, learning, creating, working and trusting. In a world in which so little trust seems to exist, I find trust in abundance here.
One of the things I have enjoyed so much about my time at Capilano University is that I am working in the middle of a beautiful landscape. Our groundskeepers and volunteers who help keep this campus relatively free of invasive species and weeds do an amazing job, and we are all beneficiaries of their hard work.
A garden reminds us of the change of seasons and the rhythms of life. Just as the University is changing in terms of our organizational structures, policies, procedures, employees and students, our surroundings mirror the promise and potential that change and renewal bring to us all.
As I retire from my role as President of Capilano University, I look forward to many hours in my garden. I hope many of you who have been such an integral part of my life here at the University will find your way to my garden so we can share this place together. I believe you will find that patience and trust grows here—elements that will sustain us, no matter where the next steps of our respective journeys may take us.