If you’ve been downtown this Summer, you may have noticed how gorgeous Rotary Park is looking. With the clock tower, benches, hanging baskets, and the beautiful flower beds, it is an oasis in Kemptville, a welcoming place for people to meet (at a safe distance) and enjoy the nice weather.
The beauty of the gardens at Rotary Park is the work of North Grenville residents Greg and Lorraine Barrow. As members of the Kemptville Horticultural Society, they look after the planning, planting, and maintenance of the beds throughout the Spring, Summer, and into the Fall. The couple joined the Horticultural Society when they moved to North Grenville from Peterborough two years ago, and soon took over the maintenance of the park when the former lead had to step back for health reasons.
Greg and Lorraine have a true passion for gardening, which they have used to improve and grow the gardens at Rotary Park. Last year, they put more gardens in along the retaining wall at the south side of the park, and they have been slowly reorganizing the garden to include many annual and perennial flowers that bloom at different times of the year. “We took what was here, shifted things around, and added more things,” Greg says. “It’s a constant rearranging and adjusting things.”
The pair usually have help from other members of the Horticultural Society at the beginning and end of the season, but with COVID-19 they decided to take it on by themselves. There are currently about 30 different types of flowers in the garden, some of which were purchased, and others that were transplanted from the gardens of other Horticultural Society members. Greg and Lorraine plan the garden, plant the flowers, and are there at least once a week maintain it. With the hot summer, Greg came down to the park every second day to make sure the plants had enough water. “They go above and beyond really,” says Kemptville Horticultural Society Past President, Arline Rutter.
Both Lorraine and Greg get a lot of pleasure and enjoyment out of looking after the gardens in the park. “We both loved creating things,” Greg says. “The creation of colour and different displays every year – it excites me.” They say the Municipality has been very supportive of their work and they often have people telling them how much they appreciate the added beauty of the park in the downtown. They also love seeing people hanging out and meeting at the park during the summer months, like the local cycling group, and fitness in the park last summer. “It’s become a mini oasis for people in the downtown core to be able to come to,” Greg says.
Even with a few months left in the growing season, Lorraine and Greg are already planning the garden for next year. Their hope is to plant more perennials and flowers that will attract wildlife like bees, butterflies, and birds. “We are going to bring sunflowers down here next year,” Greg says, adding that they have noticed sunflowers have been attracting lots of hummingbirds in their own garden this summer.
Lorraine says their main goal is to contribute to the beautification of the downtown. They want to create a visual pleasure for those who live and visit Old Town Kemptville. “We consider ourselves the caretakers,” she says. Greg adds that one of the bonuses of being present in the downtown is that people stop and ask them questions about their own gardens. “[We] attract new members,” he says.
The Kemptville Horticultural Society has been around since 1899 and has been playing a role in maintaining gardens in Kemptville for many years. Funding for their work comes from an annual grant from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), which also helps pay for guest speakers at their monthly meetings and a grant for a student going into horticulture. “We want to encourage youth to take an interest in this,” Greg says.
Right now, the garden at Rotary Park is chock full of beautiful flowers and is the perfect place to stop to enjoy a cold drink from Geronimo, or a sweet treat from the Crusty Baker or Grahame’s Bakery down the street. Next time you are downtown, stop and take a look at what the hard work of two dedicated and passionate community members have created. Yet another example of the great people we have in North Grenville.