Creating Another Public Garden

Written by Grace Berg at the occasion of the grand opening of the Heritage Rose Garden

In March 2003, I had a call from Sara Williams asking for help with a design plan for a Heritage Rose Garden to recognize Percy Wright and as many other prairie plant breeders as we could research and honour.

Sara Williams, Sheila Liota, Linda Farwell (of the Forestry Farm Park), Amanda Ryce (of the Saskatchewan Rose Society), Koren Vangool and Sandra England formed the original ad hoc committee. There were many questions to be answered. How many prairie plant breeders are we including? Can we still source plant material? What is our budget? Meetings were difficult to arrange so consensus by phone became the mode of operation, always with Sheila Liota keeping the ball rolling. Eventually a plan was developed and approved. In May, my husband Abe Berg, a civil engineer, Linda Farwell and I laid out the plan with stakes, paint and string.

The original grassy area surrounded by caragana, lilac and maples evolved into pathways, ovals and circles. When the awesome arbors, designed and built by Richard Afseth, his son and Abe Berg, were installed the garden began to take shape and show promise. Forestry Farm Park staff amended and bermed the soil in the rose beds and installed large rocks on both sides of the main beds. Volunteers installed lawn edging after Sheila thoughtfully arranged for a trench to be dug to reduce the amount of digging in that heavy clay. Wilie Alexson acquired ten large recycled cedar power poles - at little cost to us. A team of helpers maneuvered these giants into place to serve as clematis supports. Brian Nemanishen and Sheila carved the notches to add character to these prairie sentinels.

On July 29, volunteers planted the generous donations of shrubs, trees and ornamental grasses from Lakeshore Garden Centre. Peonies, roses, clematis and lilies were gathered through mail order, local nurseries and the Canadian Prairie Lily Society. Some were planted in the first year and others the following year. Many work bees followed to spread and rake crusher dust for pathways and post peeling mulch for all the planted areas to conserve moisture and reduce maintenance.

Sculptures by Bill Epp and Don Foulds became an added bonus feature through the persistence and initiative of Sheila Liota. Willie Alexson's trusty trailer and willing hands to load, unload and weld. Siting and measuring bases, obtaining approval, and construction of the bases took and enormous amount of time and negotiation.

In 2004 work bees continued to plant peonies that had overwintered in a shallow trench. 'Dropmore' Nepeta was planted to line the pathways. Sturdy wire fencing was installed inside the arbors to support climbing roses and clematis.

Weeding, dead-heading and filling in gaps of plant material continues as resources and energy allow. Hundreds of volunteer hours have completed a dream garden to educate the public on the contributions of dedicated prairie plant breeders who hybridized and introduced many hardy garden treasures we (and much of the world) enjoy in our prairie gardens today. each person made a difference to this project and we're very grateful for everyone's contribution.