City gardeners working hard behind the scenes

27-05-2020    11:04   |    The Intelligencer

It’s a dirty job, but Belleville’s gardeners are happy to do it. More than 100,000 flowers and food crops are within weeks of being planted in the city. But for now, they’re under the careful, constant care of the gardeners, who pride themselves on their work and especially on growing their own.

“It’s rewarding,” said gardener Randall Koke, who’s been in the business throughout his working life.

“I’m personally very proud of our gardeners and the staff,” said Rowland Cave-Browne-Cave, the city’s parks and public spaces supervisor.

“What we produce and how we do it – it’s very commendable.”

There are perennial and annual flowers, succulents, and produce. The latter will be donated to Gleaners Food Bank.

One of the three greenhouses on North Park Street is dedicated entirely to wax begonias. They’ll be used to create Belleville’s signature garden: the Canadian flag visible from Highway 401. Veteran city gardener Marie-Anne Ascott said the begonia is the most-used flower in city gardens because it’s tough, able to weather rain, drought, cold or heat.

“We want full colour all year,” she said. “They’re easy to maintain and can take a lot of weather or conditions.

“The flag has 32,000 in it.”

While the red begonias’ leaves are now green, they’ll turn red once exposed to direct sunlight, said Cave-Browne-Cave.

There are more than 75,000 other plants waiting to be planted: echinacea, bleeding hearts, lilies, crocosmia, roses and more. There are historically-appropriate pansies for Glanmore National Historic Site and tulips for the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, veterans of which liberated The Netherlands.

Each year there are changes.

This year there’s a blue and yellow theme in recognition of the Rotary Club of Belleville’s 100th anniversary.

“We try to acknowledge different organizations when we can,” said Cave-Browne-Cave. “Those clubs do so much for us.”

Ascott also found some huge flower pots – they’re more than 1.5m tall – at a trade show. They’ll be placed downtown.

“They’re pretty funky,” she said.

“We have about 260 hanging baskets that go throughout the city,” Ascott continued. They’re filled with dragon wing begonias.

Cave-Browne-Cave said the parks department has a normal complement of 50 to 55 people, including students and casual employees.

“This year we’re at 18,” he said; that includes two mechanics. He said the coronavirus pandemic has limited the hiring.

“We’ll do what we can. The saving grace is we don’t have all the big sports events running right now.”

The downside: when playgrounds open, staff will have to sanitize them, something they’ve never done.

In the gardeners’ role, Ascott said, “The planting is the toughest part.” It’s demanding physical labour, often in the heat. They start work as early as 6 a.m. to work in cooler weather and lighter traffic.

“Watching the progression of the plants and how they grow – it’s amazing,” Koke said.

“You never get tired of it.”


Gardener Randall Koke ensures rose plants are spaced properly Tuesday, May 12, 2020 in Belleville, Ont. They’re destined for the Corby Rose Garden. Luke Hendry/The Intelligencer/Postmedia Network LUKE HENDRY / LUKE HENDRY


Purple heliotrope blooms grow in a municipal greenhouse, one of three on North Park Street Tuesday, May 12, 2020 in Belleville, Ont. Luke Hendry/The Intelligencer/Postmedia Network LUKE HENDRY / LUKE HENDRY



A tuberous begonia is a yellow beacon near the entrance to one of the municipal greenhouses Tuesday, May 12, 2020 in Belleville, Ont. City gardeners rely on the begonias’ hardiness: the reliable flowers can withstand a variety of conditions. Luke Hendry/The Intelligencer/Postmedia Network 

 

Source: The Intelligencer

Photo Credit: LUKE HENDRY, The Intelligencer


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