Gabriola Garden Club Celebrates 25 Years

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, November 1 2016

On October 28, 2016 gardeners from across Gabriola gathered together at the Community Hall to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Gabriola Garden Club (GGC). With over 150 members, the club is both a resource for local gardeners and a chance to get out with friends and socialize.

But this was a special night. Des Kennedy, renowned gardener, author and environmental activist from Denman Island joined the club to celebrate the occasion as the guest speaker. 

Sue Lissack, whose husband Peter started the club in 1991, said on his behalf, “My husband was President of the Agi Association at the time. He died last year. He loved gardening and wanted to get a garden club going. That was 25 years ago. We moved here in 1989 to Berry Point out by the lighthouse.”

“I’d love him to be here. He’d be thrilled to know that the club is not only surviving but thriving with all these happy members.”

Founding members of the Gabriola garden club at the 25th Anniversary celebrations. Maria Nestie, Sue Lissack, Jackie Sutton, Ann Holzwarth, Veronica Hartman, Phyllis Fafard, Eileen McConnell, Jan Higgins, Sharon Cameron, Jane Ferland. Jane Reddington photo

Eileen McConnell is another founding member of the club. “I was at the first meeting. It’s amazing it’s lasted 25 years. New comers come to the island then their interest is in learning how to garden. We’re always learning with gardening, you can never know it all.”

“When you’re new,” McConnell says, “you have no idea what to plant and how to water and it’s so rewarding going to meetings. It’s a great, helpful group.”

McConnell says she enjoys having her own vegetables that are pesticide free. She says she’s not the president type but has made a lot of coffee and tea at meetings. 

Past presidents gathered on the stage to be introduced and recognized by name and founding members stood together in great comraderie.

Before Des Kennedy was introduced he said a few words about the GCC. “It’s a brilliant group. It’s neat to see the founding members being recognized. Some Gulf Islands have considerably smaller clubs. I’ve a long history with the Gabriola Garden Club.”

Kennedy, who has nine books in print and his latest book off to the publisher, says his last book Heart and Soil made it to number one on the British Columbia bestseller list.

When he spoke the crowd alternated between laughing out loud and listening with delight to his descriptions of gardeners and garden clubs and the types of people they attract. He talked about how the GCC had grown in enthusiasm and had built a very strong club as a result of that. 

“The club thrives on the dedication of those sharing in the love of the thing itself,” he said by way of introduction. 

“We are all earth struck people, creating inspired environments, working with plants as an exercise in harmony. Building communities aligned with nature’s beauty.”

He talked about excessive preoccupations with certain species like roses, and rosarians needing to be taken out for a brisk walk and a drink for their singular fixation. He said that finding a singular plant of lasting happiness could become an obsession to the exclusion of spouse and children and the crowd of about 80 loved him for it.

And in true Gabriola spirit, there was mention of gardeners growing marijuana and their commitment to growing the perfect plant. 

But for Sue Lissack, whose husband Peter created a spring garden with over 350 daffodils and 200 tulip bulbs, “[The Club] started with people helping each other, asking questions across a table. Tonight, I couldn’t get a place in the parking lot. Peter would be thrilled.”