Gorillas break ground in new garden

The Mission Museum is getting a new 1,700 square foot Edwardian garden thanks to the efforts of a “Gorilla Gardener.”

Heidi Smith, who along with other Gorilla Gardeners adopt public spaces for weeding and beautification, was cleaning up the museum parking lot when she came up with the idea.

She approached the Mission District Historical Society April 28 at their monthly board meeting and made the pitch. The museum gardening committee was established and two months later they contacted Mission’s parks and facilities to formally get the ball rolling.

“I enjoy seeing a clean, aesthetically pleasing town,” she explained. “It makes me feel proud it’s not neglected. It’s part of my civic responsibility.”

The garden design was donated by Chilliwack’s Peggy Jessome of Idea Garden Design and will include curved paths, an area for children and will incorporate woody plants, perennials, climbing plants, small trees and ferns in keeping with the Edwardian theme.

Smith said the name of the garden is taken from the era it was built: 1907. It served as a bank for 40 years until it was relocated to its current site in 1947 first as a library, and then a museum in 1972.

Currently the grounds have little more than a few straggly shrubs, rarely used vegetable beds and bare, rocky, weedy soil.

Smith estimates she’ll need roughly $2,500, with volunteers raising $2,100 to date.

The district will now spend $726.75 for labour and equipment costs in soil removal and grading on the east side of the museum.

The plan calls for Gorilla Gardeners to maintain the garden, as it currently does for 10 other sites including the library, Jack Poole Harbourside Park, Griner Park rhododendron bed and Centennial Park’s north flower bed.

Additional pruning will cost the district an estimated $389.14 and in the unlikely event the Gorilla Gardeners were unable to maintain the museum garden, the district agreed it would take over at an estimated annual cost of about $1,000.

Parks and facilities manager Kerry Bysouth said over the next few months the district will work with the Gorilla Gardeners to complete the project.

The west side of the building has already been prepared for planting, so the project is well underway, and other than a little help with excavating, volunteers have brought it to life.

It’s similar to the rain garden project at Seventh Avenue and Grand Street where the district invited community members to develop a plot of land into a garden, said Bysouth.

“I must give credit to Heidi. She really has mobilized a whole bunch of people, creating this little network of people,” he said.

Smith said the garden will give Mission residents something to enjoy and in particular the residents who live near the museum’s downtown area that is currently being revitalized.

Donations can be made to purchase soil, gravel, bark mulch and plant material with tax receipts issued for donations of more than $25.

Contact Heidi at 604-826-4504 or heidismith@shaw.ca if you wish to donate, or mail your cheque directly to the Mission District Historical Society at Box 3522, Mission, B.C., V2V 4L1.

You can also donate via www.missiondhs.com/GardenProject.html.