May 2019 – Julianne Labreche

May 2019 – Julianne Labreche

Quiet Spaces

Quiet spaces are important in a fast-paced world. That’s why the Central Experimental Farm has always been my ‘go-to’ place. I worked professionally for many years in adult rehabilitation at The Ottawa Hospital, sometimes a stressful environment. At the end of the day, no matter the season or how nasty the weather, there was nothing better to rejuvenate the spirit than a long walk around the Arboretum with my dog.

It was at the Farm that I learned to appreciate the importance of creating wild spaces in my own garden, roaming through the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. Nature does not need to be tamed; it needs to be nurtured. That’s why I focus on growing native and zone-friendly plants—trees, shrubs, herbs and flowers to sustain birds, bees, butterflies and other urban wildlife.  Truth be told, there’s barely a blade of grass left in my suburban space.

I like to keep busy so volunteer as a master gardener and a Friend. It was great fun wearing both hats, representing both volunteer groups when I coordinated the Master Gardener Lecture Series in 2017-18, held on-site at the Farm. Our speakers are knowledgeable and put so much time into these talks.

Nowadays, being retired—whatever that means—I enjoy walking and biking at the Farm or strolling through the barns with family to visit horses, cattle, pigs and goats. I also believe in giving back in retirement. That’s why, for a couple of years, I put on my trusty gardening gloves and helped volunteer teams in the Macoun Memorial Garden and the lilac beds in the Farm’s ornamental gardens. Back home, in my own kitchen, I rolled up my sleeves and baked tea biscuits for the Friends of the Farm Victorian Tea. It was so disappointing when rain cancelled that event last summer. I guess I’ll have to save my big flowery Victorian hat and string of fancy fake pearls for next year.

In the winter months, when the Farm is covered in deep snow, I like to write these volunteer profiles. Polly McColl, another master gardener and a volunteer extraordinaire with boundless energy and dedication, gives me a list of volunteers. One is profiled each month.  This month, my own name rolled up. Every volunteer has a different skill set and reason to volunteer. All share one passion, however—a love of the Central Experimental Farm. Like myself, many volunteers have spent years at the Farm enjoying its natural beauty and attending events on site with family or friends. It’s a special place in the heart of a big city.

So, I guess it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that I have mixed feelings about some big changes ahead at the Farm, including plans for the new Ottawa Hospital. I know that’s a hot topic and a new Civic campus in a central location is badly needed to provide first class, excellent care. I just wish that somewhere else, anywhere else, had been chosen instead. But that’s old news now. At least for now, until bulldozers start to break soil and cement trucks roll in, the Farm will remain a quiet space.

Text:  Julianne Labreche

Photo: Courtesy of Julianne Labreche