Agnes Patey has been digging and planting flowers at the Grenfell Heritage Centre garden in St. Anthony since the day it opened over 20 years ago,
Patey, 73, took on the job of maintaining the centre’s garden back in 1998, as a board member of the Grenfell Foundation.
“Years ago, there were always lots of flowers around the Grenfell properties, around the hospital and the rest of the Grenfell houses,” she told The Northern Pen. “And when they built the centre – it wasn’t my idea – but they did allow a space for gardening and planting.”
It has since become a passion project for Patey and she continues to do it as a volunteer to this very day.
“I love doing it, as long as I can keep going and they want me to do it, I’ll just keep going,” she said. “God knows how long that’ll be.”
She gets paid for the flowers, but the actual work is entirely volunteer.
Patey plants the seeds early in April, at a small greenhouse she keeps in her yard at home.
If the weather is warm enough by around mid-June, she’ll remove the flowers from the greenhouse and plant them in the ground at the centre.
She estimates it takes about two weeks, working a few hours each day, to plant the space.
“It’s a big garden so I don’t always get it all done as well as I’d like to have it done, so it takes a lot of work to really get it all up to the way you’d like to have it,” she said. “Every year I’d like to improve it a bit more.”
Most of the plants are annuals, but some are perennials, meaning they live more than two years.
She hopes to grow more perennials, so the flowers won’t require so much work each year.
While Patey grows a variety of plants, she said calendulas are her favourites because they grow even in colder weather.
She is also fond of nemesias.
“It’s just little flowers but when they bloom it’s just a mass of colour,” she said.
Her favourite part of planting is watching her efforts bloom.
“To put that tiny seed into the ground and watch it grow into a beautiful plant,” explains Patey.
But she also takes a great deal of pleasure in simply being able to dig up the ground.
“When I was a child and I was sick, I couldn’t dig into the ground and this is my child’s play,” she said, laughing. “Digging into the ground is my child’s play now.”