When you enter the Gardens on Anderton, you are greeted by a volunteer host who offers a smile, an orientation, a history lesson, and a map. Feel free to wander at will, or follow the designated pathways through the various gardens: wherever you look, you’ll see colourful flowers, vines, trees, and bushes. If you are up for a challenge, try to identify them all.
The gardens were begun by Comox resident Joy Georgeson and her husband Bill. Their aspiration was first kindled by Joy’s mom, who loved gardening—and who would eventually plant the Gardens’ first tree on her 100th birthday.
Joy, an activity coordinator in a long-term care home, often asked her clients what they missed the most when they moved to such a facility.
“I miss my garden,” was the most common response.
Realizing there was an unfulfilled need, Joy and Bill began dreaming of building a garden that would be open to everyone. A visit to Providence Farm, a long-established therapeutic garden near Duncan, inspired the Georgesons to take action, and they gathered a small group of volunteers who shared in their vision. In 1997, friends Karl Opelka and Ellen Presley, the owners of Anderton Nursery Ltd., donated a parcel of land, and the Anderton Gardens Therapeutic Society was born.
The 10 enthusiastic volunteers who initiated this monumental task did all their own labour and fundraising, and in 1998 they broke ground. After the fencing was completed, the Alzheimer Loop—an enclosed flower garden where people with dementia can roam safely—was designed and built.
Next came the Rose Garden, then the Meditation Garden, which was inspired by a touching interaction with a visitor. Joy says, “I was approached by a lady who asked me if there was any place where she could cry in the garden. There was a tree, where the branches and leaves were kind of hanging over. I put a chair there for her, so she could be by herself. That is when I thought about a Meditation Garden.”
Over the years, construction has continued bit by bit as volunteers have pooled their creativity to build the Butterfly Garden, the Rhododendron Berm, the Labyrinth, and more. One year, an existing pond was renovated and beautified with the addition of a waterfall, expertly placed rocks, and aquatic greenery.
More volunteers got involved, working on the gardens and/or using their carpentry skills to build a tool and garden shed. Other structures, like The Cottage and The Kitchen, were generously donated by residents of the Comox Valley and local organizations. A childhood educational specialist was instrumental in the creation of the Children’s Garden in 2021. In this play area full of tools and toys, little ones can interact with one another and experience the planting and harvesting of vegetables, and the joy of flowers. There are even little benches and chairs to sit on, should they need some “time out.”
A popular section of the Gardens is the allotment area, initially begun as the 55+ Green Thumb Garden Group. About 40 allotments are available for personal garden gratification for anyone, for $30 per season; some folks plant vegetables and some prefer flowers. As a visitor you are welcome to admire their productivity, but please resist the temptation for “just a little taste!”
Musical events—including jazz, salsa, country and western, and folk concerts—occur regularly throughout the summer months; tickets must be purchased in advance. Weddings, memorials, book launches, and other unusual get-togethers occasionally materialize and are well attended. The Gardens on Anderton are full of surprises.
After your tour and visit to the gift shop, take a moment to sit in the shade at one of the tables and enjoy a tasty beverage or snack from the concession, some conversation, or a moment of contemplation and relaxation.
The mission statement of the organization is, “We are a volunteer society that provides a unique therapeutic garden through diverse, enjoyable, interactive and healing activities for people of all ages and abilities.” Come in and see for yourself. After a visit to The Gardens on Anderton, you will feel refreshed and renewed, ready to take on the world once more.
The gardens are run almost entirely by volunteers (and a few student employees whose wages are paid by local and government grants). Money collected from the voluntary donation box at the entrance goes toward maintenance expenses—and more plants to enhance the existing beauty of The Gardens on Anderton.
PROFILE OF COMMUNITY IN ACTION SPONSORED BY NORTH ISLAND UROLOGY