Members will all recognize Aileen as one of the most regular helpers at the plant table and last week I was lucky enough to be able to have a visit with her at her home and get to know her a little better. Aileen told me that she emigrated to Canada at the age of seven from Scotland. Her father had gone ahead and they were without him for a year and then followed him over here. After a short time living in Vancouver the family came to West Vancouver. Interestingly they chose Glenmore rather than the British Properties as that area had a rather unpleasant covenant that buyers had to sign at that time. Aileen was part of the first graduating class from Sentinel School. She told me that she felt rather unsettled at that time in her life and made a decision to go back to Scotland for a while as she had an aunt there to whom she was close. She was never particularly interested in university and so decided that she would be a nurse and trained in Edinburgh where the people in charge seemed “old school”, disapproving of soft North Americans brought up with central heating! She met her husband there and had her first “garden” which was a window box in a top floor flat in London where her husband was finishing his qualification. Like many other couples they could see the opportunities in Canada and returned to live here and raise their family.
Aileen told me that she has gardening in her genes but her first official introduction was learning gardening at her Scottish primary school along with knitting and needlework. As a child she also had to help out in her parent’s garden but doing those chores did not put her off. This interest led her to join the garden club and to become qualified in the Master Gardener programme at VanDusen gardens. She keeps this qualification current by doing several volunteer hours each year. She does these in the garden at the North Vancouver hospice. Many garden club members will remember visiting Aileen’s large garden on Nelson Ave. There visitors often skipped the many interesting garden features to admire the hens. These were great egg producers and were the most privileged hens’ one could imagine as besides having a deluxe house they also had the run of the garden and even were allowed to visit the kitchen on occasion. Aileen told me that they earned their keep as besides producing eggs they also had a diet which included treats like baby snails and snail egg. This reduced the numbers of these pests which was delightful! They were crazy about the berries from a Leycestria and gobbled them up with relish. I am sure the material produced when the hen house was cleaned made for a wonderful compost heap! There was a downside with them though as they were hard to leave even for a day as they did need care and attention. The garden sloped up from the kitchen at the back of the house which was delightful as it was easy to see whilst doing chores. There was room for some vegetables and raspberries and many interesting plants.
One highlight was the collection of Hostas under the trees. The garden was sunny and faced South which was ideal for the roses that Aileen’s husband Paul enjoyed growing. Taking advantage of the slope there was also a lovely water feature using the drop for a small waterfall. The Nelson house was very large and a few years ago Aileen and Paul decided to move to somewhere smaller easier to look after. By this time the children had left home and the last hen had passed on so that the time was right! This garden is shady and has made a good home for some very lovely hellebores. There was also a really beautiful Edgeworthian in full bloom. Aileen brought this from the previous house, but it has flourished in its new location. The garden was fully landscaped when she moved in, but changes are being made to make the garden more personal. There were a number of hedges and they are being gradually reduced and more plantings added. Aileen’s husband Paul can still grow roses, but they have to be outside the actual garden and in a sunny space bordering on the back lane. They must bring lots of enjoyment to the neighbours as they pass by. The garden is too small for vegetables although Aileen has tried growing a few things in pots. The soil is sandy and not particularly good and needs some amending. A small garden is a challenge as there is really not a lot of space, but Aileen’s daughter has a big garden and is always happy when she gets a helping hand from a knowledgeable gardener. There are three generations of the family living on the North Shore as Aileen’s mother is still alive. She needs some help but lives independently although she is in her nineties.
I felt very privileged to share an afternoon with Aileen and hear a little bit about her life and thank her so much for sharing this with me and other club members.