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Parkwood continues garden rejuvenation plan

Parkwood Estate is in the midst of the five-year plan to rejuvenate the tennis court gardens. They will complete their second year of work in October. (Photo by Chris Jones)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Parkwood Estates is in the middle of the second year of its rejuvenation of the tennis court gardens and will be hosting another plant sale to help offset the costs.

According to Parkwood Curator Samantha George, the idea to work on the gardens originally came from the Durham Master Gardeners and the Oshawa Garden Club joined in to help. The jointly run project saw plants from the garden sell out in an hour and a half last year.

“We opened at 8 a.m., we advertised it was from 8 until noon. We were packed up, tables away, maybe six plants left by 11,” laughs Robin Burns, past president of the Oshawa Garden Club, adding it was “slim pickings” by 9:30.

According to Burns, the garden groups contribute $500 each year towards the tennis court garden rejuvenation, except Parkwood, which contributes $1,000. The project will cost a minimum of $10,000 and last year’s plant sale raised $2,446.

This year, the plant sale will be held on Sept. 19 and will be at Parkwood again, beginning at 8 a.m. until supplies last.

The tennis court gardens have become purely decorative and are no longer used for their original intended purpose, but the goal of the five-year plan is to give them new life, says Ingrid Janssen of Durham Master Gardeners.

“We’ve always known that the tennis court gardens required some work,” she says.

The gardens were originally created around a tennis court, according to George, but today it looks nothing like that.

Up until the 1940s, George says it was a “screened in tennis court,” and was changed in about 1942 to become a croquet lawn.

“By the 40s, the McLaughlin’s themselves were in their 70s, and I think some people forget that,” says George. “They always think they were 20 all the way through – so they were already in their 70s, and they weren’t running around playing tennis anymore.”

To George, the tennis court gardens are an important part of the estate because it’s the last area available to the public.

It was an area for the McLaughlin’s to entertain and it would have a “lavish” garden, with a border running down the north side and the west side.

Currently, just over half of the north side has been cleaned up, with the team working on the second half this year, including some work on the western border as well.

The project started with a discussion between George and Janssen.

Janssen says the idea to rejuvenate the tennis courts gardens came about because of work done on the estate’s white garden, which is right around the corner from the tennis courts gardens.

The proposal was put together in late 2018 and Janssen says they gained approval to move forward in early 2019.

“So we sat down, we put together a proposal, and based on the experience we had in the white garden, we decided that this was going to be a five-year project,” she explains.

A timeline was then put together and each of the first four years were going to consist of digging up half of one of the borders, clearing it out, mending the soil, and then redesigning the plants for the borders.

The work is done mostly by volunteers, says Janssen.

“We’ve had volunteers do research work. We’ve had volunteers do digging. We’ve had volunteers do weeding on a regular basis,” says Janssen.

Last year, they began their work in June and again in May this year. They will be working every Wednesday until October.

For Oshawa Garden Club President Merle Cole, he is most impressed by the interest they’ve received from the general public, as well as how alive the gardens are with bees, butterflies, and more.

“People from the hospital are coming over for respite, staff members have been coming over here for a break during COVID just to get away from the pressure, and they’re just loving being in the gardens,” says Cole.

He notes some of the visitors just come up and ask questions while they’re working.

Janssen notes she has run into a number of patients from the cancer centre.

“I think one elderly couple was saying the gentleman was coming for treatment, and they just loved to come over and walk through,” she says. “It gave them a sense of peace.”

-with files from Courtney Bachar

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