A Bentley gardener was recently recognized nationwide after she was selected for her efforts in producing one of the top 10 organic gardens in Canada on the basis of an on-line vote that resulted in more than 5,000 ballots being cast.
The contest, which was sponsored by the David Suzuki Foundation, was in search of the most beautiful 100 per cent pesticide-free gardens in Canada and when all the votes were counted, Bobbie Palanuik’s Bentley garden was deemed worthy of a first place finish in the category of Outstanding Ornamentals.
Needless to say, she was very thrilled to be bestowed with the award.
“I was really surprised to discover that I was one of the three finalists in the ornamental category of the contest. There were over 500 entries in the contest so just to be chosen as a finalist was amazing,” Palanuik said in a recent interview. “When I found out I had actually won, I was truly astonished. All of the gardens shown online as finalists were truly wonderful, it must have been very difficult to make the final selections.”
This year’s David Suzuki Digs My Garden contest saw a total of 580 entries being submitted from every part of the country and included YWCA a rooftop garden at the YWCA facility in Vancouver and even a submission from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and his family.
“Everyone who participated in the contest – including the entrants and those who voted online – has shown that toxic pesticides simply aren’t necessary for a gorgeous green yard. Let’s hope that our governments get the message and ban the use and sale of lawn and garden pesticides,” said Suzuki who has a lifelong fan in Palanuik.
“I was notified via email that I was a finalist and then again when I won. I was asked to stay mum until it was announced publicly. That was a difficult secret to keep but I managed and then on October 27th I was greeted with an email video personally congratulating me from David Suzuki,” she said. “I was thrilled to say the least! I have been an admirer of Dr. Suzuki and his work for over 30 years and long considered him a mentor. It is a video that I will always treasure.”
In the case of her garden, which finished in a tie with a Dundas, Ont. garden for first place, Palanuik said there was a lot more work and research involved in bringing it to fruition than simply dropping seeds in the ground and waiting for them to grow.
“I have been gardening organically for well over 10 years now and have always had a keen interest in all things related to environmental sustainability and support. I think my gift of being an artist has given me a greater awareness and connection with nature and I was growing and eating organic produce long before it came of age,” she said.
“Following my instincts, I had researched the chemical content of the popular herbicides and pesticides and came to the conclusion that they were not healthy for me or any other life forms,” Palanuik added. “I can recall cringing as I watched a robin pull a worm out of a lawn freshly sprayed with weed and feed, thinking about how those chemicals would affect both the worm and the bird. I knew that there had to be a better way and went about looking for healthier, natural alternatives.”
As for other gardeners out there who are considering beginning their own organic movement, Palanuik offered a number of tips on how to ensure a healthy, productive garden without the use of synthetic herbicides or pesticides.
“Preventive maintenance through the use of natural mulch, organic compost, plant teas and herbal sprays as well as the hand picking of weeds and good old-fashioned agricultural practices keeps the soil and plants healthy,” she said.
“My garden has grown and evolved over the last 15 years with a lot of thought and careful planning. Wherever possible, native plant species have been incorporated into the garden design. The flower varieties are arranged to flow with the seasons and offer a colour pallet from spring to fall,” Palanuik added. “Many of the plants attract bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. The main garden is divided into four oval quadrants with wide perennial flower borders. Within these quadrants, seasonal vegetables and herbs are grown. The gardens are sheltered at the back by native woodland bushes and plants including saskatoon and dogwood, which offer both food and home for birds.”
In addition to national recognition and the video message from David Suzuki himself, Palanuik was also presented with a, “David Suzuki Digs My Garden”, T-shirt and an assortment of heritage seeds from Saltspring Seeds.
As for entering the contest again next year, Palanuik said she’s decided to step aside as she has already exceeded her original goals for the garden.
“Will I enter the contest again? No, I don’t think so. I am honoured to have had the support of so many people who have shared my vision and voted for my garden,” she said. “I have accomplished what I set out to do, to show others and stand up for what I truly believe: that it is possible to grow and enjoy a beautiful garden without the use of toxic chemicals and by doing so, contribute to the ecological well-being of all life on earth. It feels great!”