Can you dig it? Crofton In Bloom volunteers certainly can. From left: Trayci Lepp, Tony Lamley, Bonnie Lamley, Mary Patient and Jane Grueber. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Can you dig it? Crofton In Bloom volunteers certainly can. From left: Trayci Lepp, Tony Lamley, Bonnie Lamley, Mary Patient and Jane Grueber. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Community pride grows from volunteer group’s beautification efforts

All ages contribute to Crofton In Bloom’s objectives

Crofton In Bloom is a labour of love for the organization’s volunteers, and residents appreciate what their efforts have done for the beautification of the town.

“Mary and I have been on this ride together since 2019,” said Jane Grueber, co-founder along with Mary Patient. “The way I see it is this is something the community expressed an interest in.”

The volunteer community group gave everyone an opportunity to express what they wanted to see in the formation stages, she added, launching with a clean-up campaign.

Related story: Volunteers at the ready for a Crofton clean-up

“That was our initial project before we started the garden beds was a Crofton clean-up,” Patient indicated. “We shifted into expanding the garden beds. The garden beds were already started by the municipality.”

The group currently has about 30 regular volunteers and works with the Municipality of North Cowichan, local businesses and other community organizations to plant pollinator-friendly gardens in public spaces.

The established municipal garden beds around Crofton are a primary focus, along with revitalizing the Crofton old school museum gardens, clearing areas with invasive species around town, filling planters in front of businesses and exploring foodscaping as a way to provide food security.

Projects are funded through a municipal grant-in-aid, applied for annually. Volunteers help maintain 26 public garden beds, planting 21 in the spring with annual bedding plants and all 26 with bulbs in the fall.

New soil and mulch is being added to the municipal garden beds this year, building on the start from last year.

Four yards of soil was dumped at the Joan Avenue greenspace Thursday for volunteers working with Crofton Elementary School students to top up the existing municipal garden beds.

The Grade 5-6 students did a great job collaborating with Crofton In Bloom volunteers. The hard work and enthusiasm of the students is infectious and helps build a sense of pride among them in the community.

“Working with the next generation to impart skills and ignite community pride has been a great opportunity and we look forward to working with more youth in the future,” noted Grueber.

The garden beds along Joan Avenue are all now ready for plant-a-bed at the end of May.

There are five garden beds left. Interested people can let Crofton In Bloom know which bed they’d like and plants will be dropped off at homes at the end of May for planting by those in COVID bubbles.

“Since 2019, we’ve been expanding,” said Grueber of that program. “Last year was our first real planting.”

The big focus during 2020, though restricted somewhat from COVID, was the museum garden beds.

Moving forward, “we have big plans for putting in shrubs, perennials and annuals,” Grueber added.

Growing both flowers and food is becoming a common interest.

“We’re very inspired by Ladysmith,” said Patient. “They’ve started growing a lot of foods that are donated to food banks.”

Related story: Garden surplus being utilized through farm stand in Crofton

It’s just one more aspect of the group’s expanding horizons to be explored.

“We want to invest in Crofton,” said volunteer Tony Lamley.

The group’s motto, Grueber pointed out, is ‘Growing Community’ and everyone’s working together toward that common goal.

“Because of gardening we can get people of all ages,” said Patient. “My kids love it. My kids are involved. They’re interwoven into the community fabric.”

“I have kids as well,” said Grueber. “I don’t want them writing things on walls and spray painting things.”

Some of the group’s hard work was ruined not long ago and the community was outraged.

“Yes, we did have vandalism,” said Patient. “People were concerned. Community members came together to clean it up.”

“That was really a sort of feel-good moment for me,” Grueber indicated. “People are invested in this.”

The children from the elementary school who helped out last week are a prime example of the direction Crofton In Bloom wants to take.

“You can see how happy they are,” said Patient. “It’s such a good energy.”

“Once you see success this is going to stick around,” noted Grueber.

“We’ve never had a problem finding extra hands,” Patient indicated. “Once we get past this pandemic and we can have work parties and start doing that, I think that’s when we’ll take off.”

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Soil brigade, from left, includes: Mary Patient, Trayci Lepp and Jane Grueber. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Soil brigade, from left, includes: Mary Patient, Trayci Lepp and Jane Grueber. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Fresh soil is dumped in the garden beds along Joan Avenue by Jane Grueber. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Fresh soil is dumped in the garden beds along Joan Avenue by Jane Grueber. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Mary Patient, left, and Trayci Lepp shovel like crazy to get through a pile of fresh soil. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Mary Patient, left, and Trayci Lepp shovel like crazy to get through a pile of fresh soil. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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