Community Garden Gives Bees a Chance

by | Aug 11, 2022

A beautiful new community garden has been turning heads in the centre of Florenceville-Bristol.
Dr. Clay Marco and partner Coralee Cole built the garden as a space to bring joy to the community, to promote the importance of supporting pollinators like bees and butterflies and to promote outdoor activity and nature for health and mental well-being.
Named ‘Kula Garden’ – a Sanskrit term for community – the plot includes a Bee & Butterfly Garden filled with colourful, blooming wildflowers and bulbs, growing sunflowers, four plum and pear trees, blueberry and raspberry bushes, and nine raised vegetable garden beds.
This May, community members were invited to sign up for one of the available spaces, free of charge. Seven people signed up initially, with a few more joining as the summer went on.
Garden member and nearby resident Maria Wybenga tends to bed number nine. Appreciative of the space, she says, “It is really a space for community bonding. You meet people who live in apartments and don’t have space to garden. It gives me an incentive to go for my evening walk. It’s extremely wonderful. I enjoy it tremendously.”
A senior and skilled gardener, Wybenga said it has provided such a learning opportunity for new gardeners, recounting teaching others how to trim their tomato plants.
“It is the envy of the town too! We all want seeds from it because we’d like to have a flower garden like that instead of all these lawns of weeds and grasses”, she said. “So I think it’s inspirational for other people too.”
The project’s beginnings were a long process. Dr. Marco had initially purchased the lot adjacent to his Main Street Florenceville Medical Clinic, with plans to renovate and use the church that formerly stood there.
When it became apparent that the old building was not salvageable, the owners considered many ideas for what to do with the plot. Owners of several local AirBnBs, this was a top consideration. Meeting many obstacles, including current building supply shortages, the duo decided a building project was not the direction they wanted to take.
It was Coralee’s daughter, Katie Collingwood, an environmental science student at UNB and advocate of nature preservation, who originally suggested the idea of the Community Garden. Cole and Marco loved the idea. Once deciding that this would be the route, they quickly got to work, beginning to build the garden just this spring.
The raised beds and garden entrance were locally made, along with benches that turn into picnic tables. The garden features walkways of stones in various shapes, as well as a plaque from the former Peace Memorial Church that stood on the property.
The flat property was tilled and seeded with large bags of wildflower seeds Cole purchased to attract pollinator species. Friend of Cole and local organic farmer Karie Young of Manic Organic Farm, advised and aided with planting the flowers.
“Karie told us that it might take 2-3 years until we see the full effect. Then we had that hot weather mixed with rain last month, and it just exploded,” Cole said.
Neighbouring the garden, Scotiabank manager and avid gardener Geoff Ramalho has also pitched in. A new gardener, Cole appreciated his advice on caring for the berry bushes. Inspired by the project, the bank added to the gardens on their side of the space, planted sunflowers throughout, and Scotiabank staff quickly signed on to tend a box.
The plentiful blooms have attracted much attention, with many photographers stopping to capture the beauty. Local photographer Angela Stone said, “I refer to my photographs as Mindful Moments. These are important little pieces of time where I am fully engaged in the beauty that surrounds me and the Joy that it brings me. As I was driving on Main Street, I caught a glimpse of something that immediately made me feel that same joy. A place to invite the butterflies and the hummingbirds, the colours are truly magnificent, and I was so grateful they were there for people to stop and enjoy.”
“The Iceland poppies with their papery thin and silky and ruffled petals…. Gorgeous! My daily mantra is to find something that I am grateful for, and it was filled to the brim each visit.”
Passionate about nature photography, Stone has stopped there several times since to take photos. She expressed appreciation to Cole and Dr. Marco for the work and thought put in for so many people to enjoy. Cole reports that students have taken grad photos in the garden and that many people stop to relax on the benches and enjoy nature.
Local resident and and MLA, Minister of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Margaret Johnson remarked on the garden.
“I was so pleased to see this little oasis in our town. Green spaces and community gardens are critical in the modern municipal landscape,” she said. “People need an opportunity to find peaceful locations for mindfulness and a little serenity in our chaotic lives. I so appreciate this garden which is very accessible to the community.”
Cole and Marco appreciate how the timing of the project has aided many and are grateful for the positive public response. Pointing to the social media post of a community member that highlights it as a reminder that there is good in the world, Cole says, “This is the whole point of the garden.”
Photos by Victoria Hutt

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