Welcoming Garden Continued from Home Page

Thirty-five years after Owen Sound’s ‘new hospital’ was built on the east side of town – the link between human health and nature is finally being brought to life on the property.

Retired physician Victoria Thompson has understood this connection for years. She was delighted to read a few years ago about the newly established volunteer group NeighbourWoods North and its leaders, Lloyd Lewis and Gord Edwards, who envisaged the hospital grounds as a healthy nature-scape. They had persuaded the hospital executive to allow them to plant trees on site as their group’s first project.

Victoria, a member of Grey County Master Gardeners, was inspired to hear about the tree planting at the hospital grounds. The group approached Lloyd to ask if they could do anything to help.

As it happened, Lloyd and Gord had consulted initially with Paul Brydges, a landscape architect, who volunteered his time and expertise to wander the grounds with them and make some suggestions. They discussed the creation of a perennial garden at the hospital’s main (admitting) entrance, where a little forlorn plant-deprived island sat surrounded by roads.

Lloyd and Gord were happy to hear from the Master Gardener’s group and pointed Vicky in the direction of such a garden. She set to work recruiting experienced gardening volunteers from NeighbourWoods North: Krista McKee, Mayda Palcic-Reid, Adrian Hussey, Michael Jeavons and Brendan Mulroy.

The group also linked with a few businesses who volunteered their help. In particular, MacDonnell Excavating gave time and equipment to strip the salt-encrusted, compacted and depleted soil off the little island in front of the building entrance. Their machine drivers also laid on fresh top soil and created a berm along the centre.

While this work was going on, the gardeners debated about what plants to choose. The roads around the island, and the walkways through it are heavily laced with salt in the winter for safety reasons. Not ideal growing conditions. Health and safety also required low sightlines especially at either end of the island. A few trees would be allowed in the middle of the bed with certain restrictions: not too tall, not too wide.

The committee also considered who would be passing by most often: those being admitted or discharged from hospital, along with their family and friends. The committee decided to choose familiar, pleasing and relaxing plants that would bring a smile to those likely feeling anxious.

Vicky’s own predilection was for native plants, but this particular location didn’t lend itself to that kind of wild garden and so - with the above conditions in mind - the selection was done and planting began in July 2020 - on the hottest day of the summer’s worst heatwave!

Gardeners have to be as tough as the plants they nurture. But lots of people found that planting during the pandemic was therapeutic. The volunteer gardeners were pleased to hear positive and encouraging comments from hospital staff and patients.

Work proceeded, and the official opening took place in August 2021. Hurrah!

If you visit the Welcoming Garden now (October 2021), you will see some flowers still in bloom – including an exciting long-lasting type of ground cover rose that blooms beautifully and tolerates salt.

There are now 12 plants of this “Flower Carpet” rose clustered at either end of the island as well as perennial coneflowers, Russian sage, annual salvias of various types, three ornamental pear trees, and a lovely sea of ornamental grasses along with some low flowering shrubs, creeping juniper and other small evergreens.

You’ll also notice two large landscape boulders (donated and placed by Hutten & Co) and a signage plinth (donated by Owen Sound Ledgerock). You may spot an empty ‘space’ in the centre of the garden where something is obviously being planned. Stay tuned for an announcement on this.

Vicky and her team have now turned their attention to several large pollinator / meadow gardens consisting of intensely planted native plants for habitat. These gardens are being planted alongside a new Healing Pathway which is in the works now. The path will ultimately encircle the whole of the hospital grounds – a length of about 1.6km.

In the forecast is something the gardeners are calling “Pods”, which will go in here and there alongside the pathway. These Pods will have a few plants, a bench or two, and possibly some educational materials and / or artwork. But that is a story for another time.

Meantime, if you are reading this – have some spare time and love to garden (or want to learn)– please get in touch with Vicky through info@neighbourWoods North. There can never be too many volunteers to work under the knowledgeable and inspiring direction of people like Vicky, Lloyd and Gord. You will learn a lot and feel the magic when you contribute to the landscaping up at the Owen Sound Hospital.


The administration of the Owen Sound Hospital has determined that additional parking is needed at the hospital.  After some discussions with the administration that clarified the needs, wants, and vision for the naturalization of the hospital property by the volunteers at NeighbourWoods North, the Hospital Administration decided that expanding the main visitor parking lot 40 to 50 meters south would be the least intrusive option while still accommodating additional parking.

While this option did save some mature trees in other areas of the hospital, it will require NeighbourWoods North to transplant some trees and shrubs planted last year near the still to be built Healing Path south of the parking lot.  A few of the newly planted trees are large enough that they require professional assistance in moving them. JCO Tree Farm will be hired to move them.   Volunteers will be moving the smaller trees and shrubs. The Hospital Administration is requesting we have all the trees and shrubs moved by October 12, so NeighbourWoods North will be calling upon some of our volunteers to help with the labour.

In addition to transplanting, the expanded parking will also require some replanning of the Healing Path in that area.  There will still be a natural feel to the Healing Path south of the parking lot but the width of the natural area will be narrower.