Gananoque garden makeover goes above and beyond

·3 min read

Gananoque resident and front-line worker Alexis Wakelin was thrilled when she won a $5,000 garden makeover, courtesy of Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association.

The makeover has been completed, but it ended up as a $20,000 project thanks to the generosity of Rhonda Derue, the landscape designer who took it on.

"Rhonda was amazing. She's very attentive to detail and really took her time and was just great. She didn't just place things, she shifted anything she placed until it was just right," said Wakelin, a personal support worker at Carveth Care Centre in Gananoque.

Because Wakelin lives in Gananoque her garden makeover fell under the auspices of the Upper Canada chapter of Landscape Ontario, and Derue, also a Gan resident, sits on that board.

"As a landscape designer, my job is to see what the need is, as well as listen to people's hopes and dreams. In Alexis' case the front step was cracked off the front of the house, and that was both a safety issue, and a home maintenance issue," said Derue.

The initial project was only to create a more appealing garden at the front of Wakelin's property, but Derue saw it differently. When she saw the state of Wakelin's front step she couldn't ignore it.

"It felt like we would be missing the intent of what we were trying to do. If we really wanted to show our appreciation for someone who showed up every day regardless of the risk to herself and her family, then we needed to do the job properly. It really just speaks to the humanity of what we were trying to show," said Derue.

So she went back to the board of the Upper Canada Landscape Association, with drawings, and argued her case. While, there was one dissenting voice on the board, the final decision was in keeping with Derue's argument.

"It was within our grasp to do; we needed to put in a base, some interlock bricks and a tiny bit of masonry work," said Derue.

Of course that was just part of the job. The rest of the job included widening and mulching the flowerbeds at the front of the house and adding a more substantial stone border, and creating island gardens with rock elements around the front garden's two trees.

"I'm very happy with it; the kids love it. We're all delighted with the whole design," said Wakelin.

The work is now complete, and although it's a far more generous gift than initially planned, Derue had the backing of not only her own Upper Canada board, but also Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association.

"Members of Landscape Ontario's Upper Canada Chapter went above and beyond to provide Alexis with a beautiful landscape. Our association and its COVID-19 Task Force are so grateful and humbled by the generosity of the Landscape Ontario community in the Gananoque area," said Scott Barber, digital media specialist with Landscape Ontario.

As an association, they are not surprised that their members will go the extra mile.

"Landscape Ontario members across the province will be demonstrating their professionalism and skills, as well as their contribution ethic and community spirit in all 10 garden makeovers," said Barber.

So far Wakelin's garden makeover is the only one of 10 to have been completed, according to Barber; the rest will be done in the spring of 2021.

Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative, Brockville Recorder and Times