We had our initial meeting of volunteers at the Alzheimer Centre in Blackrock. Mary Toomey had appealed for members to come and work on an ongoing basis in the garden of the Centre. About a dozen of us showed up and Mary brought us around the large walled garden which encircles a beautiful new purpose built building. This building provides both day care and respite services for people with Alzheimers. It also provides support to their families and is a vital service.
A beautiful garden both to look out on and to walk and sit in has been proven to give incalculable joy, healing and stimulation. Our task was to bring the garden to life and provide that happiness to the clients and their families who used the service.
There were already some trees and shrubs in situ, but huge areas were bare apart from extremely vigorous perennial weeds which had taken a firm hold on the soil!
Oliver Schurmann of Mt Venus Nurseries had agreed that, in consultation with Dr. Mary Toomey, he would design the garden using many plants from his own collection. All the plants, paths, edging, and the pergola were funded by voluntary donations. So what we had to do was dig up those weeds, remove enough stones to build a wall in Connemara, and rake the earth to prepare it for planting!
No short cuts! It was just hard graft and we did it section by section. The staff were so appreciative of our efforts and plied us with offers of cups of tea which we rarely refused. Oliver and the volunteers gave generously of their time to prepare the garden for planting.
In April Oliver was busy preparing his entry to the Bloom Festival which proved to be such a popular winner. Nevertheless he found time to transport and place hundreds of plants in the Alzheimer garden at about 5am one morning mid April. A large group of us arrived somewhat later that morning and against all the odds managed to plant everything.
Unfortunately what followed were weeks without any rain. Every week part of our task was to water all the plants and shrubs being affected by the drought. As this had to be done with a watering can it was a wearisome business but it paid off as 99% of the plants survived.