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Bringing nature back into our communities – Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op

October 3, 2012

The Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op driveway is hard to find, an inconspicuous exit off 200th Street in Langley, the busy highway that connects Langley to the freeway. I turn into the tiny entrance, wind my way along a narrow gravel road past trees, shrubs and flowers showing the signs of fall until I reach a greenhouse. When I step out of the vehicle, I am immediately struck by how quiet it is though I am only a few hundred feet from the highway. The property is deeply shaded by large maples, plum and cherry trees, willows and numerous other tree specimens and shrubs. I subsequently learn that 85% of these have been rescued from local demolition sites.

Bruce in his element

Bruce Van Garderen comes out to meet me. Bruce is a lean, cheerful fellow with a lingering Dutch accent and a fervent passion for Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op which has been his life for the past five years. We set out for a tour of the property and I scribble madly in my notebook trying to capture the steady stream of information. Bruce warns me that he could talk all day about this project. It is so inspiring to see and hear from someone who is totally committed to effecting change in our world.

The day starts

First we meet Jeff, a young autistic fellow who has come to work today with Kim, his job coach through AVIA Employment Services. Jeff beams continuously as he listens to Bruce describe the jobs for the day. First they have to move some dirt for the herb garden, then they have to clip the 20 or more feet of lemon balm that line the roadway. It is a smoking hot day and they work hard. The sweat pours off them but they smile and a wave at me when I leave an hour and a half later.

The garden is maintained, under Bruce’s watchful eye, by countless volunteers from the community who come to share in the joy and the chores of the botanical gardens. Many of the volunteers are individuals with developmental disabilities, who come through Langley Association of Community Living (LACL), an organization that has been working with people with special needs for over 50 years.  Other volunteers include the 21 people from Envision Financial Langley who are coming to the gardens this October to help with fall cleanup.

It’s hot but Kim and Jeff are still smiling

Many hands make light work

The greenhouse, which was made possible by a grant from Community Living BC (CLBC), was built by the Co-op and is used to hold workshops to teach people how to grow food naturally. They learn about chemical-free gardening methods and natural soil enhancements such as kelp, fishmeal, rock dust and more. A student from Simon Fraser University will be doing a hydroponic garden in the greenhouse as his practicum and the members of Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op will be able to gain from his experience. Clumps of day lilies line the outside of the greenhouse. These are rescued plants that will be nurtured until they can be sold at next year’s Mothers’ Day plant sale. No opportunity is wasted.

Easy access gardening

Tables line the interior of the greenhouse and are rented out for $40.00 per year to people who want to start their seeds indoors or want to overwinter plants. They are designed to be easily accessible and enable the elderly and people with physical disabilities to participate in gardening. Maples Gardens Co-op is hoping to acquire more tables soon through a community supporter. Bruce demonstrates some of the bounty: including big red tomatoes, herbs, and the prize – a giant beet (see photo below). Bruce and I leave the greenhouse and walk by large garden plots, some of which still have produce and others of which are finished for the year. From one plot, Bruce pulls out a few potatoes that are still in the ground. The potatoes that grow here are donated to the local food bank.

Bruce and the giant beet

We then pass by Charlie, the big white rooster and his brood of hens (see photo). Four volunteers come each day to chop up food and feed the chickens, collect the many eggs (as these hens are prolific), and then tuck them into their coops at night to be safe from the coyotes. The chickens and lambs which range free on the property are especially popular among the groups of school children who frequent the property. And from time to time, they can spot the two resident bald eagles, hawks and other wildlife.

Charlie reigns

We are only half-way through the tour of the gardens. The next post will feature more of the features and plans for Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op including the garden plots that are available for rent. Please come back to visit.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2012 11:44 am

    This great word picture of a rustic project will ring bells with many who grew up on farms, and will also appeal to dyed-in-the-wool city dwellers. Nice to see the opportunities for the disabled as well.

    • October 3, 2012 12:38 pm

      The Maple Co-op is meeting the growing desire of city dwellers to get back to gardening and have control over their own food supply. And the people who run it are so inspiring. Thanks for your feedback.

  2. October 3, 2012 10:33 am

    Nice column, Patricia. Makes me yearn for a garden again. I have always loved the Autumn best – everything seems to be dying but is just preparing for Spring.

    • October 3, 2012 12:32 pm

      Thanks Geoff – it was a great visit and the gardens are obviously well-loved. If you don’t find a house with a garden, this is another alternative.


  1. Caring and sharing – Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op « Giving is Receiving

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