Most recently, there was a small crowd of people eagerly listening to a lecture by Naturopathic Dr. Shawn Yakimovich as he ran a four-part workshop series on practical herbal medicine in the lecture hall area. One of the workshop participants spoke to Claude to describe how the previous lecture had a lingering effect.
“I couldn’t stay away! Talking about plants and then working with the plants this week – it just makes me happy!”
“Yes!” Claude agreed. “It’s good for your mental health; it’s good for your physical health. The plants give off oxygen, and we give off carbon dioxide, so it’s symbiotic. We need them!”
A graduate of the original Kemptville Agricultural College’s horticulture program, Claude started teaching when the Kemptville Campus was still part of the University of Guelph. She's now working at the greenhouse and regularly writes a gardening column in the North Grenville Times. Just a few minutes into a discussion with Claude, it’s clear to see that the vitality of the plants has seeped right through her skin. Her face beams as she speaks about why she wants to be at the greenhouses.
“I love it. I love that people love learning. I love learning too.” Claude gleams.
Claude’s passion for learning and teaching is getting put to good use as she manages all the exciting opportunities happening on Campus. These include plant cultivation in the community areas, coordinating school access and educational activities, organizing enterprising opportunites such as workshops and paid growing spaces, providing horticultural services to Campus as outdoor garden beds develop, and continuing her work coordinating greenhouse volunteers as part of the emerging “Friends of Kemptville Campus” program.
The atmosphere inside the greenhouses reflects a burst of activity with new tenants and new uses of the space. As well as a lecture and plant experimentation work area, there’s an active scientific lab using one greenhouse: Proteins Easy Corp. Proteins Easy was created to distribute a new biochemical technology that exponentially increases agricultural crop yields. Another long-term horticultural tenant is ZipGrow Inc., a hydroponics and vertical growing technology company. ZipGrow’s winter crop of strawberries, basil, peppers and salad greens are thriving in the tropical growing conditions.
Groups of school children, guest speakers, and The Ottawa Flower Market have enjoyed the community space for their activities, in whatever season suits their purpose. One thing is a constant: there’s a lot of learning going on.
Gardeners, let me ask you this: how much horticultural education have you accumulated in your gardening life, and how do you continue adding to your knowledge? Some find it very challenging to receive accurate and timely information. Every Monday over the noon hour, you might be one of those Ontarians who tunes in to CBC Radio for free gardening advice by an expert gardener. But it’s hard getting through on the busy radio show phone lines, so why not wander over to the Kemptville Campus greenhouse for some expert advice from Claude, your own local horticultural educator?
Make a visit to the campus greenhouse this winter, and treat yourself to its soft, warm tropical air, a sort of oxygenated “mini-spa” for the lungs. (We’ll hum it with you: To face, unafraid, the plans that you’ve made, walking through a humid wonderland…!)
You’ll be able to breathe in oxygen generated by plants that are here for overwintering, or “plant-sitting” – a few spectacular jade plants, and a sea of spider plants and geraniums. One of the geranium varieties, says Claude, leaning over and offering up a green lobed leaf, smells like eucalyptus and peppermint. (Again, with the spa theme!) She speaks the truth; it really does smell different, and softer, than the typically strong geranium scent you might expect.
This is the fourth year that the campus greenhouses have opened up over the winter, and currently there are over 20 people having their plants tended to in the greenhouse. Later in the winter, many early gardeners who want to get the jump on their spring crops are able to rent space for their seed-starting projects. The warm humid environment provides the perfect sprouting conditions, and gardeners can come to Campus to visit their babies and see the progress! If this interests you, please reach out to Claude.
The greenhouse is also home to an amazing cactus collection. A local man donated a wide array of different types of cacti, having tracked them down, nurtured and propagated them for over 30 years before running short of space. (Note to videographers and creatives: if you need a movie set for your low-budget, miniature-scaled western tumbleweed scene… you’re covered. Come on over. This cactus haven is channeling Clint Eastwood.)
The diversity of the activities going on in the greenhouses is in keeping with the Kemptville Campus’ mandate to encourage health and wellness and all forms of horticultural education by offering opportunities to learn about sustainable agriculture. If you’re interested in learning more about gardening, renting space in the greenhouse, or getting involved, contact Claude. The community greenhouse complex on the Kemptville Campus (75 Campus Drive) is open to the public on weekday mornings, from 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon.
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