When Lois Maclennan wants a moment of peace, she does some gardening.

When Lois Maclennan wants a moment of peace, she does some gardening.

"I feel that when I’m out there, my mind is completely clear and calm," Maclennan says. "I like that feeling of forgetting about time. You go out and hours pass, and you’re out there in nature and you just feel very serene, very calm."

In addition to maintaining the garden at her home in St. James, Maclennan volunteers as a gardener at Extendicare Oakview Place, a 245-bed care home on Ness Avenue. For many years, a member of the home’s maintenance staff looked after the garden. When that person retired, the garden fell into disrepair.

"I used to drive by that place on my way to work and think, ‘They need help,’" says Maclennan, who retired in 2012 after a 40-year career as a speech and language pathologist.

A certified master gardener, Maclennan got involved at Oakview Place in June 2018 after the Manitoba Master Gardener Association posted an ad looking for someone to take a leadership role rejuvenating and maintaining the care home’s garden.

Maclennan assembled a group of volunteers and has been looking after the home’s front and back green spaces ever since.

What was once an unremarkable green space is now a wonderful, colourful, fragrant garden.

There are flowers blooming at all times in the summer, including some that attract butterflies and birds. Additionally, there are tomatoes and squash growing out of straw bales.

Summer 2020 was challenging as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, which meant that Maclennan and her group had only a two-hour window, starting at 8 a.m. every Tuesday morning, to do their work. Still, they showed up each week to plant, weed, maintain the flowerbeds, tend the straw-bale garden, look after the butterfly garden, paint the wishing wells and trim the trees.

This past summer, with all of the volunteers fully vaccinated, restrictions were eased. Oakview Place received a grant from the federal government’s New Horizons for Seniors program, which allowed Maclennan and her group to add a fountain and hire an artist to paint three murals.

Being able to see the garden rejuvenated over time has been a thrill for residents, says Khristin Wagner, leisure and lifestyle co-ordinator at Oakview Place.

"Lois is a very knowledgeable person, she has a lot of ingenuity and she’s just wonderful to work with," Wagner says. "It’s been really exciting for our residents and their families to see the progress over time. They’re just so dedicated, this group of ladies led by Lois."

For Maclennan, who also volunteers at FortWhyte Alive and with the PEO (Philanthropic Education Organization) Sisterhood, it’s the residents that keep her coming back to Oakview Place.

"I just find it so gratifying to see how much happiness the residents have in that garden," she says. "They’re out there every day, they’re visiting with each other… They love to just sit out there and be in nature. It’s a real pleasant diversion for them from their everyday routine."

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.