As a celebration to mark the successful completion of the 2011-2012 school calendar year EHC hosted a leisurely day in the countryside for its staff and students. Last year was a ‘graduation year’ for which EHC organized Dinner at the hip Hotel Arts for the grads, students, their friends and family to share in.
But as this year was an in-between graduation year, a less formal event was hosted in the countryside – for all who felt comfortable with the lack of visible concrete and traffic noise – in the outstanding Rocky Mountain foothills area near Sundre Alberta.
After a full-on buffet picnic lunch everyone hiked the short distance through the bush from our location to Bearberry Creek Water Gardens for a behind the scenes tour with owner Heinjo Lahring. Bearberry Creek nursery (horticultural zone 2, at 4000 ft. elevation) specializes in aquatic plants for northern region ponds and wetland rehabilitation and is incidentally located near the Bearberry arts community in the foothills of Alberta.
Here hardy wetland plants have been selected for their ability to survive in the relatively short northern cool growing season. All the plants are grown outdoors (most of which are native to Alberta) which provide food and cover for wildlife, and help to establish and maintain a healthy wetland environment. These plants are raised for wetland restoration, wildlife enhancement, water treatment, bio-filtration, or other aquatic projects such as shore stabilization, erosion control, planting in flooded areas, nutrient utilization, waste water treatment and clarification, shading, and ornamental plantings.
As a modern day homesteader in the Canadian back country since 1983, together with his wife Jan (fellow botanist and business partner) and the seasonal staff, Heinjo established and operates the nursery, gives tours for school children, does research, speaks at conferences, and has authored “Water & Wetland Plants of the Prairie Provinces” a 326 page paperback field guide [ISBN: 9780889771628 – available at the nursery or through Amazon books]featuring colour photos, line drawings, and detailed descriptions of over 400 species of water and wetland plants found across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Written for amateur and professional botanists alike in other parts of Canada, the United States, and even Eurasia, many of these northern wetland species are circumpolar in distribution.
As a lover of nature, Heinjo and family regularly ski and cycle in the back country in their spare time, but he also plays and teaches drumming. Now if that isn’t enough, he also heads up the Sundre Gymnastics Club coaching team, is one of its founding members, and continues to take NCCP training and works with the Alberta Gymnastics Federation.
We had a great time and are thankful to Heinjo for giving us a very passionate and informative tour of the facilities, the showy tropical water lily tank specimens, the tree seedlings, the transplanting house, and all the various garden offerings, but more importantly for explaining the hidden work and importance of environmental rehabilitation [especially in our oil industry based province], the challenges of operating in this particular climate and the competition bestowed by the indigenous wild creatures that crave these water plants!
It was a long glorious day, and a memorable one shared with our very talented, passionate and hardworking students at a destination that perhaps we will visit again in the future…