Agricultural and horticultural societies collaborate on Groves garden project

ABOYNE – The Grand River Agricultural Society (GRAS) and the Elora and Salem Horticultural Society (ESHS) are collaborating to add a healing garden and pollinator gardens at the new Groves hospital site.

“We do a lot of community donations,” said GRAS vice president Deborah Whale.

GRAS donated $250,000 last year to the new Groves hospital, and a healing garden was built adjacent to the hospital.

The ESHS is in charge of regular maintenance of that garden for the next three years; in exchange GRAS is providing funds for the ESHS to build 14 small pollinator gardens in the space.

“Groves Hospital and Groves Foundation are extremely grateful to Grand River Agricultural Society and the Elora Salem Horticultural society for their generosity of time and funds to help beautify the Healing Garden at the Groves Hospital,” hospital foundation executive director Lori Arsenault stated in an email.

“We know it will be enjoyed by visitors, patients and staff for years to come and we truly appreciate their dedication and commitment.”

Healing garden

Whale explained how the project came to be, as Groves approached GRAS to see if something could be done for the new hospital, and a healing garden was proposed.

GRAS donated $250,000 to the New Groves Hospital campaign, and the healing garden was named in a recognition of their gift, Arsenault told the Advertiser.

“We’re going back in to make it better,” said Whale, explaining this additional donation will add more plants and features to the current garden.

Whale estimates that it’ll be another year before the project is finished.

ESHS president Dawn McClure said some of the planned additions include “healing plants”,  increasing the number of plants that have a scent, and adding more seating out of direct sunlight for patients.

Pollinator gardens

The idea for the pollinator gardens first came up when a friend of McClure sent her a link about pollinator gardens that were being built across Canada.

A few months later, when GRAS reached out, it seemed like the perfect way to make the gardens work, said McClure.

Elora and Salem Horticultural Society president Dawn McClure standing over pollinator garden, which is being built near Groves. Photo by Olivia Rumbell


There will be 14 small pollinator gardens in the space, and each garden will be maintained by a volunteer. The healing and pollinator gardens will be in close proximity, and thus will look like one large garden.

McClure emphasized the need for volunteers to help out as the project continues and noted those interested can email

Whale told the Advertiser it is unique for a hospital, horticulture society and agriculture society to work together to make environmental improvements and create spaces that benefit hospital patients and staff.

The healing and pollinator gardens aren’t the only projects being added to the Groves site.

GRAS is also starting to plan for another project, working with the hospital foundation to build a memorial forest.

“People can assign trees to loved ones who have died,” Whale said of the concept.