Sarah Simpson Column: New life born from old tree at Hospice House site

Sarah Simpson Column: New life born from old tree at Hospice House site

I have a history with the Cairnsmore neighbourhood. It’s not a long history, but it is a happy one. I lived there for a number of years — five maybe — but enough to make it feel like home.

During the time I was there, my boyfriend moved in, we removed an entire nest of (dead) bees from inside the wall, we got married, I got pregnant, and we brought our firstborn to our home in the neighbourhood. I still have family there. It’s a special place. A place of great growth, I’d say.

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I’ve been writing a lot lately about Cowichan Hospice and the massive fundraising efforts being put toward the construction efforts of a Hospice House and Rotary Gardens at Cairnsmore Place. They are so, so, so, close to their $10 million goal and I’m so, so, so glad because it’s a wonderful community asset and much-needed facility for the region.

I don’t know how to say it other than to be blunt and far too simple, so I hope I don’t offend you when I say it’s my understanding that Hospice is where people go to receive end of life care — to be comforted both mentally and physically while they’re dying. It’s also to support their surviving loved ones during a most difficult time. It’s because of this that I read with great interest an email sent to me recently by the folks at Cowichan Hospice.

I know it’s not at all the same as the experience of losing a cherished loved one but it appears that the Hospice House project will also give birth to new life.

I’ll let Hospice’s Holly Bowen explain.

“On the site, there’s a very old apple tree, which will need to be cut down for the build, and some folks in the Cairnsmore neighborhood have a strong attachment to the tree,” wrote Bowen. “We had the idea to try to keep it ‘alive’ by grafting some ‘babies’ from it so that in time we could make them available to people who have a history with the original tree.”

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I’m quite fond of that old apple tree. I’m also a big supporter of the work Hospice does. I can’t think of a better way to honour the former while welcoming the latter.

Bowen reached out to Dinter Nursery staff who put her in touch with Maple Bay-based retiree Warren Walters. He spent years working for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at the plant research station in Summerland. Walters agreed to do the grafting of the tree with some rootstocks kindly donated by Dinter’s.

“I thought that was a good idea on Hospice’s part. It’s smack in the middle of the property,” Walters said, adding “it was late in the season to do the chip budding on them,” but he went ahead anyway and is now confident he’s got at least five of six cuttings propagated.

“They’re growing now fairly well,” he said. “They’re in pots and they’re going to grow.”

A pesky bird knocked over the sixth so he’s not sure just yet if it’ll take or not. His fingers are crossed. Mine too.

Eventually the trees will be returned to Hospice for distribution and/or planting.

“It was a great thing to do and I am happy to have been able to propagate them,” Walters said. “I’m hoping that one of the trees will be in the hospice garden.”

Meanwhile, folks are trying to learn the history of the tree.

Know anything? Let me know!

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