By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

More than just a term coined in the sixties, flowers really do hold a special power. Interior Health’s environmental sustainability committee sent out an open invitation at the beginning of October to all staff at Invermere and District Hospital (IDH) to participate in the ‘Healthy Growth: Patients and Pollinators’ wildflower garden project on Oct. 6. Consultations with local gardeners and Winderberry Nursery for this project proved that fall was the most optimal time to plant wildflowers, to see them sprout in the spring.

“Wildflowers support pollinators such as bees and butterflies, which in turn help provide food sources for both wildlife and people. Diversifying the green space adds value and appeal to the healing and restorative nature of wildflowers for patients, families, and Interior Health staff,” said Amanda McKenzie, Interior Health, environmental sustainability manager. “The garden will lead to better patient and staff wellbeing through improved patient satisfaction. It creates an environment which facilitates physiological and psychological healing when surrounded by it.”

Several volunteers came out to get their hands dirty. They helped convert an empty green space at Invermere Hospital to a wildflower meadow, to increase patient and staff well-being, promote pollinators and biodiversity, and reduce maintenance costs. Mountain wildflower and interior pollinator seeds were chosen because of the low requirement for watering and high ability to attract pollinators. Some of the perennials and native species included are crocus, daffodils, coneflowers, lupines, fireweed, and poppies. Selected clover was also planted for its ability to retain moisture in ground cover. 

Part of this day included volunteers trialing meadow scaping in the center courtyard. The aim of this is to encourage pollinator diversity, reintroduction of native plants and increased social benefits for patients and staff alike. The sustainability engagement program, which encourages staff to have sustainability committees across Interior Health, was established in 2021. The ‘Healthy Growth: Patients and Pollinators’ wildflower garden is one of the committee’s recent initiatives.

“At Interior Health, we believe that all of us have a role to play in delivering health care that is environmentally responsible and sustainable,” said McKenzie. “Given the challenges with a changing climate, departments across Interior Health are encouraged to identify practice, process and technology improvements that also have a co-benefit to the environment. As part of the program, Jessie Stoney, community health nurse and environmental sustainability champion at IDH, leads a committee and influences and promotes environmental improvement projects at IDH.”

Once in bloom, the new garden will be an improvement to the environment. It will not only be an attractant for native pollinators, because they act as a buffer for the impacts of climate change, but it will require less watering than an average lawn and with its ability to retain water, it will also increase fire safety. 

The Invermere Rotary Club, a supporter of this project and other ongoing initiatives, provided pizza for all the volunteers in attendance. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to plant a special garden. 

“I’m so proud to be a part of something that makes the world a little better. Our health is impacted by so much and climate change will have equally huge implications,” Stoney said.  “It’s inspiring to know my colleagues, workplace, and community are all working together for a brighter future.”