Marcy Prior has been overseeing the upkeep of the gardens of the Haig-Brown Heritage House for the last 33 years.
She was hired by Ann Elmore Haig-Brown herself in 1986 and has tended the gardens under her direction ever since. Even since Ann’s passing in 1990, Prior followed – mostly, at least – the direction and mentorship she received from her those first few years in the role. She took a few liberties here and there, but always kept true to the feeling they were after.
But it’s time to pass that role on to another gardens-keeper, and the Museum at Campbell River – which oversees the operations at the property – has officially begun looking for who that might be.
Because it needs to be much more than simply a person who enjoys gardening.
“We need to find someone who really cares,” Anderson says. “We’re not just looking for a gardener. We need someone who recognizes the importance of it as a heritage space, its history and its value to the community and wants to see that value continue to increase.”
Thankfully, whoever ends up taking the role will have a decades of knowledge about the property at their disposal.
“We’re in a unique position here in terms of having access to people who actually know what the wishes of the property owners were,” says Erika Anderson of the Museum. “We still have the four Haig-Brown children all still alive and involved, so if you have a quesiton about something you can just call them and ask. That’s not something most heritage properties have. And Marcy started out under Ann and so she has first-hand knowledge of what (Ann and Roderick) wanted the property to be. Obviously, that’s irreplacable, but she’s kept really detailed notes over the years – like, there’s month-by-month plans of what needs to be done – and whoever we find will also have the opportunity to work alongside her for the rest of 2019, so there will be lots of opportunity to learn what the property needs from the best person to learn that from.”
Obviously, the upkeep of the 1.8-acre heritage property doesn’t involve simply mowing the lawns once in a while and making sure the sprinkers are on in the areas they’re needed at any given time. It’s also not about sculpting the vegetation into perfectly-formed representations of itself.
“It’s a fine balance,” Anderson says. “It’s not meant to be overly manicured, but it can’t just be left to get out of control, either. It’s like a controlled chaos kind of situation.
“It’s going to be really challenging to find the right person to replace Marcy,” she continues. “But I really do think somebody’s going to come along that just has that passion for the heritage values of the property and the garden. There are a lot of people – I’m one of them – who just love being on the property. I’ll come here sometimes just to be here, because it’s such a wonderful space and such a good energy. To be here as your job every week maintaining it I think would be a very great thing for someone to be able to do.”
Those interested in applying for the position can find more details through the museum’s “employment opportunities” page at crmuseum.ca. There is also, however, a site tour happening June 20 at 10 a.m. for those thinking about applying so they can get a good look at the property and exactly see what the job will entail before sending in a resumé.
“It’ll be strange for someone different to be doing it,” Anderson admits. “Marcy’s just always kind of been here. But we’ll find the right person, I’m sure.”