Camosun students revitalize Lansdowne Native Plant Garden

Two environmental technology students used the knowledge gained from their classes to give back to Camosun. Christina Chen and Roxanne Cameron used their Capstone sustainability project to revitalize the native plant garden on the Lansdowne campus and transform it into what is now Camas Hill.

Camas Hill, located next to the Wilna Thomas Building, is named after a purple flower found – along with many other wildlife – in the garden. And it’s now a peaceful place where students can escape campus and learn about native and invasive plant species.

“We took a course on plants; we focused on the mosses for part of it, and with that, we looked at the fence, which used to be in that area, and we were really interested in learning more about them,” says Chen. “And it was also one thing that the fence was going to be pulled down.”

Camas Hill is located next to the Wilna Thomas Building on Camosun College’s Lansdowne campus (photo provided).

The Native Plant Garden has a long history in Camosun. It was established in the late 1970s and was located at the current location of Lansdowne Library.

“The idea of ​​the native plant garden was to be an educational space for students in the Bio department,” Cameron explains. “I think the idea started in 1979, and during the 80s it was located where the library is now, but at that time the college received funding for the new library… and the person in charge of [the garden] operation requested that they find a different location for the library, but I assume they were closed so they had to move the garden. So where it was moved is where it is now.

Chen and Cameron didn’t want to demolish what was left in the garden even though it had been neglected for several years. They used what was already there, like an old bench and a fence, and also took advantage of a Camosun employee’s side hobby.

“We decided to take the area and make it more welcoming and attractive,” says Cameron. “The old bench had been overgrown and discolored with moss, so we sanded it down and stained it. The old area that used to be a pond, we cleaned up the mud and debris and repaired the pond liner, and we’ve turned it into a moss bog. There’s a gentleman who works for Camosun Facilities who has a hobby of growing little miniature bog-style ecosystems, so he had an idea last spring that I got I contacted him to see if he was still interested, and he provided us with the plants and the design, and then we did the physical labor and labor to build it.

As they want to restore the Herbal Garden to its former glory, Chen mentions that she hopes this will also shed some light on their underfunded program.

“It’s also an opportunity to show people—well, at the college—the importance of environmental technology and the curriculum,” Chen says. “We’re kind of underfunded and underrecognized.”

Chen and Cameron hope Camas Hill will help students learn about surrounding ecosystems.

“I wanted to do this project because I think the area has a lot of potential, environmentally and educationally as well,” Cameron says. “We just wanted everyone to realize that there was an extra space where they could relax and enjoy a little getaway off campus itself. And they can take the time to learn about some of the species that live there, as the area has unfortunately been taken over by many invasive species, but this is an opportunity to learn the difference between our native and invasive species.

Leon E. Hill