The joy of growing places
The joys and benefits of gardening were relayed to members of The Rotary Club of Dumfries recently when speaker Colin Crosbie addressed the audience.
President Andrew Walls introduced Colin, a native of Kirkcudbright and a man with a lifelong passion for horticulture, a passion which has taken him through a fascinating career.
It has also led him to his present involvement in sharing and passing on his gardening passion to a section of the community for which it is particularly beneficial.
By his own admission, Colin was not academic at school – he just wanted to get into a gardening job. Aged just 17, he wisely attended the Auchencruive College, near Ayr, where he completed an apprenticeship in horticulture.
In those days, Auchencruive was a centre of excellence in this field, as demonstrated by an aerial photograph, displayed by Colin, of its extensive gardens, glasshouses and huge field where research work was carried out all the time on improving the quality and strength of plants of all kinds, including many varieties of strawberries. The course required students to spend a year in a working garden. As luck would have it, Colin was sent to Windsor Great Park, and this proved to be the trigger for a stellar career.
He must have made quite an impression, because it was suggested to him that he should apply for a permanent post in the extensive gardens at Windsor, where his ultimate boss would be the late Queen Mother.
He got the job, after a nerve-wracking interview with the great lady herself, who apparently concluded matters by stating “Mr Crosbie, you’re Scottish – you’ll do just fine.”
Having become head gardener at Windsor, and achieving all he wished for in the gardens there, Colin applied for the post of Manager of the Tree and Shrub collection at RHS Wisley. This is the world-renowned centre of excellence for all things horticultural and botanical.
He rose through the ranks at Wisley, but realised that he was getting further and further away from his real passion, that is getting down on his knees and getting his hands dirty.
So he has now returned to Dumfries, lives outside the town with a garden which he opens under the Scotland’s Gardens Scheme, has an active involvement with the local Bethany Trust Charity, and a more active role with a Scottish Charity called Independence from Drugs and Alcohol Scotland.
The wheel has turned full circle in that this charity is based in the gardening area at Auchencruive College, now largely out of use and in need of major refurbishment.
The charity has managed to acquire this whole area and is setting about bringing it all back to life. The work will be done largely by reforming addicts, who will either self-refer themselves or be recommended by health professionals.
Colin knows the beneficial effects of clearing and preparing plots, sewing seed or planting seedlings and nurturing them into full bloom.
It is a recipe with a proven success rate, and is already achieving results up at Auchencruive. The “River Garden Auchencruive” residential training and social enterprise development centre encourages abstinence, self-reliance, self-control and self-worth, acquisition of skills and preparation for reintegration into mainstream society.
Colin’s tale was inspiring and members wished him and his colleagues every success with this exciting project.
Good to talk Rotary Club of Dumfries president Andrew Walls with Colin Crosbie