The joy of grow­ing places

Dumfries & Galloway Standard - - DISTRICT NEWS -

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

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