By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Aug. 30, 2014
For memories, Ruth Fenton doesn’t need to flip through the sepia-tinged pictures in a photo album. For memories, she can simply park her car at the Squamish Adventure Centre, walk over to Rose Park and sit at a bench across from Lily’s Garden.
On a recent sunny afternoon, Fenton did just that and memories started to course through her mind and heart.
More than five decades have passed, but Ruth Fenton can easily step back in time at Lily’s Garden. There, she sees her mom working in the garden, planting flowers and vegetables, somehow finding time to take care of a large brood of children.
Not from the memories is the little Robin that follows her aroung, tapping on the window in the kitchen before she goes out to work in the garden.
“I think he felt safe with her,” says another daughter, Margaret Bradley.
Ruth can still point out the flower her mother planted, a blue flower under a tree she planted at least 60 years ago.
For the world that walks through it and stops to admire, Lily’s Garden is well-maintained public park run by the District of Squamish.
For Ruth Fenton–and her 11 siblings– it’s a passage to childhood and to memories of mom, Lily Carson, the woman whose name the garden has immortalized.
“I feel a sense of peace here,” says Ruth.
Her mother, Lily Carson, was born in Toronto, but the family moved to Squamish to be closer to her uncle who owned a ranch in Squamish.
Ruth’s father, George Carson, drove a delivery truck, sold firewood, worked at Woodfibre, and operated a repair shop and a logging company. The family initially lived in Brackendale, but then moved to their home stead at the present Rose Park site in the 1950s.
Ruth’s sister, Margaret Bradley, remembers in her mom a strong lady who cooked for a 15-person household and still found time for the garden.
“She always had the flowers, no matter how tough things got,” recalls Bradley.
Flowers from Lily’s garden always won awards at the fall fair, and Bradley can still recall people visiting their home just to look at their garden.
From gladiolas to sweet peas, Lily too took great pleasure in seeing things grow.
Bradley still remembers the cedar bows over the window, and how her mom made Holly from Salal and mistletoe from pop berries.
Another daughter, Ann Beattie, says working with the earth fulfilled her.
“She was always decorating, always making thing prettier,” says Beattie.
When the district decided to create Rose Park in the 90s, the Carson family held a family meeting and decided to donate the land to create Lily’s garden in her memory.
The garden includes a unique specimen sized small trees, numerous varieties of lilies, some raised planting beds with tuteurs and climbing vines, surrounded by a wide pathway winding around the perimeters and.
Every spring, like a family ritual, the Carson family, spread across Canada and the US, come together to Squamish to clean the garden.
“The garden gives us meaning and a feeling of continuity,” says Beattie.