One of the best parts of Bard on the Beach is its physical location. The picturesque view — captured as the stunning backdrop to the BMO Mainstage set — makes the Festival unique. But this beauty is only part of the landscape. For the last four years it’s been enhanced by on-site greenery, maintained by Jennifer Gaze and her Green Team
After marrying Artistic Director Christopher Gaze in 2002 Jennifer was welcomed into the Bard family — in truth, she had no chance of escaping it! But it wasn’t until a particularly nasty spring that she took the title of “Green Team Queen.” As someone who had learned about gardening from her mother, Jennifer was a natural choice to help restore the site after the wet, cold spring of 2011. Faced with a sea of deep mud, then-Bard Board Chair John McCulloch and Jennifer teamed up to rejuvenate the landscape. Helped by the support and sponsorship of local nursery owners Jordan McDonald and Robin Braun, they re-seeded grass, created hanging pots, and began creating planter boxes. Jordan and Robin have continued to help, and picked the red and orange colours for this season’s “forest fire” foliage theme.
The beginning was difficult, Jennifer says, and it took a long time to strike a good balance between beautiful plants and a practical level of maintenance. It’s easier now, as Jennifer works with a team of eight volunteers who tirelessly keep everything dead-headed and watered. “I am always in awe of the volunteers” she says. While some of these volunteers are ‘Master Gardeners’, others, like her, just love to garden.
At times, the Green Team faces challenges. The white tents surrounding the Village reflect a lot of heat, drying out the surrounding area. The team keeps a close eye on the plants, sometimes even watering twice a day. Sustainability is important, and during the past four years, there has been a switch to plants that need less water. This year both cacti and succulents play a large role in the planter boxes. As well, the Team uses rain-collectors attached to the Mainstage tent.
Jennifer loves the character the plants add to the site. It brings the green of the park to the centre of the Village. “Sometimes it feels to me like A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” she says. In a little over four months, everything will be packed and put away for another year, but Jennifer doesn’t seem to mind that too much. She says everything here comes and goes, like the seasons, the plays, and the plants. It’s all part of the magic of Bard.