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A passion with plants
Iglulik resident nurtures a love for gardening in her community

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Friday, June 1, 2012

Iglulik might be the last place one would expect to find a grapefruit or orange tree, but Georgia has both in her home in the community.

NNSL photo/graphic

Georgia has volunteered daily for the past 10 years or so to take care of the plants lining the front hallway of Ataguttaaluk Elementary School in Iglulik. - photo courtesy of Shontell MacInnis

Georgia, who legally does not have a last name, shares her gardening passion with the students and staff at the elementary school when she volunteers daily to take care of their plants. Georgia waters, has trimmed and re-potted the plants lining the front hallway of Ataguttaaluk Elementary School every morning for the past 10 years or so. Her mobility is getting limited at 84 years old, she explained, so students and teachers help her now. Plants have been part of the school for some 38 years, said Georgia, adding she has a "wonderful" variety of plants at home.

"I have a grapefruit tree in one pot and an orange tree in another pot. I've had them about 10 years each and I planted them from the seeds of the fruit that I ate. And they grew and they're just gorgeous," she said, adding the trees are more than two metres tall.

A good network of gardeners exist in Iglulik, including a few houses famous for their plants, explained Georgia. She added people used to pass around seedlings and cuttings, but now people typically bring plants in.

"The Inuit, they just shrug and nod their heads because for them, why not," she answered about the apparent irony of having plants about the tree line. "All the rest of my plants are small and the fact that I grew them from my own seed, this is normal here. Well, I don't know what's normal. Nowadays, people bring plants in."

Georgia was born and raised in Alaska then moved to Canada in 1969, arriving in Churchill, Man., to work for the diocese. She arrived in Iglulik in 1974, doing writing about the North for various publications including newspapers such as the Globe and Mail, as she said the south was becoming interested in the Arctic. She would also talk about the North to southern schools, church clubs and women's groups, for instance, she added. She even published a book in the early 1980s about the history of Iglulik ibased on her Globe and Mail clippings.

"When the south has started listening to the Inuit, I figured they could speak for themselves so I quit my writing and publicity work," she said. "But that was fun."

Back to the community, Georgia said she particularly likes plants with flowers.

"I have plants that grow all winter long and then, now, in the spring, I get seeds and I plant boxes of flowers that will last the season. I love smelling the flowers," she said. "I don't know what they give me a lot of pleasure."

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