ART BEAT – OOE ARTIST FEATURE: Landscape Architect Jennifer Shepherd Shares Irises and Insight with Budding Artists

By Tanis Browning-Shelp

Looking out the front window of her family home during a COVID workday, landscape architect Jennifer Shepherd spotted a small posse of neighbourhood kids running around on the street just beyond her flowering front garden. To Shepherd, who currently works as a program manager for parks at the City of Ottawa, the three boys and two girls ranged in age from about five to ten years. She smiled, thinking back to the days when her own children (now both in university) spent their free time running and playing outside.

When Shepherd was featured in this column nine years ago, she talked about landscape architecture as a “multifaceted and organic art form.” She was so committed to sharing information about providing habitat and beauty in our everyday lives that she created a sketch of a backyard design for inclusion with the article—her gift to Old Ottawa East residents who could interpret and adapt the design for themselves. It therefore made perfect sense that when she spotted the same children hopping and skipping away carrying flowers from her garden, she saw it as an opportunity to share more than just flowers.

Landscape architect Jennifer Shepherd’s front garden demonstrates both esthetic beauty and functional beauty (like a butterfly feeding on a Milkweed). Her garden provides the ideal space for sharing flowers and plant facts with neighbourhood kids. Photo by Tanis Browning-Shelp

Landscape architect Jennifer Shepherd’s front garden demonstrates both esthetic beauty and functional beauty (like a butterfly feeding on a Milkweed). Her garden provides the ideal space for sharing flowers and plant facts with neighbourhood kids. Photo by Tanis Browning-Shelp

“I went outside and called out to them, causing them to jump,” Shepherd says. “I immediately told them that it was absolutely fine for them to take the flowers, but that we needed to make sure that they weren’t ripping out the roots so that there will always be flowers for everyone to enjoy!”

She called them back and they joined her amongst the plants and flowers in her front yard. “They slowed down for a little while,” she says. “We looked at the flowers together. They asked what they were called—Forget-me-nots, Gerbera daisies…They knelt down and smelled the blossoms. One little boy nodded when I asked if his flowers were for his mom.”

“I explained that I love to share my flowers, but that in order to continue to share them, we need to be careful. I told them that they can come over any time, knock on the door, ask for flowers, and I will come out and cut them for them.”

Shepherd said goodbye to the kids and went back inside to continue her workday. Later, when her family was about to start making dinner, they heard the ‘ding dong’ of their front doorbell.

“One little boy asked ‘Can I have this flower? There’s only one on the plant. May I please have it?’ I went out to help. I explained that the purply rose coloured flower was a Clematis. I cut it for him and went back inside”

“After a few more minutes, we heard another ‘ding dong’ and got a request for another flower. I went out and cut it for them, explaining that it was an Iris. Next, somebody asked for the tag that came with one of the plants. I gave them that too!”

“Their wonderful thank-you cards, which included the children’s sweet drawings of flowers, meant more to me than the flowers themselves!”

A day or two later, the doorbell rang once again, and Shepherd’s daughter answered the door.

“The child asked my daughter if she could please give this to the lady who lives here, and handed her a thank-you note,” Shepherd says. “Another thank-you note appeared in my mailbox shortly after that. A couple of days later two of the children arrived at the house along with their mom, who both apologized and thanked me. The kids talked about the flowers in their own yard. Their wonderful thankyou cards, which included the children’s sweet drawings of flowers, meant more to me than the flowers themselves!”

These thank-you cards, adorned with floral artwork, were presented to Jennifer Shepherd by her young neighbours. The Mainstreeter hopes that these and other young people will submit their art to the Kids Korner for exhibiting in the OOE Art Tour on August 21. For more info check out The 2n Annual OOE Art Tour . Photo by Tanis Browning-Shelp

These thank-you cards, adorned with floral artwork, were presented to Jennifer Shepherd by her young neighbours. The Mainstreeter hopes that these and other young people will submit their art to the Kids Korner for exhibiting in the OOE Art Tour on August 21. For more info check out The 2n Annual OOE Art Tour . Photo by Tanis Browning-Shelp

At age nine, Shepherd recalls writing about ‘Jack in the Pulpits,’ wild ginger, and her trip to the Kortright Centre (a conservation area in Guelph) for her requisite ‘My Summer Vacation’ essay. “Learning about plants and perennials has always been my thing. And sharing this experience with our young neighbours reminded me of interacting with my own kids.”

Old Ottawa East’s yards, parks, and community spaces continue to flourish under Shepherd’s watchful eye, passionate care, and open, sharing approach.

                                                                                                
Author Tanis Browning-Shelp (http://www.browning-shelp.com) pens her Maryn O’Brien Young Adult Fiction series, published by Dog-Eared Books, from her home in Old Ottawa East. Contact tanis@browning-shelp.com if you have information about artists or art events that you believe would enrich our community members’ lives.

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