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Conservatory expansion means more event hosting opportunities for Peace Garden   

Conservatory expansion means more event hosting opportunities for Peace Garden   


CAPTION: Construction continues on one of the most-visited buildings in the Peace Garden, the Conservatory, doubling floor space and display area to accommodate the world-class collection of cacti and succulents 


One of the most visited buildings at the International Peace Garden is the Conservatory, the home to one of the largest private collections of cacti and succulents in the world. Minot resident, Don Vitko collected over 5,000 species over more than 50 years before he donated the entire collection to the Peace Garden in 2010. 

The collection includes a number of rare and endangered species from all over the world, specifically North America, South America and Africa. The fact that some of these species are found only in isolated areas and extremely difficult to find lends itself to the teaching about the importance of conservation. 

‘These lessons align with the mission of the Garden, as conservation is a form of promoting peace – valuing and protecting living things and working to create a sustainable environment so they can thrive,” states the Peace Garden website. 

In order for the entire collection to be displayed and be properly cared for, the exhibit space has been doubled. “We’re nearly doubling the square footage and the display space so that a lot of these plants have a lot more room to grow and mature and fill out that space to create an all-year-round environment,” explains Peace Garden CEO, Tim Chapman. 

Also, interpretive features, art exhibits and seasonal shows will be added to enhance the visitor experience, providing an all-season interior landscape to make the Conservatory a year-round destination. “So, there’s going to be more seating space and more walkways,” he added, “and we’re excited to have the option to move furniture in and out so that we can actually host meals within the cacti collection, for an immersive experience that will be a lot of fun!” 

Moving both small and massive, delicate and thorny, cacti and succulents to a completely different location within the Garden is no easy task. 

“As you can imagine, cacti are not the quickest plant you can work with as they’re very delicate and spiny,” shared Chapman. “Last year we had an incredible 2 weeks of moving the majority of the cacti out of the old structure before it was torn down. They all went up the hill to our production greenhouses where they made it through the winter. Once the building is enclosed again, we’ll be spending another couple of weeks moving them all back down that hill very slowly so we don’t lose any.” 

On the other half of the Conservatory, the existing restaurant and patio have been re-imagined as a healthy farm-to-table casual dining, with direct access to the patio from the restaurant and take-out window. Both indoor and outdoor rental spaces have been added to the design to accommodate weddings, events, meetings and programs. Also, two nearby outdoor plazas are being renovated to accommodate large events. 

The Conservatory is home to the cacti and succulent collection, as well as the horticulture library, the Peace Garden café and their gift shop, featuring local art and collectibles. 

Substantial completion of the Conservatory is expected in September but will be open to the public sometime later to allow more time for the monumental task of returning the collection to its newly renovated home. 

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Fort St. John North Peace Museum update: Back to more events and programs

Fort St. John North Peace Museum update: Back to more events and programs

Admission is free but donations are appreciated. Masks are recommended and attendance will be capped at the first 50 people to arrive. For more information, call 250-787-0430.

We were excited to host some programs and guided tours for camps over spring break and we have just released our program information to schools. Information on all our programs can be found at

Lastly, we are very happy to be updating our display case in the hospital lobby again with a brand new exhibit.

Access has been limited during the pandemic and we are thrilled to be teaming up with the Fort St. John Hospital Arts Committee once again. This new display looks at surgery in the North Peace from the 1930s to the 1970s through equipment, photographs, and stories. Look for it in the lobby between reception and Cool Beans Café.

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Several events held in North Texas in support of peace in Ukraine

Several events held in North Texas in support of peace in Ukraine

There were several events held across North Texas this weekend as people showed support for Ukraine.

Some have family in Ukraine who were able to get out.

For others, Russia’s attacks are blocking any hopes of their loved ones trying to run.

Fears were heightened on a rainy Sunday in Frisco, as hundreds marched for peace in Ukraine. 

Some wore blue and yellow, while others held the Ukrainian flag high. 

“Day number 11 and I lost my sleep,” said Kateryna Volik.

Volik’s family is in Sumy, along the Ukraine-Russia border. 

“Right now, they are not evacuating nobody from my city because the roads are very bad and a very serious situation,” she added.

Reports of Russia deliberately attacking civilians are ramping up, with the Ukrainian death toll rising.

RELATED: Russian attacks halt planned civilian evacuations in Ukraine for 2nd time, official says

Families are now unable to escape the country with routes to safety turning too dangerous. 

Volik’s parents are stuck, but stepping up to help. 

“My mom is cooking food and feeding soldiers,” Volik said. “She says she’s trying to do civil things and we don’t understand what is the reason.”

According to the UN, 1.5 million refugees have now fled Ukraine.  

This weekend, Ukraine’s president gave a stark warning that an imminent attack is upon Odessa. 

“How do you make someone go and be okay with shooting at people?” asked Tatyana Neuner, who has family in Ukraine.

Her brother and his wife live in Odessa. 

Thankfully, Neuner’s sister and nephew were able to cross safely into Poland. 

“Nobody wants this. The whole world is backing up Ukraine, but it’s not enough,” Neuner said. “Everybody is afraid of Putin because he is trigger happy.”

Also Sunday, Russian Americans protested against Putin in Fort Worth. 

A stark contrast to the scenes in Moscow of Russian resistance. 

Thousands have been detained across Russia for participating in anti-war protests. 

“We have a voice here in this country. Thank God for democracy in the U.S. We can’t stay quiet,” Alyssa Honer said.

Ukrainians living in North Texas are begging for the Russian government to back down. 

“It’s their choice. They have to make a choice to not kill Ukrainians,” Iryna Chernets said.

But for now, Chernets worries her family doesn’t have a choice.

Her father is left frightened in Ukraine’s capital. 

“And we just don’t know what will happen,” Chernets said.

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UPDATE: Sunflower shines over Vernon peace event – Vernon Morning Star

UPDATE: Sunflower shines over Vernon peace event - Vernon Morning Star

The sunflower, says Vernon artist Michelle Loughery, is food. It’s medicine.

Nine years ago, Loughery painted a sunflower mural on the side of a local real estate building at 30th Street and Highway 6. It was an internment mural, about what happened to people of Ukrainian and Austrian descent in the First World War. It was the first such mural in Canada.

On Sunday, Feb. 27, Loughery and a handful of fellow artists gathered at the mural to paint sunflowers as a show of peace.

“Today, with everything happening in the world, we as artists – led by (Vernon artist) Brenda Ellis – said ‘Let’s come together, let’s do a painting and let’s show what we’re standing for is peace on this planet,” said Loughery, whose three-year-old granddaughter, Eili Kette, was among those out painting sunflowers on canvasses.

Ukraine, of course, has been front and centre in world news following an invasion by Russia. Okanagan communities – there are approximately 20,000 people in the Okanagan who identify as Ukrainian-Canadian – have held rallies since the invasion on Thursday, Feb. 24, to show support and love for the people of Ukraine.

“This wall is so poignant and everything came together to stand here right now about the sunflower,” said Loughery.

The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine and the country is one of the world’s leaders in producing sunflowers and sunflower oil.

Ellis, who was painting fence pickets blue with yellow sunflowers – blue and yellow are the colours of Ukraine’s flag – also had a bowl of sunflower seeds on her table. Loughery told an important tale about the seeds and a Ukrainian immigrant who came to Canada starving.

“She had sewn sunflower seeds in her skirt so she could have the flower and the food to survive in Canada,” said Loughery. “The heart of the sunflower seed is in all of us as humanity.”

Loughery and her fellow artists are excited to bring the sunflower to the forefront locally.

“It’s beautiful,” she smiled. “It’s the people, place and planet, guys. We’re all in it together.”

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