Amongst Friends: Remembering Corine Roberie

By: Heather Bogard

If there was ever anyone who had a passion for gardening and floral arranging, as well as a great love of nature, it was Ms. Corine Roberie. I first met her about four-and-a-half years ago when I started working for The Gazette. My job duties included typing and putting together her monthly article La Passion et le Miracle du Jardin, as well as taking the pictures to go along with the articles. As a result, I quickly got to know her well. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love nature, plants and the outdoors, but thanks to Ms. Corine, I learned a lot about plant life and gained a whole new respect for what her passion in life was.

As I was going through several of her articles, I came across this paragraph that perfectly summarizes her passion for gardening, “The garden is a world that depends on informed care, passion and nourishment. Otherwise, it will be short-lived and a perished disappointment. The experience can be compared to our own lives, which must also be well-cared for and nourished to achieve the goals set for oneself. In the garden, as in life itself, there is both a sense of obligation, and a sense of devotion. It is an interplay of forces: the returns equal the input. Gardening is an extension of one’s own being. It is deeply personal and intimate. This passion helps to produce miracles.”

Her knowledge of everything gardening and botanical astounded me, and I tried my best to absorb some of that knowledge. However, to be honest, remembering the names of the various plants and trees, especially their scientific names, was just not one of my strong suits. Eventually, I got better at recognizing plants and recalling their names, which pleased her a great deal.

Once Ms. Corine got to know me, she would always thank me for doing a good job with her articles, minus the occasional “typos” she let me know about. She was a retired English teacher, so correct spelling and grammar in her articles were extremely important to her.

She always raved about the pictures I took for her at her home garden, around town and especially at her beloved Native Plant Heritage Garden. She helped to spearhead the creation of the garden, which was established in May of 2000, and she would always tell me about how often she visited the garden to help tend it and make sure things were in top shape. And when the garden was in disarray, she would get really upset and vent about it to me.

Each month, she always made sure to include information about the garden in her article. The following example clearly shows just how proud she was of the garden and how much she loved it. “The Native Plant Heritage Garden is a typical, productive partnership between Mother Nature and humankind. Monetary donations are a very good judgement on the part of some sincere stewards. Without your vision, generosity and positive action, problems would continue to wait for solutions. But, combined with the technical assistance and expertise of Natural Resources Conservation Service, Evangeline Soil and Water Conservation Service, Acadiana Resource and Conservation and Development Council, Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, the Evangeline Parish Police Jury, the City of Ville Platte (owner of the garden) and interested citizens and volunteers, the Native Plant Heritage Garden continues to be a source of pride and prestige, intrigue and enjoyment to the community. Park is a misnomer. The space is an outdoor conservation education classroom, a living laboratory. The goal of the garden is to serve as a ‘living classroom’ to both school age and adult visitors of the garden. It is intergenerational. The garden has been developed to highlight the unique and varied natural elements of Louisiana’s natural resources. In the garden, you will see a variety of Louisiana’s natural environment, such as a wetlands area with a pedestrian bridge, a prairie and wildflower area and a representation of an upland hardwood forest. The garden is also home to a large variety of trees native to Louisiana. An outdoor classroom provides a comfortable seating area for educators to conduct structured activities for young and old alike. The winding, serpentine trail guides the visitor through the garden’s beauty and serenity. The Native Plant Heritage Garden is magnificent, impressionable and aesthetic.”

After she sustained an injury last December, I checked in with her occasionally to see if she felt up to resuming her articles (the last one ran November 29, 2007), and when I called her about two weeks ago, she told me she still didn’t quite feel up to it, but she was very appreciative of my remembering her and calling to ask if she wanted to publish an article for this month. To everyone’s surprise, she passed away peacefully at her home a few days later.

National Garden Week was always very near and dear to Ms. Corine’s heart, and each May, she made special note of the event in her article for the month. The following is an excerpt from the May 27, 2007, article which showcases her enthusiasm for Garden Week. “Annually, a serious effort is made to include in the May edition of La Passion et le Miracle du Jardin the National Garden Week Proclamation of the National Garden Clubs Inc. Garden Week is celebrated during the first full week of June each year. Inevitably, it is a prayer in its finality. Its language is well-chosen, passionate and apropos. Should more people live by the proclamation, there would not be the need for all the prisons operating in our country today. Immigration laws would not continuously pose the problems they do. All need to become better stewards of the earth, perhaps. {It reads,} ‘Whereas gardeners have a passion for nurturing the beauty and resources of the earth through the planting of seeds, the care of all plants, and the harvesting of the riches of their efforts; and Whereas gardeners seek to add beauty, splendor, fragrance and nutrition to our lives through the growing of herbs, vegetables, foliage and flowers; and Whereas gardeners work to preserve our country’s traditional spirit of independence and initiative through innovation and hard work; and Whereas gardeners advocate the importance of all creatures, large and small, that share our world and their roles in a balanced and productive ecology; and Whereas gardening furnishes a challenging and productive activity for many citizens, for those just learning, as well as those having years of experience; and Whereas gardening promotes healthy lifestyle that lasts a lifetime, helps reduce stress from other areas of life and teaches rewards come from diligent efforts; and Whereas gardening enables members of garden clubs across the nation and the world to serve others in the communities in which they reside and work; Now therefore be is resolved that in an effort to acknowledge the importance of gardening, and the numerous contributions of gardeners, National Garden Clubs Inc designates the first full week of June as National Garden Week.’ The Native Plant Heritage Garden falls within the range of sight or understanding by its developers of the National Garden Clubs Inc. proclamation. Those developers involved represented the national, state and local governments.”

In the same article, she went on to say, “The Native Plant Heritage Garden continues to be independent and astoundingly and miraculously beautiful. The adversaries exist, no doubt, but the powerful eye of sponsors and supporters is indispensable. The community is exceedingly proud of its botanical heritage being displayed in an aesthetic, orderly, ever-changing living museum. The space is expected to be a very small 1.5 acre forest some day within the city limits, and Ville Platte will have a small space designated as an arboretum. What a proud, botanical identity: an exclusive, native plant arboretum.”

As we celebrate National Garden Week this week, let’s remember Ms. Corine and her wonderful example of stewardship. The Native Plant Heritage Garden will live on as a legacy and tribute to her passion for gardening and love of beautiful flowers and plants. Her efforts to educate the community about gardening and stewardship through her involvement with the garden, the Magnolia Garden Club and the Arboretum will never be forgotten.

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