Lilies at the Gertrude Williams Lily Park.Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 11, 2022 at 08:55

By Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

NEEPAWA — It’s easy to overlook the Gertrude Williams Lily Park while driving through Neepawa on Highway 16, but savvy travellers and locals know it’s one of the town’s hidden gems.

In early August, the park, located 76 kilometres northeast of Brandon, is a riot of colour, from the verdant green of the well-tended lawn to the bright pops of pink, orange and yellow from lovingly tended lilies.

An apple tree’s boughs are laden down with not-yet-ripe fruit, a delicate pink blush just starting to paint the round green apples. A magnificent old tree, rising up from its roots in two large trunks, overlooks the peaceful scene, and old-fashioned wrought-iron lamps cast a warm glow when the sun sets. There are benches strategically placed underneath boughs of evergreen trees facing the garden, and inscribed stepping stones intersect the main garden bed, announcing the names of the dearly departed and philanthropic donors.

Neepawa is known colloquially as the Lily Capital of the World. From 1996 until 2013, a three-day lily festival was held in the community, attracting people from all over the world. The Lily Nook, described on the 1,000 Towns of Canada website as a “horticulturalist’s oasis,” has been growing and hybridizing lilies for nearly 30 years.

Nigel Strohman took over running the Lily Nook from his father, who first became interested in lilies as a hobby and went on to be named and registered with the Royal Horticultural Society in England.

Strohman said people from all over Canada still come to the Lily Nook to see the many varieties of lilies grown there.

“We get a lot [of people] coming from Saskatchewan and Alberta to come view the lilies.”

Strohman said the Gertrude Williams Lily Park on Highway 16 was once the home of its namesake. The Williams brothers donated the property and the lily committee turned it into a park.

When people think of Neepawa, they often think of lilies, he noted.

But Strohman said it’s not just lilies that make Neepawa such a beautiful town and such a great place to live and visit.

“Neepawa has a lot going for it, a lot to explore. That’s what I tell people. That’s why it means the land of plenty,” Strohman said of the town’s Cree name, “because there’s plenty to do around here.”

Genny Bagongon lives beside the lily park. She said she often enjoys its serenity.

“I’m a plant lover. I do really appreciate flowers. I consider them as my stress reliever,” Bagongon said. “That’s why sometimes, especially in the morning, I go to the lily park. It’s so relaxing to see the beautiful flowers in there.”

Bagongon said her husband and children also enjoy visiting the park, looking at the flowers and plants, and being out in nature.

This item reprinted with permission from the Sun, Brandon, Manitoba