Here’s the true story behind wildflower garden on the site of the old Palace Theatre

Here's the true story behind the beautiful wildflower garden that mysteriously sprung up on the site of the old Palace Theatre in central Courtenay that is now destined to become a 'downtown oasis.'

ALAN MURRAY and Janette Murray-Wakelin gifted a proposed downtown oasis by 'sowing the seeds' for their vision.

ALAN MURRAY and Janette Murray-Wakelin gifted a proposed downtown oasis by 'sowing the seeds' for their vision.

Dear editor,

Here’s the true story behind the beautiful wildflower garden that mysteriously sprung up on the site of the old Palace Theatre in central Courtenay that is now destined to become a ‘downtown oasis.’

Myself and Alan Murray, former residents and business owners,  ‘sowed the seeds’ (literally) for the idea to establish a space of natural beauty in the downtown area, an ‘oasis’ for the enjoyment of local business people, shoppers and tourists alike.

When we first came to live in the Comox Valley, we were enthralled by the natural beauty of the area and the “quaint” downtown shopping area.

There were no large shopping malls at the time so the downtown area was bustling with shoppers. Before we moved to the area, we would make regular shopping trips to Courtenay and always brought our visitors to experience the ‘charm’ of the downtown shops. With the magnificent view of the Comox Glacier from the main street, there is nowhere in the world quite like it.

Later, when we founded ZenZero Raw Juice Fountain & Raw Food Oasis Vegan Restaurant on the corner of Fifth and England, it became clear as Courtenay downtown business owners that a central nature space would be an incredible asset to the downtown area, Alan said.

The original idea was to turn the parking lot in front of ZenZero into a garden. Unfortunately, the parking lot was not for sale or development, so we created a small garden outside ZenZero for their patrons to enjoy. However, our vision for a community ‘gathering place’ in the heart of downtown Courtenay remained.

It was always our vision to set up a green space in the central downtown area of Courtenay, a relaxing space with a garden, an ‘oasis’ where people could enjoy nature when out shopping, as well as being a space for the business people to meet up or have a quiet lunch break.

During our travels worldwide, we have seen many town centres beautified so that the town itself came alive, said Alan.

Two years ago, we decided to move to Australia to live near children and grandchildren, but we wanted to keep the vision of a downtown central garden space in Courtenay alive.

When the old Palace Theatre across the street from ZenZero burned and was later demolished, the space left behind was indeed in need of beautifying, Alan noted. So we decided to do something about it, to leave a gift to the community.

I had been saving seeds from our own gardens for years, but since we were not allowed to take them into Australia, it seemed like the perfect solution to give them to the community in a way that would show what a difference a nature space could make to the downtown area,

So, with the help of a friend, one rainy night after leaving ZenZero, we transformed the empty space into the wildflower garden that has become a place of enjoyment for all who pass by.

Janette Murray-Wakelin

Editor’s note: Janette and Alan can be contacted through their website at


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