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'Gnominations' sought for makeovers

By Patrick Colvin

Dug the gnome stealthily upgrades Sylvia Coates’ garden while she’s out of town. 
Photo submitted

Dug the gnome stealthily upgrades Sylvia Coates’ garden while she’s out of town. Photo submitted

There’s a new Gnome in town, but instead of being a mischievous trickster – Dug the Gnome is out to do good.


Ryan Donahoe, who is growing his landscape-design business, wanted to create a fun, community-based charitable element to his company.

“I wanted to give back to the community,” said Donahoe. “It just so happened around that time I had a friend help me with some tech work and as a thank you I went to her house when she wasn’t home and revamped one of her garden beds ... then it just dawned on me – it would be pretty cool if I could come up with a concept like that where we’re doing surprise renovations for people in the community.”

Here’s how it works. People can log onto and “gnominate” community leaders, people who may be going through a difficult time in their life or just anyone deserving of a gnomish garden-style surprise. Donahoe then picks a candidate and coordinates with their friends and family to create a personalized concept for a new garden. Dug the Gnome, with a little help from Donahoe, volunteers and community sponsors, then creates a magical garden space for the chosen “gnominee.”

Sylvia Coates was the last person to receive a new garden space from Dug. She was nominated because she was going in for her third operation to treat a staph infection in her knee - if the surgery was unsuccessful she was going to lose her leg.

She was so excited with her new garden and patio she decided to write Dug a letter.

“How does one write a thank you letter for the most magical experience of her life,” wrote Coates. “Thank you ... for the beauty, for the work, for the very idea.”

Dean Haw is the manager at Standard Building Supply, one of Dug’s sponsors.

“It’s for a good cause and I just thought it was something different, so I didn’t mind donating.”

Dug the Gnome can be found biking around Vancouver selling red, white and pink tulip bulbs to raise money for his next garden surprise. 

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