top of page


Janet Scott

Oct 26, 2019

A fun and informative event

 When 150 dedicated and enthusiastic gardeners gather in one place, we talk about... gardening!  A record turnout from the 17 member societies of the O.H.A.'s District Four met for our Fall Seminar on October 26, at the Royal Canadian Legion in Fenelon Falls.  Tasty baked goods, fruits and refreshments were enjoyed.  We applauded the 80th anniversary of the Omemee Blooms Garden Club, Fenelon's Centennial, and Cobourg's 160th year.  Ontario Horticultural Association President, Katharine Smyth, sent greetings.  The recent passing of Muriel Flagler, a long-time force on the Bobcaygeon garden scene, was noted with sadness. 

 Fenelon Falls Horticultural Society President, Kathy Armstrong, welcomed us and we enjoyed hearing about our efforts this year, which included Fenelon's new rain and pollinator gardens, the publication of a history of our society, and the beautiful Victory Garden at the Museum. 

District Four Director, Dianne Westlake, spoke about the O.H.A.'s strategic plan, insurance coverage for our nearly 30,000 members, meetings at which we asked ourselves what we can do better to bring meaning and attract members, and the July 2019 convention held in steamy Windsor, when only the toughest delegates attempted all the outdoor activities.  The grant process for special projects was discussed.  Norwood's exciting new one-acre pollinator patch was a recipient of such a grant, and a representative explained just how much $200.00 can accomplish in the hands of dedicated and visionary volunteers.  A high-profile location on Highway 7 was chosen, 35 children from the Church after-school programme were involved, and learned about the plants they were nurturing.  Cake and lemonade were served at the Blossom Cafe after the opening.  A backhoe dug out shrub roots and the planting plan was changed on the fly when an old house foundation was discovered on the site.  It sounds like Norwood's pollinators have a new destination, and this new garden will thrive. 

The Recognition Fund recipients in Omemee honoured the memory of Norma Evans by installing a 350 lb. stone frog with two babies at Beach Park, on its very own 400 lb. slab of rock, for all visitors to enjoy.  At the dedication ceremony, the sculpture, named 'Here Comes the Frog', was covered with a blanket until the big reveal.  The frog has become a very popular spot for pictures.  Norma's 3 daughters sent the committee a lovely letter of thanks, which was read out at this meeting. 

The Peterborough Garden Show, to be held on April 24th, 25th and 26th, 2020, was also discussed.  The move to Fleming College's Trades and Technology Centre this year was so well received that it will become permanent, and the show will expand its footprint within the building.  To-date, the show has given over $200,000.00 in grants and scholarships! 

Fenelon's Helen Newlove was given a bouquet for her many years of service to the O.H.A., including trips to conventions as a delegate.  Flowers went to Kathy Armstrong as well, in honour of a special birthday on the 27th. 

Fenelon's Sylvia Keesmaat and Mary Carr then took over the airwaves on Radio Station FFLK, 88.7 on your dial, with a very funny scripted entertainment 'show'; Stuff to Help You Live the Good Life.  Our host, who said 'I look like a young Robbie Preseton!', interviewed guest Daisy, here to celebrate Fenelon's 100th anniversary, and struggled mightily to undertand the difference between hoarding and horticulture.  "What do you hoard? You hoard trees?"  'No', said Daisy; 'we beautify Fenelon Falls through horticulture.  We've been designing, planting and tending village gardens for a century.  We learn how local efforts can have wide-ranging benefits.  We used to give members bulbs when they joined'.  'Lightbulbs?' 'No, flower bulbs, even Russell Lupins!' 'Russell Lupin? Don't know him.' 'Our most recent contribution is the rain garden near the museum.' 'Is that where you do a rain dance?' asked our befuddled host.  'No', said Daisy, 'that's where carefuly-chosen plantings slow, filter and clean rainwater before returning it to the watershed.  We plant bulbs each fall, too'.  'When I have a falling out with the missus, I pick a bouquet' admitted our host.  'That's where the tulips go!' exclaimed Daisy.  The sketch closed with a hearty sing-a-long to the False Blue Indigo Girls' version of The Gardener, sung to the tune of The Gambler.  The chorus goes: 

"You gotta learn when to weed it, learn when to feed it, learn when to dig it up, learn when to prune..." 

Before lunch, delegates perused the colourful entries in three categories of photography, and enjoyed the floral design competition, which included a category for miniatures.  In the same room were the displays and banners from each society.  So, what's trending for 2019?  We've enjoyed films, trips to nurseries, garden tours, many flower and photography competitions, continue to work on beds and containers in and around our villages, towns and cities, plant sales and pot-luck meals, encouraging children to love growing things as much as we do, lending libraries of garden books, speakers on container gardening, peonies, daylillies, native plants, water gardens, and particularly on pollinators, and even a gardening radio show on CKOL in Campbellford. 

Following the Horticultural Grace, we enjoyed a very tasty lunch, and then our keynote speaker, Paul Zammitt, took the stage with his thoughts on Rethinking Beauty; Inspiring Gardeners in a Changing World.  Much as plants convert sunlight to chlorophyll, Paul converts his love of gardening into enthusiasm.  You can't help but be inspired by someone who loves the world of plants as much as he does.  H is a member of GardenMaking's list of the top 20 people shaping gardening today, a broadcaster on CBC radio's Here and Now, a tour guide who's recently visited Germany, South Africa, and Sicily; a life-long learner who has studied at the world-famous garden at Great Dixter, and Landscape Ontario's Garden Communicator of the Year.  He worked at Plant World for many years, and now spreads the joy of horticulture from the Toronto Botanical Gardens.  He told us he's been speaking on his favourite subject for 25 years, and that this was a very personal presentation for him as a father and grandfather.  We should be glad to have horticulture in our lives, he told us, because we can have an impact beyond our own gardens.  "Horticulture is a legal additction!", he said joyfully.  He often speaks with elementary school teachers and encourages them to make a difference in their students' lives now.  Be open to learn, says Paul.  "If you know it all, I'd love to meet you!"  He showed us a beautiful picture of famed garden writer and friend, Marjorie Harris', window, which she'd designed to open wide in the Japanese style, to allow her house to flow directly into her garden beyond.  "I'd like to go out with a shovel in my hand", said Marjorie. 

Paul used his own garden to illustrate its journey from two squares of lawn to a living and thriving ecosystem in which a fox feels relaxed enough to take a nap on a peony, pollinators buzz from spring to late fall, Paul himself can disappear from view when bending to tend a plant, and a woman in a white van could pull up one day to show her elderly mother his garden, and thank him. (she also asked, "are you the help here?")  Gardens change with time, says Paul.  His neighbour has 'built the Taj Mahal next door', so the available light is in flux. Ask yourself some questions, he advises.  "Why do you garden? How alive is the garden? Show of hands, how many of you garden because it's easy?  Gardens aren't quick.  They don't come in a can, nor are they completed in a weekend.  Gardens don't start in May and end in October.  They keep people healthy.  They are lifelong classrooms.  They can help patients in hospital heal.  There's no such thing as a perfect lawn.  Give back to the garden instead of taking.  Don't aim for the matchy-poo Martha effect.  Consider turning off the tap and letting your lawn go dormant.  It will recover.  Don't be so quick to deadhead - brown is a colour!"  Paul sid enthusiastically, showing us a picture of echinacea in flower, and later in the season as a series of spiky accents in a fall garden. Paul gets to work (or is it play?) every day in the glorious setting of the T.B.G., soon to undergo an expansion from 4 to 30 acres.  He showed us a picture of a red-tailed hawk which hunts there.  He also showed us canna 'Cleopatra', which sends an unusual vertical burgundy stripe up each leaf and into the flowers, planted with dill.  He edges beds with parsley.  Sanguinaria candensis 'Multiplex', the rare double bloodroot, has been stolen from the T.B.G.  "You'll see me with a shovel chasing you!" warns Paul.  When he bought one for his own garden, he told his wife, "we can feed the boys this week, but not ourselves!" We need to consider the life our plants live before and after we buy them.  Why can't plants be sold in recyclable or biodegradable pots?  When the City of Toronto told Paul they won't recycle black plastic pots because the conveyor belts at the depots are black, he said "I'll be there tomorrow with a paint brush". Bees are trendy lately, says Paul, but they're not the only pollinators.  Native Mason bees may not be as super sexy, but they're just as important.  Likewise, the Monarch may be the "poster child" for butterflies, but the Brown Skipper is equally valuable.  "Think about what is really beautiful" he advised us.  A cercis leaf with holes in it means leafcutters are at work.  Let's make a new category in flower shows for the non-perfect rose (this drew applause).  Further to his theme of rethinking, he said when people tell him nature is peaceful and tranquil, he responds "are you kidding me? Nature is a bloodbath!" "Look at this wonderful mess!" he exclaimed, and showed us a picture of a fallen log rotting in a forest.  "THIS IS THE BEST PICTURE I'VE SHOWN YOU!"  With that, he fell to his knees. "It's not the size of your space, but your vision and mission", advised Paul.  The prolonged standing ovation he received showed how much his talk had affected, challenged, and inspired us.   Following Share the Wealth draws for 3 gift baskets, we selected a scented pelagorium to take home, and concluded the Fall Seminar.

bottom of page