By Janet Scott
People come to gardening in all sorts of ways. Some have been at it as long as they can remember, toddling around their parents' vegetable plots with a watering can. Some garden when they can, staring out a window wistfully and wishing they had more time. Some fall in love with gardens after they've retired and the kids are grown and gone. Some must have a plant they see on a glossy catalogue cover and become hooked. There are husband and wife gardening teams and dedicated solo workers. We garden at home, in community plots, in pots on window sills and balconies, and on vacation properties.
The two most recent speakers at Fenelon Falls Horticultural Society meetings, Susan Blayney of Bee City Kawartha Lakes and Julie Moore - Cantieni, founder of Modern Landscape Designers, found their own unique ways to gardening.
Susan, who spoke to us after our March 25th potluck dinner (featuring no fewer than four kinds of devilled eggs!), claims not to be a gardener but an insect expert and then displayed a knowledge of plants and techniques any of us would envy. She was drawn to the Bee City program after a friend's e-mailed plea to do something for pollinators spurred her to action. Rather than feel sad, helpless, and depressed, she decided to get outside and do something positive to help declining populations of honeybees, native bees, birds, and butterflies.
Julie's path to designing healing and therapeutic gardens began in the hectic corporate world of advertising and digital media. Feeling stressed and tired, she found relief in Shiatsu therapy and later studied it intensively. Her journey to personal peace led her to the healing qualities of gardens and landscape design, which she studied at Ryerson University in Toronto. She is also a graduate of the Healthcare Landscape Design Program of the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Bee City's motto is Connecting People, Pollinators, and Places, and in her very well-organized three-part talk, Susan explained what Bee City is, what it's done so far, and what a pollinator garden looks like. One municipality at a time, we can transform the Canadian landscape and create safe, beautiful habitat for pollinators. There are 80 Bee Cities in the United States and 24 in Canada. Kawartha Lakes became one by resolution of Council in July 2017 ("It was easy," says Susan. "It cost them nothing!") and there is a Bee City page on the city's website. The Pollinator Action Committee meets monthly to create a work plan of projects whose aim is habitat creation and restoration. Langton is a Bee City school and there are 12 Bee City businesses in Kawartha Lakes including Bobcaygeon Settlers' Village.
The pollinators of Kawartha Lakes have a fighter in their corner in Susan. Would you stand in a hard hat atop a windswept hill on a cold November day to help plant a pollinator garden? Susan would and she has. A decommissioned corner of the Fenelon landfill site on Mark Road has been transformed into one of Bee City's projects and Susan was there to help with seeding. A book of useful information has been produced for any other municipalities wishing to do the same. Patches of ground at Windy Ridge Conservation Area were prepared with grass-killing newspaper and seeded recently. Crops of annuals such as Canada wild rye grass act as nurse plants while perennials establish themselves.
Parks and open spaces in and around Lindsay are receiving native plants: a gardener has been "secretly planting for four years" in existing gardens, reports Susan. This year will see the planting of the Bee City logo in the Memorial Park Floral display by City horticulturist Megan Phillips. Apple and pear trees grow in Lindsay parks to tempt bees and high school students have made a bee hotel. Pollinator Pathways signs are available to private pollinator-friendly gardens, their locations are noted with butterflies on the bee city canada.org website, and a tour will take place on June 22nd of some of those gardens. There's even a Bee City road show which visits farmers' markets, libraries, and schools, and at which "I do dress up like a bee sometimes," admits Susan.
So, what is a pollinator garden? It's a lazy garden! It's minimally managed, not mulched much, never sprayed with chemicals, and doesn't need much water. Think like a pollinator, advises Susan: they want gardens which are homey, messy, and filled with nectar- and pollen-rich flowers. They need a range of bloom times, from willows and bulbs in early spring to summer flowering plants like monarda, and a range of flower shapes from trumpets to cups to clusters. Trees and shrubs provide shelter. Even container-grown annuals help. Shallow water sources are essential. Pebbles, rocks, or marbles in a birdbath offer perches and safety for pollinators needing a drink. Consider leaving some plant stems standing over winter. "We can live more sustainably on the Earth," says Susan. People with her drive and energy will help us along the way.
Healing Spaces with Julie Moore-Cantieni
After admiring the new Horticultural Society triptych, on display at the recent Country Living show, placing orders for T-shirts and hoodies, and hearing President Kathy Armstrong read a letter from the Ontario Horticultural Association congratulating us on reaching the age of 100, we learned about Plants and Spaces to Keep You Well from Julie Moore - Cantieni on April 29. Julie takes Being One in the Now as her motto but she is not a stationary contemplator, preferring to meditate in action. A relaxing stroll, a drink of water, time spent in pleasant work: all led Julie to the restorative power of gardens. During her studies, she learned that well-designed spaces around hospitals save money, enhance health, and improve the lives of patients with Alzheimer's Disease. Her creative life has embraced art, dance, poetry, music, and cinema, and she regards gardens as places of motion and colour as well. As a spa director, she found herself dealing with clients who wanted her to speed up their massages because their days were so packed with appointments that they had no time to relax. After moving to the country ("I need Fenelon Falls," she realized one day), she decided to put her principles into practice; namely, that nature calms the mind and relaxes the body, well-designed gardens soothe the emotions, and you can improve your well-being within the comfort of your own property. She listed the five considerations of a garden space.
1. Needs. Why do I need a garden? Where and why was I relaxed? How can I recreate this feeling? Happy memories of a lace-wearing grandmother can be evoked with lacy foliage. The entrance to a garden sets the mood. Step into a garden after work with a glass of wine, says Julie. “If you find you need four glasses of wine, you need me!"
2. Location and View. "Give me a space, I'll give you a garden," she says. Consider from where in your house you'll be able to see your garden.
3. Plants You love. Many plants are said to have special powers, but the plants with true healing properties are the plants you love. If peonies remind you of your wedding bouquet, plant lots, but if they remind you of your bitter divorce, avoid them! If lavender is supposed to calm and relax but reminds you only of someone you hate, do without lavender. Meditation is about quieting the mind.
4. Ideas and Concept. Julie showed us a garden she had designed which was " inspired by the creative and imaginary world of childhood." It featured the colour yellow, representations of squirrels, and a sculpture of a child, and was deeply symbolic to her clients. An early design for another client honoured a woman who had built her house in 1912 and paid tribute to her with a sacred garden in green and white. "Own who you are," says Julie. Consider the people who will frequent the space: sculptures in gardens for people with dementia must not be perceived as threatening or scary.
5. Creative Design. Julie walked us through several plans of her award-winning gardens for Canada Blooms. She must place plant orders for her work months in advance, wait while it grows in greenhouses and is shipped to Ontario, and hope for the best when the time comes to put everything together. Following one year's theme of It's A Party, which featured a Corvette near her installation, Julie's use of a stunning stingray sculpture highlighted her garden. Her Midnight in Paris design won the 2018 Outstanding Medium Size Garden award and used a square orangerie planter like those of Versailles. She explained that the gardens must be built in only five days, must withstand ten days of traffic during Canada Blooms, and must be disassembled in only two days!
Asked to explain Zen, a great master slowly lifted his forefinger as his questioners watched quietly. “That is Zen," he said. It's about the gaps between the thoughts. Zen in a garden is about the right plant in the right place, mass plantings of one variety rather than a jumble of colours, the calming effect of an unbroken horizon, and understanding who you are and what makes you feel good.
Report of March & April Meetings
Best Plant Sale Ever!
So we had a little rain. That has never stopped a gardener!
The Fenelon Falls Horticultural Society 100th Anniversary Plant Sale on Saturday, May 25, 2019 was a resounding success! What a great location at Maryboro Lodge, the Fenelon Museum. Thanks to Darlene Young and her team of enthusiastic volunteers, it was a great day. Teams of volunteers had travelled to gardens last fall and this spring to help with dividing plants and potting and labeling, so there were plants everywhere!
Society volunteers helped with set up on Friday and were on site Saturday to move equipment, and plants, and then stayed all day to help customers, and vendors. Members of the Green Team helped customers get their purchases safely to their cars. Customers were able to view the film, "A Gardener's Family in the Museum theatre. There were gently used gardening books, FFHS t-shirts and coffee mugs for sale as well as memberships and passports to our upcoming Garden Tour. Children could participate in activities planned just for them.
The vendors were a great addition to the event. Thanks so much to Christine Handley of Handley Acres Custom Creations, Leslie from Crow Hill Farm, Irene Keesmat, Julie Moore of Modern Landscape Designers, Sylvia from Russett House Farm, Sheri's Home Baking, Spiraea Herbs + Snail Trails Homestead, RusTic Revival GarDen Art, Square Peg Woodworking and Nar's Spice Bazaar.
Three cheers for all the people who came out in the rain to purchase plants for their gardens. It was great to see the number of people looking for native plants. We hope you found what you wanted. Do come out to one of our monthly meetings and see what else the FFHS has to offer.
What A Plant Sale! A Recap
by Janet Scott
While it's true that we were hoping the Spring Into Gardening Plant Sale would make a splash, maybe we should have been more specific! As ten o-clock approached on Saturday, May 25, Mother Nature reminded us she's always in charge. Down came the rain. Vendors looked skyward. The many Horticultural Society volunteers who'd met, planned, and worked for months toward this day fretted. Would anyone come? Could the good people of Fenelon Falls be persuaded to leave their dry homes?
Well, we needn't have worried. Gardeners who happily plant in any weather weren't put off by a little rain. They came. They stayed. They shopped. Whoever decided that tents were a good idea for plants, and wares looked like a genius. Visitors chose from tables laden with plants for sun or shade, perennials, food seedlings, and even dahlias. Then they toured the marketplace, where vendors offered Indian food, garden art fashioned from salvaged metal and given new life on carefully chosen boards, and original watercolours. They bought heirloom tomato plants, spoke with a landscae designer, learned about the bee city program, chose flowers made from glass, and bought horticultural Society t-shirts and hoodies. They were seen strolling while munching on homemade baked goods, carrying large metal flowers and trees, and buying plant based lotions and salves for natural skin care. They bought garden books and sought advice on their plant problems from an expert.
Meanwhile, inside Maryboro Lodge: The Fenelon Museum opened its doors and proudly showed off Ann Langton's important sketches of life in these parts more than 175 years ago. In The Little Cinema, A garden's family, a film about organic gardener Mary Pelmutter, screened througout the day and the filmmaker was in attendance to discuss it.
MPP Laurie Scott and Ward Three councillor Doug Elmslie were spotted in the crowd. The Green Team at Langton Public School worked hard all day, helping shoppers haul carts of purchases to their cars, and even donated their tips to the Society! One vendor was overheard saying to a board member, "If you do this again next year, call me. I'll be there!"
All proceeds of Spring Into Gardening stay in Fenelon Falls. The Horticultural Society founded in 1919, thanks everyone for helping us celebrate a century of gardening, community, and beautifying our village. We couldn't do it without you!
Changing Climate, From a Naturalist's Perspective
Presented by Drew Monkman at the May 27 FFHS Meeting
Reported by Janet Scott
Sir David Attenborough once said that to communicate effectively about the natural world, he can't cloak his speeches in doom and gloom. "People simply tune you out," he said. Drew Monkman, who spoke to the Fenelon Falls Horticultural Society on The Climate Crisis: A Naturalist's Perspective, must have known this because despite the seemingly depressing nature of his topic, he sent us into the night feeling educated, empowered, and encouraged.
Drew's a writer, retired teacher, published author, and an engaging and informed speaker. He began by updating us on the science of climate change, saying that it's known variously as global warming, climate chaos, climate weirding, and climate catastrophe. "Am l an alarmist?" he asked. "There is a role for alarmism. Don't pussy foot around the issue."
Carbon dioxide acts like a blanket over the atmosphere and traps heat inside it. Levels have risen from 250 parts per million to 415, with 350 being considered safe. Half that carbon has been added in the last 50 years.
Canada is warming at twice the global rate and the Arctic is warming at three times the average.
One million species are on track to disappear in the next two decades.
Severe storms, droughts, heat waves, extreme cold, rising sea levels, and climate refugees as wars are fought over water (many people streaming north to the U.S. - Mexico border were driven off their farms by lack of rain) can be expected.
The polar vortex, which keeps cold air trapped by the jet stream at the top of the world, seems to be breaking up, allowing severe cold to sink southward in the winter. It was colder in Chicago than at the North Pole at times this winter. Weather patterns can become stuck, resulting in long stretches of cold. In recent extended cold, the Great Lakes were 90 percent frozen. We're on track for more freezing rain. On the flip side, it was 17° Celsius on Christmas Eve in 2015, and 2018 saw 24 days over 30°C, when the historical average is 6 days. Seventy-five percent of recent months in Peterborough have been warmer than the 1971- 2000 average.
In records dating to 1850, seventeen of the eighteen hottest years on Earth have come since 2000.
Drew spoke about his own reasons for concern. He's a father of four and a grandparent of six. He worries about the future his family will inherit. He sometimes despairs at the lack of meaningful action he sees and the way politicians who try to act are lambasted publicly for their efforts. He worries about complacency and denial. His wife sometimes asks him to avoid bringing climate change to the table when they have guests.
Drew brought our attention as gardeners to the changes around us. His book, Nature's Year, the result of seven years of research, showed the departures from norms.
Leaves change color at different times and trees sometimes drop their leaves without color to protect themselves during droughts.
Trilliums bloom earlier.
Lilacs flower 10 to 14 days earlier than their one-hundred-year average.
Tree and grass pollen comes earlier (pollen counts are expected to double by 2040).
Migrating birds return earlier to nest.
Peepers sing 10 to 20 days earlier than in 1995.
Weeds like loose strife, dog-strangling vine, garlic mustard, and phragmites thrive on higher carbon dioxide levels. Poison ivy is bigger and its oil more potent. Ragweed makes more pollen.
Southern species are being seen locally, too. Virginia opossums, flying squirrels, Carolina wrens, and mockingbirds are appearing in places they've never been seen before.
Forests and wetlands are under stress. If, as predicted, we have the climate of southern Pennsylvania by 2070, our pines and maples are threatened. Ashes are already in decline due to the emerald ash borer. Invasive trees like buckthorn are moving in.
Turtles flee their formerly wet homes in drought and are appearing badly injured at rescue centres in greater numbers every year.
The connections between plants and the pollinators they need are breaking down.
Forest fires and floods resulting from "rain bombs" are more common.
Seasonal rituals become unpredictable: even the ability to have an outdoor rink in Canada is less certain now.
So, with this “greatest threat to humanity's future,” as Drew puts it, why are we unable to act? Maybe we suffer from what he calls "optimism bias. "Maybe the challenges seem too huge, too overwhelming. Maybe “our brains react slowly to slow-motion change.” Maybe we despair that our politicians can agree on anything. Maybe we feel that actions with results two to three generations in the future are impossible. Maybe we don't understand the science. Maybe it's easy to confuse weather and climate. "Weather is what you get. Climate is what you expect," says Drew. Maybe we feel that individual efforts won't make a difference.
How do we move forward at what Drew calls the 11th hour and 55th minute? As sometimes happens, the clear, strong voice of one person can lead us. A 16-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, spoke for the next generation in October 2018. "I don't want your hope," she said. "I want your panic. I want you to behave like our house is on fire. Because it is."
Reducing carbon output by fifty percent by 2030 and near zero by 2050 will ensure no more than 1.5°C of warming. We're on track for 4 to 5 degrees this century. Vote, says Drew, for candidates who propose carbon-reduction policies. Talk about how you feel. Organize, rally, and protest.
Drew belongs to an organization called 4RG (For Our Grandchildren). Seem alarmist. Complacency gets us nowhere. Tell politicians we want action. Set an example. Be informed. Canada is number two per capita of emissions in the world. Countries with similar climates, like those in Scandinavia, have one third of our emissions. Act together.
"The good thing about science," says astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson, "is it's true whether or not you believe in it." Drew Monkman told us about "climate despair" but as the lively discussion after his talk showed, we're ready to move beyond despair and see what we can do to help the only home we have.
June 24, 2019 Meeting Summary
by Janet Scott
Fresh from what for her is a normal spring in which she seeded 1,700 heirloom tomatoes, sold all but twenty, and then planted 150 more in her garden at home, all while teaching at the University of Toronto, Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat somehow found time to speak to the Fenelon Falls Horticultural Society on June 24th about forest gardening. Introduced as “an Energizer bunny who wears many hats,” Sylvia spoke to our membership (which has reached 100!) about mimicking the natural systems of the forest to create biodiversity. Sylvia earned a permaculture design certificate in 2014 and, while studying in California, compared a traditional rowed garden to one designed to permaculture specifications. The former was a quiet place and the latter was filled with bird song and the buzzing of insects. It was a fragrant and visually complex place and encouraged Sylvia to put permaculture practices to work at home in Ontario. The properly designed garden is productive, conserves water, replenishes the soil, absorbs carbon, smells and sounds good and, once established, requires little maintenance. Doesn't that sound like something to aim for? These gardens combine food, beauty, habitat, and species preservation, all while potentially earning income from the crops they produce.
The original gardeners in our area, the Anishinaabe, managed the forest ecosystem for millennia. They conducted controlled burns, cut willow for baskets, tapped maples and birches for sap to make syrup, built canoes, and harvested chestnuts, acorns, elderberries, grapes, and raspberries. They made medicine and planted the Three Sisters, corn, squash, and beans, in fire-cleared areas. European settlers brought with them the idea that wealth was demonstrated by using land for cultivating beauty and they grew flowers, parterres, and hedges, and relegated food crops to kitchen gardens.
Sylvia showed us a picture of a mature monoculture crop of grain in a field. Once harvested, its resemblance to a clear-cut forest was unmistakable and every creature which lived in or fed on the crop was made homeless. Industrial agriculture relies heavily on synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides to keep annual yields high. Forest gardening does not. Sylvia noted how important food crops are to recent immigrants to Canada in her Toronto neighborhood, a habit more established residents seem to have lost. One man in Toronto has become famous for his precious backyard fig tree, which he bends to the ground each fall and buries in a trench covered with pink fiberglass insulation and raises again each spring!
Forest gardens are anchored by trees, says Sylvia. The erosions plaguing Haiti is not repeated on the Dominican Republic side of the island because the Dominican Republic has kept its trees. The Toronto neighbourhood of Wychwood Park can be 10 degrees cooler on hot days than the concrete-covered downtown due to its tree canopy. Even dead and dying trees have value: forest managers in Germany's Black Forest are resorting to building birdhouses for woodpeckers to replace the natural snag trees they need to survive. A single tree can make a huge difference: its leaf litter enriches the soil, its roots hold the earth and channel water slowly, and it provides habitat for birds, mammals, insects, flowers, and fungi. An acre of wheat produces a ton of grain. An acre of chestnut trees produces three tons of nuts. An acre of apples produces seven tons of fruit. Sylvia showed us a picture of curving rows of trees with grass planted between them in which cows can graze.
The forest garden can be seen as a series of seven layers. At the top, well-spaced nut trees (walnuts, pecans and oaks) grow tallest. Below them grow smaller fruit trees yielding apples, peaches, and plums. The shrub layer features currants, raspberries, milkweed, (“a more important newly legal plant than marijuana,” says Sylvia) and even peonies for their sheer beauty. In the herb layer, comfrey, yarrow, basil, sage, tarragon, parsley, and catmint grow. Trying a recipe for tincture of motherwort, Sylvia found herself at the LCBO asking for a litre of their cheapest vodka. “It's like that, is it?” said the man at the desk sympathetically. Ground cover plants such as thyme, clover, strawberries, nasturtiums, spinach and lettuce come next. But check your leaves well before you make a salad for guests: Sylvia was forced to phone a friend to say, “Mary, we may have poisoned you this evening” when calendula leaves were mistaken for lettuce! A vine layer can grow grapes, cucumbers, hops, kiwis, and squash. A root layer will produce horseradish, onions, potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. Gaps at the garden edges can be planted with annuals.
Wanting to put her studies to practical use, Sylvia has plunged into forest gardening at home on what for her is a completely undaunting two-acre scale! Forest gardens provide shelter and windbreaks. They fix nitrogen in the soil. They act as dynamic accumulators, pulling deep nutrients up through the soil. They repel pests: nasturtiums, feverfew, and anything lemon-scented will do the trick. They mask scents and shapes from hungry critters: calendula planted amongst spinach both resembles and hides it. They attract insects: bergamot, dill, yarrow, alyssum, and lavender are loved by bees and butterflies. “My black locust is buzzing right now,” says Sylvia.
Sylvia showed us pictures of forest gardens both large and small as inspiration and told us of a man in Melbourne, Australia, who has turned his 1/10 acre yard into a productive and profitable place with only two hours of labour a week. She also mentioned taking heartnuts from a squirrel “and he moved into our roof!” She recommends the book Gaia's Garden as a great place for anyone interested in forest gardening to start reading. She says that due to the English spring we've had, her tulip season was nice and long and all her gardens are huge. Barbara thanked her for her presentation.
Whether you grow “spuds in the tub” as Mary Carr does or you're just outside enjoying our long-awaited summer at last (try lint rollers to remove ticks, we were advised), we hope to see you at our next meeting for the screening of “The Gardener” on July 22nd at the Senior Citizens’ Club on Murray Street.
Movie Review: The Gardener
from July 22, 2019 Meeting of the FFHS
Reviewer: Janet Scott
In her 2007 book, Down to Earth with Helen Dillon, the Irish writer and gardener extraordinaire recalled two friends on a tour. “I overheard the comment ‘Of course, she throws money at her garden' and then, after a long pause, ‘but she does it impeccably.’ ” Frank Cabot threw money at his beloved garden for decades and the result is Les Quatre Vents in La Malbaie, Quebec, the subject of “The Gardener,” the movie Horticultural Society members saw on July 22nd. We settled in with our tea, coffee, lemonade, cookies and popcorn and spent 90 minutes dreaming. Frank generously gave the filmmakers a long interview despite being in declining health (he died in 2011) and his insights frame the glorious cinematography. His small terrier lay on the grass behind Frank's chair, pointedly ignoring the whole business except for one quick glance at the camera as if to say, “You are disturbing my nap time. Go away.”
Frank came from the blue- blood Social Register Cabot clan of Massachusetts, about whom the poem says, “Boston is the land of the bean and the cod, where Cabots speak only to Lowells and Lowells speak only to God.” Faint traces of his accent remained (he speaks of his “gawden”) as he told us that Les Quatre Vents had been in the family for generations before he inherited and it had been a summer retreat for him as a child. His father had raised the insurance limit on the house just before he died and the payout after a fire allowed Frank's mother to build the “rather pretentious” house which stands to this day. Frank and his wife, Anne, did nothing to the garden for 10 years after he inherited the property other than import her horses from New York state. In 1975, Frank began to expand his garden as therapy after a business failure, which my fellow moviegoers agreed couldn't have been too ruinous. The great writer and designer Penelope Hobhouse told us that “all gardeners like all geniuses are a little mad. Of course, with his money, he was able to be more genius than mad.”
The manicured lawn, the tapis vert, is the access point to all the garden rooms at Les Quatre Vents. A Guardian newspaper columnist spoke admiringly of “palate cleansers,” evergreen visual rest areas interspersed among the dazzling perennial beds. One such area features a topiary couch and table! The original land purchase at La Malbaie was something like ninety square miles, so Frank had room to explore plants in great swaths of bloom: one garden is an explosion of delphiniums, another an ode to astilbes, still another a hymn to creeping phlox...You get the idea. It's gorgeous. So many primulas grow at Les Quatre Vents (“They're very promiscuous”) that an entirely new hybrid appeared on its own one day and has been duly registered and named for Frank's head gardener. “From April to the end of June, this garden will blow your mind,” says Frank.
Frank’s friend, former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, tells us, “Behind the magic, there's a magician.” Frank declines the compliment and says, “I'm a world-class plagiarizer.” Himalayan rope bridges? Why not? Let's have two! A three-storey pigeoneer complete with spiral staircase, hand-painted china in the second floor tea room, botanical original paintings on the plaster, and a lit d’amour on the top floor? Yes please! The two Japanese houses built by an imported master of the craft, who felled and dried to the logs for four years, pieced together the structures over three summers, and unwrapped the finished product all at once so it would age evenly? Sign me up! “All I need is more money,” sighed Linda McLeod next to me. We comforted ourselves by noting his occasional design missteps such as the disproportionately tall archway which took years to settle into its surroundings. “My wife was terribly upset,” said Frank. We also agreed that all those perfect knife edges on all the evergreens would need too much work. You’d have to hire staff (Frank did). You'd never be alone. Even the great Penelope Hobhouse declared, “When I see a work of art, I am made better,” tried to contain herself by saying, “Of course I didn't agree with everything he did.”
But mostly we were enchanted. We joined the oohs and aahs as the perfect half circle of a bridge was made whole in the pond below and as the camera focused on the six-foot-tall metal frog orchestra and as daffodils glowed in the spring sunshine. Frank's enthusiasm won us over as he explained that he'd love to plant more perennials in his wife's vegetable garden but she won't let him. He shared his garden with the public to raise money for various causes over the years. At the first tour he was overwhelmed to find 2,000 cars trying to park in his driveway! People told him they driven up to six hours for the chance to see Les Quatre Vents. He and Anne were founding members of The Garden Conservancy, which has preserved ninety gardens including his own. He published a gorgeous coffee table book called The Greater Perfection, which I kick myself for not having bought when I had the chance because it's now out of print.
Whether you left inspired, envious, dazzled or bit of all three, movie night at the Horticultural Society was a resounding success. See you on August 26th when we will learn about lasagna gardening.
Report by Janet Scott
We’ve been celebrating a century of beautifying Fenelon Falls all year. We gathered for a potluck dinner in March. We hosted shoppers from far and wide at Spring into Gardening in May. We opened the gates of eleven gardens for a tour in July. We’ve learned about pollinator pathways, healing gardens, our changing climate, and forest gardening from expert and engaged speakers. We swooned over Frank Cabot’s horticultural artistry at a screening of “The Gardener.” In August, we decided it was time to congratulate ourselves! “Celebrating 100 Years and Growing” was the theme of the evening, which featured distinguished guests, cupcakes and ice cream courtesy of Maryboro Lodge: The Fenelon Museum and Slices ‘N’ Scoops, the debut of the Society’s history book, the short film “A Gardener’s Family,” and, because gardeners can’t gather without discussing gardens, a very entertaining presentation about lasagna gardening by Mary Carr.
Our federal Member of Parliament, Jamie Schmale, who sent regrets, wrote the Society a letter of congratulations. Member of Provincial Parliament Laurie Scott brought a letter as well, and spoke of how glad she was to be home in her riding for our celebration. Mayor Andy Letham, Ward 3 Councillor Doug Elmslie, and Ward 7 Councillor Pat O’Reilly were also in attendance. “Well done and congratulations from City Hall,” said Mayor Letham. Coun. Elmslie spoke of his appreciation for our efforts. “Volunteers step up when they’re needed,” he said. “We’d be a poorer community without them. It’s up to us to get involved and make our community better. Thank you. See you in another 100 years!”
Linda McLeod presented the Society with $521.00, the proceeds of a sale of named daylily cultivars from her own garden.
The short film, “A Garden’s Family” turns the spotlight on Syd and Mary Perlmutter, who gardened at Blythe School House for many decades. Director, actress, and teacher Geneviève Appleton co-produced the film with the Perlmutters’ daughter, Leah, and had hoped to join us but was called away by a family emergency. Sharon Walker of Maryboro Lodge: The Fenelon Museum introduced the film for her.
“It never occurred to me not to garden organically,” says Mary Perlmutter in the film. “A seed grows into a plant. It’s a miracle. There’s joy in the garden.” We saw how that joy reached three generations of the Perlmutter family as Leah introduced her children to Grandma’s garden and spoke of her journey from anxious citified teenager to a woman who had grown to realize that nature could find a calming place in her heart. Mary expressed her belief that placing one’s hands in the earth can heal depression and that we garden for mental health. The film ends with the family gathering for a meal grown mostly on their own land, noting that twenty-five years earlier, the land had been bare, and toasting Mary for her efforts.
When Kathy Armstrong parked in my driveway more than a year ago, handed me four slim binders from the Society’s archive, and asked me to write something about our first one hundred years, “two or three pages,” I said sure. “Great! I’ll go get the other nineteen binders!” she said cheerfully. I don’t think either of us knew what lay ahead. The Society’s notes begin in 1940. The Society began in 1919. How to fill that information gap? What about the Fenelon Falls Gazette microfiche archive? With the only reader machines temporarily located in Lindsay, a series of trips began. Thanks to Kathy, Judy Kennedy, and Mary Gascho for driving me through the winter weather to get the job done. Thanks to the Fenelon library for finally transferring a reader back home. “I think you should scan the Gazette right to the last reel in 2000 to get as full a picture of the Society’s coverage as you can,” said Kathy and she was right. Librarians Shawnee and Constance reproduced countless archives for me and they are collected in a binder for all to read and to save the eyesight of future researchers who’d like to tell the Society’s story.
I handed in a draft of my work in February. “It’s a bit thin after 1980,” said Kathy. “Could you rewrite the last forty years?” She was right again: more work was needed. Copies moved between us for months to be edited; photos were selected from the Society and from the Maryboro Lodge archive (thanks to Glenn Walker); and a painting by long-time Society member and Secretary Bessie Nie was brought to our attention by Sharon Walker. Patrick Wylde brought his design expertise to the project, photographed Society gardens and the tour in July, advised and guided the book to publication, and the result is one we hope you enjoy.
“Lasagna, wine. Wine, lasagna,” began Mary Carr as she poured herself a large glass of robust red and explained her garden-building method to us. Quoting Alfred Austin, “To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body but the soul,” she presented a very well organized talk about a non-traditional method of creating planting areas. “I’m lazy and I’m cheap,” says Mary.
Lasagna gardening is less taxing, requires no digging, and saves work, energy, and time. It’s like gardening in a compost pile. Mary explained that she and friends built her latest lasagna garden, a 10-by-20 -foot bed in one day this past June! Sous-chef & husband Ron Carr demonstrated the layering method which produces a lasagna bed: a base of cardboard or newspaper, a brown layer of carbon-bearing material (leaves, straw, shredded paper, or sawdust), and a green layer of nitrogen-bearing grass, compost, aged manure, coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, and or even seaweed. Water each layer before adding the next. Beds can be up to 24 inches high. Two inches of soil on top will add natural bacteria to the bed, which can be built in the fall and allowed to “cook” over winter, advice Mary confesses she doesn’t always follow. Lasagna beds will soon host worms which help turn the various ingredients into soil. Ready to plant? Pull the layers aside, add soil to the hole, insert your plant, water, and replace the layers.
Mary fulfilled a dream of planting a pollinator patch with native Ontario plants (the topic of our next speaker on September 23rd!) She placed a log in her new garden and created an unmulched backbone of sandy soil for burrowing critters. In Year 1, regular watering and weeding are required to get your plants off to a good start. Water as needed in Years 2 and 3. Cut back plants in Year 3 and otherwise leave things alone. Any mulch you apply in spring or summer or fall is left on the bed forever. “After that, nothing,” says Mary, who recommends the book Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza (1998) as a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about Lasagna gardening. Directions to building a pollinator patch came from A Guide to Creating a Pollinator Patch, created by the Ontario Horticultural Association. Mary’s before and after photos of her garden being built and as it looks today, filling out lushly with pollinator-attracting plants, convinced many of us to try lasagna gardening ourselves.
Celebrating 100 Years - August 26, 2019
The History of FF Horticultural Society 1919 - 2019
Hot off the press!
Here it is - the history of the first 100 years of the Fenelon Falls Horticultural Society.
To purchase a copy (only $10), contact us.
By Janet Scott
“Wow!” said Paul Heydon as he surveyed our membership gathered to hear him talk about native plants on September 23rd. “A hundred members AND you’ve got a TV!” Paul attended Sir Sandford Fleming, graduated from Trent University, and has operated Grow Wild! Native Plant Nursery on Highway 7 in Omemee for over 20 years. He’s given over 150 speeches about his work. Anyone who loves native plants so much that he has made room in his beer fridge for seed stratification is someone the Fenelon Falls Horticultural Society wants to hear from. Paul made use of our TV to illustrate his talk.
Paul learned that many of the plants growing in the understory of his parents’ forested land were invasive and not native and he wanted to learn how to contribute positively to the natural environment. Native plants lived in North America before European settlement and evolved over millennia to feed and shelter native animals, insects, and reptiles. New Jersey tea, a native shrub, is a premier nectar plant for 50 butterfly, bee, wasp, and hoverfly species.
Growing native plants can help counter the effects of what Paul calls the Homogeocene Era, decreased biodiversity which results from the global movement of plants caused by people. Only five percent of Southern Ontario’s natural areas are left. Plants such as cylindrical blazing star and wild blue lupine are rare or endangered in their home ranges. No lupines, no Karner blue butterfly. Native species, with roots which can grow eight feet deep, are drought tolerant and prevent erosion. They don’t require chemicals to look their best. And they’re tough: Lorraine Johnson writes in her book Grow Wild! (1998) of visiting a prairie garden in Illinois after seventeen inches of rain had fallen the previous day and a natural disaster had been declared. Her host’s garden “was perky and standing tall … I cannot imagine a more fitting tribute to the strength and resilience of the prairie. While all around us conventional plantings of suburban yards were gasping for life support, the prairie plants were saying, Catastrophe? We’re built for catastrophe!”
Paul says native plants can provide interest from April to November. He prefers to tailor plantings to their sites, advising us not to amend planting areas and to work with the soil we have. Your soil type can be determined by stirring a trowelful in a Mason jar filled with water and observing the layers which form in a day or two. Soil containing lots of sand will drain quickly; clay-heavy soils will hold moisture. He showed us a garden he’d created for a client using the lasagna-bed method we learned about in August. Mulch from Hydro One (for which he pays in beer!) tops the bed, which is allowed to settle for six months before planting. Paul collects seeds in the wild with care: he never takes more than five percent of the seeds of one species, collects from large populations to ensure diversity, and doesn’t harm the sites, choosing to harvest pitcher plant seeds in winter when the ground is frozen rather than disturb their bog home. He explained the different germination patterns of native seeds: some require a period of four to twenty weeks in moist soil or peat in the fridge and some need warm moist treatment before the cold period. Some seeds with hard coats must be scarified with sandpaper; Paul lines a coffee can with it, puts in some good music, and shakes away! Patience is a virtue, too: some plants such as lilies and trilliums can take seven years between seeding and flowering. He told us about lupine seeds which germinated after ten thousand years! He sprinkles most seed on the surface of an indoor sterilized potting mix. Some seeds can be germinated outdoors on peat or sand.
Paul then took us through a photo gallery of some of his favourites, starting in spring with skunk cabbage, a wetland plant which can raise the temperature around its roots enough to melt snow and which attracts carrion flies with its distinctive odour. The flies travel from flower to flower, seeking the rotting meat they think is nearby, and pollinate the plants. “Glad I’m human,” said Paul.
Paul showed us ephemeral woodland plants such as trout lilies and trilliums, which complete their annual cycles in only eight weeks before the trees leaf out and then retreat underground, and longer-lasting favourites like bloodroot, mayapple, and wild ginger. He was once asked if wild ginger is edible. “Anything’s edible once!” he said cheerfully. He explained that in dry years, Jack-in-the-pulpit plants are male, waiting for moister years to produce seed. “Men are cheap!” he said. Sawflies from Europe are now plaguing the leaves of the lovely columbine. Hot sauce, he’s been told, might be the answer. Paul loves ferns: there are 35 to 40 varieties in Ontario.
Summer sees sun-loving plants in the spotlight. Beardtongue is one of Paul’s favourites. Black-eyed Susan, he says, can behave like an annual and bloom itself nearly to death. Cardinal flower in wet soil and blue lobelia in drier conditions provide red and blue flowers for hummingbirds. Paul likes Campanula rotundifolia, the delicate bellflower, but not the non-native creeping bellflower, a weedy plant he’s been trying to kill for 25 years. “What an incredible plant,” he said sarcasm dripping from his voice. He spoke of seeing frogs and mice trapped by carnivorous plants: “It’s a cruel world!”
Joe Pye weed, asters, bottle gentians, goldenrod, and sneezeweed (Who wants to buy a plant called sneezeweed?” he lamented) help the native garden shine well into fall. Paul recommends smooth rose (native roses are single and good for pollinators), fragrant sumac, red and silky dogwood, serviceberry, and potentilla to gardeners looking for native shrubs. Trees worth growing (as the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago; the second-best time to plant is now) include hackberries, black and sugar maples, white oaks, butternuts, cedars, black cherries, and the rock stars of the tree world, birches (“They grow fast and die young”). An oak cored in Toronto was found to be 550 years old!
Paul included a section on invasive plants at the end of his talk which gave us some idea of the scale of the problem. The beetle brought to Canada to eat loosestrife now seems to be eating native plants. Monarch butterflies are confused by dog-strangling vine, a member of the same plant genus as milkweed, and will lay their eggs on it; these eggs don’t survive. Garlic mustard is able to colonize shaded forest areas. Goutweed seems nearly indestructible: Paul saw it spread by the roots under heavy layers of cardboard to pop up eight feet away. He wants Norway maple dead, not alive. He once showed pictures of buckthorn during a talk and a woman asked him, “Isn’t that chokecherry? I made jam from the berries for my whole family!” The Latin for buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartic, means laxative he had to tell her. What do you do about periwinkle? he was asked. “Move” he said.
Paul explained that he started to search for alternatives to these and other invasive plants and discovered the world of native flora. His research led from hobby to study to business opportunity and he’s been sharing his knowledge ever since. After Barbara Hewton thanked him for his talk, he said, “A hundred members, a TV, AND I get a mug? This could be the best horticultural society ever!”