In horticulture and garden making, experience is important. With a year-long cycle from spring through winter, we get to “try again” every 365 days. It’s not like trying new dinner recipes!
Despite being a late starter, I have 23 years experience as a gardener, not only in small urban backyards but also on a large site–an acre of paradise–with perfect soil in Ontario’s banana belt. I’ve gardened in clay, silt, loam, sun, and shade. My first attempt at a garden, in Toronto’s High Park neighbourhood, taught me that there was a lot to learn about what plants need to thrive.
I have a diploma in Organic Land Care from Gaia College (2019) that included valuable courses in landscape design. My ad-hoc learning includes courses at Mohawk College (Deciduous Trees), the Landscape for Life “Train the Trainer” course at Texas A&M, and many webinars with the Ecological Landscape Alliance. In November 2023 I completed the Pollinator Partnership’s Pollinator Stewardship Certification Program.
Way back… I did a degree in English Lit at York University, a partial diploma at George Brown College in Editing, and a diploma from Seneca College in Retail Merchandising.
My early days of gardening were active in the “activist” sense. Before the Ontario-wide ban was enacted, I was part of a noisy group that brought a cosmetic pesticide ban to London Ontario.
I’ve worked in sales at a retail garden center, for several years as a professional gardener (the old hips can’t handle that any more!), and for a brief time I had a little retail business selling organic soil amendments and garden specialties. After becoming an Organic Master Gardener in 2016 I taught an OMG course in Hamilton.
In 2021 I became a Master Gardener with MGOI (Master Gardeners of Ontario) and I currently work with the Halton Region group. The Master Gardener organization has taken great strides towards an ecological approach to horticulture. It’s been a good experience so far. I love to work and teach with enthusiastic, knowledgable, like-minded gardeners.
More recently it’s volunteer work that provides the most opportunities for learning and community service. Since 2012 I’ve volunteered with the Royal Botanical Gardens. Weekly stints at the RBG’s Helen M. Kippax native plant garden at Hendrie Park. In 2021 I took on the role of team leader for a terrific crew of volunteer native plant enthusiasts.
Speaking of terrific crews, doing invasive shrub removal with the Hamilton Naturalists Club has made a huge difference to my awareness and approach to natural systems. As founder of the Hamilton Monarch Awards and currently a member of terrific team of Monarch Award volunteers, I’m working to shift the dominant garden aesthetic. A big job, but we’re making progress. A founding member of the Crown Point Garden Club, I continue to work on public gardens and foster a love of gardening in my east Hamilton neighbourhood.
Doing garden design has been another steep learning curve, not only from a technical standpoint but also to meet difficult site challenges, especially deer, black walnut, and deep shade. I have gardens percolating in my head most of the time. And it’s a joy.