Garden clubs beautify neighborhoods

Though few people are aware, garden clubs and horticultural societies make a significant contribution to public gardens. While municipalities are usually responsible for flower beds in parks, some gardens in other public spaces are frequently created and maintained by local garden clubs. For example, the village of Coldwater (west of Orillia) had, in the days when I went through it on the way to our cottage, two or three lovely little gardens in spots around the village. One even had seating for the passerby to stop and “smell the roses.” A small but decorative sign announced that these gardens were the work of the Coldwater Garden Club.

While garden club members often donate their time and expertise to club projects, the expenses involved in planting are usually absorbed by the club. Garden clubs raise money for their community service projects from plant sales, shows, and tours of members’ gardens. Here’s a sampling of the many dozens of clubs across Ontario, and the work they do:

  • Swansea Horticultural Society: Plants and maintains the gardens around Swansea Town Hall with native flora. A future project is the restoration of Grenadier Pond in High Park.R>Phone: William Roberts at (416) 769-3162.

  • East York Garden Club: Involved last year with the East York bicentennial and the growing of plants associated with the pioneers; for some years has planted and maintained a 15′ x 30′ bed of shrubs, perennials, and annuals in front of the East York Seniors’ Centre.
    Phone: Eileen Craig, (416) 425-9216.

  • Grimsby Garden Club: Plants and maintains flower beds as well as hanging baskets along the main street; made 15 floral arrangements for a recent historical house tour; established the Fleming Rose Garden on Highway 8 at Baker Road to honor rose expert Joyce Fleming, the developer of the Roberta Bondar rose; provided design and horticultural expertise for a memorial to an organ donor. One member is responsible for the 30-minute Channel 14 Cable TV program Our Gardens. And there’s even more to come — gardens and a pumpkin- growing contest for children.
    Phone: Wilma Lazenby, (905) 945-2146.

  • Hamilton Garden Club: Members take part in the Keep Hamilton Blooming campaign; planting and maintaining the flower bed assigned to the club for the year; donate money to the teaching garden at Royal Botanical Gardens; make table centres for shut-ins served by the Victorian Order of Nurses; and collect food for parcels at Christmas. They also plant and maintain gardens at Dundurn Castle, and decorate the castle interior in a Victorian style each Christmas. The complete restoration of the castle grounds is a major future project for this small club of 50 members and they have been focussing their fund-raising efforts toward this goal. Their hope is to receive matching public funds to kickstart the project now that the archeological excavations around the castle are complete.
    Phone: Linda Kennedy, (905) 632-1357.

  • Garden Club of Toronto: This large club raises significant amounts of money through sales, corporate and private donations, and flower shows (Canada Blooms in 1997) to finance activities. New projects underway are the Quarry Garden at the Don Valley Brickworks and a children’s teaching garden at the Civic Garden Centre. The club’s activities often have a historical or restoration focus and include:
    • The Fragrant Garden at the CNIB
    • Black Creek Pioneer Village plantings
    • Spadina House garden restoration
    • Casa Loma restoration and planting
    • Roy Thompson Hall north court
    • Rotary Cheshire Homes rooftop garden
    • 19th Century Garden at St. James Park
    Phone: Wendy Seacord, (416) 447-5218.
  • So you can see that garden clubs are more than groups of dedicated gardeners who meet to discuss the finer points of horticulture, listen to expert speakers, or master the more intricate aspects of flower arranging. They’re also dedicated gardeners who enjoy making a significant and often lasting contribution to their local communities.