Canada Blooms 2017



David Leeman - Private Gardens of Normandy

March 26, 2018 Meeting

Meetings are held at the Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, just south of Queen Street West. Arrive after 6:30pm and enjoy coffee and cookies while you check out the Hort library, chat, and ask questions!

Take a behind-the-scene tour of private homes and gardens in the coastal region of Normandy France: including Monet’s atellier inVarengeville-sur-Mer, an early Edward Lutyens designed home with a Gertrude Jekyll garden and Princess Sturdza’s exquisite forested gardens at Le Jardin duVasterival.


Canada Blooms March 9 - 18, 2018


Jeff Mason - Learning From the Great Gardens of England

February 26, 2018 Meeting

Meetings are held at the Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, just south of Queen Street West. Arrive after 6:30pm and enjoy coffee and cookies while you check out the Hort library, chat, and ask questions!

At our February meeting, Jeff Mason promises to share what he’s discovered (and re-discovered) on a garden tour to the fabled gardens of England. From a long wish list Jeff and his much-travelled mother, Marjorie, created an itinerary of gardens he’d only ever seen in books or online. He will share photos of what his eyes delighted in: the grandeur of the Sissinghurst Castle Garden; the exuberance of Great Dixter and the thoughtfulness of Beth Chatto’s Garden. What plants did he see? What did he learn about garden design? How is he incorporating these in the ever-changing Mason House Gardens — and how might we? Don’t miss this opportunity as you order seeds and plants for the coming gardening season and finalize your own garden plans!

—Maria Nunes


Donna Fenice - The Gardens et al of Sicily

January 29, 2018 Meeting

Meetings are held at the Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, just south of Queen Street West. Arrive after 6:30pm and enjoy coffee and cookies while you check out the Hort library, chat, and ask questions!

Sicily is the island of Persephone, the gardener’s beloved Goddess of Spring, who weaves her magic in gardens across the island.

Donna Fenice has been to Italy many, many times. It’s a country, we have learned, she is in love with. With this month’s presentation, there is no doubt the affair continues. This time, she takes us to that fabled island, Sicily. Now that the mafia seems to have “gone all white crime”, she says, people are feeling a lot more comfortable about visiting.

Italy comes up in conversations quite readily, says Donna, as do requests for designing itineraries. Who better to ask than someone who’s been there multiple times. She knows the best way to see a place, even if you don’t see everything you thought you could pack into two weeks! Thus we get from Donna’s presentations the spirit of the place, the feel, and a sense of the people who created the gardens.

Sicily provides a diversity of architecture from Greek to Roman to Arab-Norman which is second only to the diversity of the landscape. Donna has travelled the island widely and kept a watchful eye out for the grand gardens of architectural gems, hilltop villages, and humble backyards.

Of course, Sicily’s current popularity with the jet-set might also be fuelled by a guy named Inspector Montalbano, from the TV series. for those with nostalgia for that era of its more recent, if infamous, past.

Maria Nunes


Allan Gardens Conservatory Christmas Flower Show


Pop-Up Sale! Garden structures, Textiles and Jewellry


November 27, 2017 AGM and Meeting at 7PM

Meetings are held at the Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, just south of Queen Street West. Our brief AGM will start off the meeting, followed by cupcakes to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the founding of the PARKDALE Horticultural Society. The speaker will follow refreshments.


Meet the plants you’ll wish you’d never planted—and learn how to avoid them (before you do) or live with them (if, sadly, you have). Helen is one of the Battersby sisters behind the delightful award winning blog and will share her humour and insight on our Toronto gardens. To download a list of the plants Helen discussed in the Garden of Regrets please click here.


Helen Battersby is one half of the gardening duo behind the enterprise called Gardenfix and the Toronto blog, Toronto Gardens. The other half is her little sister Sarah (with whom she won two Silver Medals in 2017 from the GWA). So why one and not the other or why not both….? “I usually do the talking”, says Helen, quite plainly. A hint about how that came to be might be found in the caption on their blog photo which reads, “Toronto Gardens gals Sarah (left) & Helen (always right) Battersby.” Although, that could be a reference to how they pose for photos…

But the truth is, this dynamic duo complements each other in their joint gardening ventures; the maturing of a lifelong love and participation in gardening is rooted in family tradition, nurtured early during their time in Wales, living with their grandparents who kept extensive gardens. It was after many years, moving around the country in their youth, that both settled in Toronto, two doors away from each other, in what Helen refers to as the upper, upper, upper Beaches.

At Gardenfix, the sisters provide garden consulting, coaching, and workshops. On their blog, they share their advice on all manner of garden-related topics, accompanied by the most informative and beautifully (and helpfully) illustrated images and photos, alongside discussions rooted in their own. Blogs are categorized in Gardens + Design, Plants + Care, How to + Reviews, Critters + Bugs, Events + Tours, and rounded out with Stuff + Nonsense. In posts in the last category (the one that immediately drew my curiosity) Helen admits to a lifetime of “killing house plants” and suggests 5 minutes can be deducted from her 15 minutes of fame for appearing on Metro Morning recently to talk about one of her “favourite (spring bulbs) and non-favourite (squirrels who eat them) topics.

This writer thinks between Sarah and Helen there are multiple 15 minutes of fame to be had. Among them, speaking to our Hort about how to deal with plants that raise “problems” in our gardens, from being the wrong plant in the wrong place to being too much plant or otherwise. One half of this seeming “Sisterhood of All Things Plant”, Helen, will nonetheless knock down a few more minutes from their time in the limelight.

Maria Nunes

Kathy Andrachuk - Hort stalwart and dear friend

Many of you now know that our long time hort member Kathy Andrachuk passed away suddenly on Saturday October 28th, 2017. To read Kathy’s official obituary please click here.

We will miss her greatly.

At the Celebration of Life for Kathy Andrachuk there were may moving and heartwarning moments and sharing of treasured memories. Clement Kent spoke, his speech is reproduced here: 

A few words about Kathy Andrachuk

I first met Kathy about 29 years ago. I ran into Cam Stewart, a district director with the Ontario Horticultural Association or OHA, at the CNE.  The OHA had become involved with the CNE in 1981, and Cam directed the first OHA flower show there. Our new and vigorous Parkdale Horticultural Society was taking off, and Cam suggested we meet with some of the members of the Toronto Horticultural Society, which was experiencing some membership difficulties. So, a little while later I met Kathy – I forget now whether she was president or vice president of the Toronto Society that year.

I found Kathy to be pleasant and agreeable, and with not much ado we negotiated the merger of the two societies. It was then my pleasure to work with her on the board of the new Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto, or the Hort for short, for almost 3 decades.

At first, my impressions of Kathy were mostly due to her never-ending energy in organizing, arranging, making things happen, and never with any complaints or negativity.  Any of you who have worked in a volunteer organization knows how infinitely precious these traits are, and how rare! But gradually, as I got to know Kathy and Bill, I encountered other aspects of their lives together – the ballroom dancing particularly impressed me, since I’m such a clumsy dancer myself.

Being an Ontario Horticultural Society, we had meetings to attend with the OHA. But I had a busy work career, and soon a young family to take care of, so I was very pleased that Kathy was able to attend so many OHA meetings as the Hort’s delegate. I began to realize that Kathy had certainly met people in most of the garden clubs around Ontario, connections we often benefitted from.Kathy at the 2009 Plant Fair (Photo thanks to Luba Ferris.)

Another skill of Kathy’s was persuasion. Somehow, I don’t know how, she always had donations from merchants to use as raffle prizes or to give away at meetings. I wish I’d had the chance to observe her in action as she charmed these gifts from busy businesspeople, but instead I always saw the results: overflowing baskets full of treats at our plant fairs and meetings.

Kathy also had flair for promotion. How many of you remember her, with her antennae strapped on her head, promoting the sale of praying mantis egg clusters or of ladybird beetles at the Hort plant fairs?

Kathy gave a lot as a volunteer, but she also understood that one must give back to volunteers. I wonder how many of us here today received Ontario Volunteer Service Awards – the trillium pin – because of Kathy? I don’t know how many awards Kathy herself got, but I suspect the right answer is “many”.Kathy with the OHA District 15 trophy awarded to The Garden Party for youth involvement. Kathy wrote up the grant application.

When I first met Kathy, I didn’t know about her other volunteer involvements. I’m sure there are still some I don’t know about, but as the years went by the Hort became more and more involved with two of Kathy’s causes: St. Christopher House and St. George the Martyr church. We had many pleasant barbecue socials in the courtyard of St. Christopher House – with Bill as chief barbecue chef and Kathy keeping everything going. And of course our society then got involved in building and planting several gardens as St. Chris.

One of the most “giving” things Kathy did was organizing our involvement in the rejuvenation and ongoing maintenance of the enclosed garden of St. George the Martyr Church, next to Grange Park. This historic Toronto church has a walled enclosure, with garden beds we gradually transformed. There are memorial plaques on the inside of those walls, and I feel sure we will help install one for Kathy there too. I personally was involved in a remembrance activity there. The father of one of the school friends of my daughter had suddenly died, and the family was grief-stricken, as we are today. The Hort selected a remembrance rose, and planted it in the St. George garden bed with the family. It is still blooming there today. I hope some of you will think of what kind of plant we could put in the St. George beds in remembrance of Kathy.

But that wasn’t enough volunteer work for Kathy – she then organized a spring hanging basket planting project at St. George. Every summer since beautiful flowering baskets have hung in the colonnaded ambulatory that makes the yard feel like a cloister. And almost every May since (until the church’s temporary closure this year due to construction) we had our very pleasant May meeting in the church itself – all these things we owe to Kathy.Kathy with an Allan Garden Wreath she helped make. (Photo thanks to Hilde Ortmann)

The history of the Toronto Horticultural Society is intertwined with that of Allan Gardens, one of the showpieces of our Parks system, which the Toronto Hort first built on land deeded to it for that purpose by Mayor George Allan. The Parks department does lovely holiday season displays in the greenhouses at Allan gardens, and guess who was deeply involved in making and displaying floral wreaths there? Why Kathy, of course. When you add up all the pleasure those wreaths have given to thousands of Toronto children taken by their families to Allan gardens in December, we have a lot to remember Kathy for.

But, given how important Kathy has been in Beautifying Toronto, and given the love for her I feel within these walls, I don’t think a plaque on the wall and a rose bush is going to be enough. That’s why I’m very pleased to announce a special remembrance project we at the Hort have been organizing.

We have a fine precedent for this project. In 1978, the OHA established the Ontario Horticultural Association Oak Grove as part of the arboretum in Guelph. The First tree planted was a Scarlet Oak honouring Mabel Stewart. In 1981 two trees were planted to honour Harry Occomore and Ellen Bigelow. The Association acquired a plot of land to extend the existing area and oak trees were planted and benches dedicated to the memory of former presidents.

The price of land being what it is in downtown Toronto, I don’t think the Hort is going to acquire a plot through purchase. Instead, we are going to create the Kathy Andrachuk Memorial Grove and Pollinator Garden in a city park. We’ve capitalized on our excellent relations with the Parks department (relations that are great in part due to Kathy’s efforts) to locate a space downtown where we can do something ambitious and permanent.

I first thought of the St. George the Martyr grounds, but they are closed to outsiders for a time due to construction. Next, I asked Parks about the Grange Park, or perhaps Trinity Bellwoods Park because of its proximity to St. Christopher House. However, the very helpful Parks staffer said the design for the Grange was full, and Trinity Bellwoods nearly full; but were we interested in redesigning the northwest corner of Stanley Park?

Stanley Park is a neighborhood park just south of Trinity Bellwoods. If you drew a line some blocks to the west from Kathy and Bill’s place on Camden, you’d hit the northern end of Stanley Park. Even though King street is not far away, Stanley is a quiet neighborhood park.

But Stanley Park has a problem. At the northern end, a plantation of Austrian pine trees was made years ago. Unfortunately, all these trees are infected with an incurable fungus disease which is slowly killing them off. Across the street from the park, an avenue of ash trees was planted – and the emerald ash borer will get them sooner or later. Within a few years this pleasant space will go from green and leafy to bare.

Enter the Hort, accompanied by Parks and City Forestry. I’ve walked the space, taken pictures, and prepared a preliminary plan and budget. The city has given us an informal go-ahead, and the Hort Board has expressed agreement in principle and will vote on the proposal at their meeting on Monday. The Kathy Andrachuk Memorial Grove and Pollinator Garden will be made up of native trees, shrubs, and perennials which will provide shade, spring to fall flowers for pollinators, and brilliant fall leaf color. Parks will provide us with sturdy trees capable of surviving the rough-housing they can get in public spots, at a reasonable cost. Parks will also provide soil and planting assistance next April, when we plan to plant the garden and grove.

The budget proposal to the Hort Board is substantial but can only provide a few of the more costly larger, park-safe trees. We have enough space in the park to expand the planting, if we receive donations earmarked for the project. So, as we remember Kathy and all the wonderful times we had with her, I am calling you, her friends and partners in city beautification, to dig into your pockets, and to solicit donations from others of like mind, to expand the number and types of trees and flowering shrubs we can afford. If we are very successful at raising funds, we will add some hard infrastructure such as a bench, although this is quite dear.

I’m not just calling on you for your dollars. I have volunteered to chair a small committee which will make sure the project is a success. I’m asking for a few volunteers to join me on the committee. You’ll need to make a one-year commitment, for fund raising, planning and design this winter, planting and watering in spring, and organizing a commemorative summer meeting in the park of Kathy’s friends and others once the garden is established. I am especially interested in volunteers who either live or work near the park, because we want to do this in conjunction with the neighborhood, and volunteers with design skills interested in donating some time to produce the best possible plan.

In summary, on this Remembrance Day, I call on you to remember all the wonderful things that kind, cheerful, and giving Kathy Andrachuk gave us and the city of Toronto, and find in your hearts to give back for Kathy. 

--Clement Kent

If you wish to make a donation in Kathy’s name for the Kathy Andrachuk Memorial Grove please click here to go to our donation page and find out how to do it. Thank you for your kind support.


Sean James - Ornamental Ways to Handle Rainwater

October 30, 2017 Meeting

Meetings are held at the Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, just south of Queen Street West. Arrive after 6:30pm and enjoy coffee and cookies while you check out the Hort library, chat, and ask questions!

WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE…But Mostly Down the Drain. Hear ye, Hear ye….“Living near green spaces linked to longer lives, study finds: Being around vegetation decreased risk of mortality from common causes of death by 8-12%.”

That’s a headline on the day of this writing, and on that basis, this month’s speaker is slated to live a very long and healthy life. Sean James calls his first memory, from the age of 4, as being “horticultural”, so he’s been banking on a close relationship with green spaces for a very long time. And from the get-go, that relationship wasn’t just passive! At that tender age, he dragged his father out on his grandfather’s property in Coldwater, Ontario to ask him to help identify a plant! The subject, Indian pipe, Monotropa uniflora, was not just any plant either. This curious, white plant does not have chlorophyll and cannot photosynthesize, so it survives as a parasite, part of the mycorrhizal networks that Clement Kent described in his talk on soil last month. It is fitting that the first plant that made an indelible imprint on Sean James’ consciousness is a plant that symbolizes the way his lifelong relationship with plants, both personal and professional, is coming full circle through his current focus on rainwater.

Plants can live without soil. Indian pipe can, arguably, live without sun, but there is no plant that can live without water in some form. It is often said that water is life, but modern life has made difficult, if not impossible, the natural flow of rainwater in the hydrological cycle—the water cycle we all learned about at some point in elementary school.

Sean has spent a lifetime gardening. A graduate of the prestigious Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, founded in 1996, and Principal until recently of Fern Ridge Landscaping and Eco-Consulting, a Master Gardener, and an educator through writing, public speaking and teaching, Sean has based his projects on eco-gardening techniques. He has further fine-tuned this focus on rain capture techniques, and how to make the best use of water in our gardens through plant choice.

This month, Sean James will help us try to reconnect the dots in the rain cycle where they’ve been disrupted, with advice based on his practical knowledge and know-how that has earned him the title of one of “20 Making a Difference” by Garden Making magazine. From a curious student to a wise teacher… the cycle is complete. Maria Nunes 


Clement Kent - The Life of the Soil 

September 26, 2017 Meeting

Meetings are held at the Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, just south of Queen Street West. Arrive after 6:30pm and enjoy coffee and cookies while you check out the Hort library, chat, and ask questions!


I had the pleasure of visiting this month’s speaker, our resident academic, Dr. Clement Kent, in the tranquility of his backyard garden. What better place to get up to speed on his current interests than where he puts them into practise?

In what is more accurately a small sliver of urban woodland than what one might think of as a backyard garden, Dr. Kent has stewarded an evolving palette of plants for a few dozen years. My last visit there was sometime in the ‘90s, on a crisp spring day when the pond was a central focus, wreathed in brilliant spring bulbs. Today, glimmers of the pond glisten through a halo of ferns, shrubs and woodland plants that have gradually encroached on its perimeter. The garden is shadier now under mature trees, and the understory plants have been adapted.

We sat for a spell on a bench in the quiet of the wood, observing the view to the house framed by all manner of flowers and shrubs, discussing the rings of sapsucker holes on the trunk of a tree, and his homemade raccoon deterrent. All the while, I was in awe of what Clement has, and continues to achieve, and what he will help us to understand this month: that gardening can be an act of survival on the planet we inhabit. It’s our choice. On September 25th, Dr. Kent will help us inform our choices.

Maria Nunes