Donna Fenice - Gardens of Tuscany

February 23, 2014 Meeting

Meetings are held at the Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, just south of Queen Street West. Doors open at 6:30pm. Meetings start informally around 7:00pm and the meeting starts at 7:30pm. Arrive after 6:30pm and enjoy coffee and cookies while you check out the Hort library, chat, and ask questions!

Starting in Florence, Donna Fenice takes us on a journey to some of this enchanting region’s most beautiful public and private gardens—including the first Renaissance garden, winery gardens, a Pope’s garden, a walled Medieval garden and an ‘English’ garden in a once desolate corner of southern Tuscany. Buon viaggio!


The next stop on this year’s unofficial ‘international gardens tour’ themed presentations takes us to Tuscany with tour guide Donna Fenice. Ironically, Donna’s most recent garden touring abroad was to none other than the Loire Valley that last month’s speaker enlightened us about. But her presentation this month is in keeping with her unflappable love for Italy. A couple of years ago Donna introduced us to Northern Italy’s giardini; this month, her passion will transport us a little farther south.

Considered the birthplace of the Renaissance and known for its history of art and culture, Tuscany is also a romantic locale of undulating landscapes awash in rich hues of ochre; best to take in the scenery while sipping one of its famous wines on a villa terrace. So while Donna will yet again introduce us to the gardens of the region, much of the history of the place will come through in the gardens.

Donna admits to liking such a variety and number of gardens that it would be impossible to pinpoint a favourite; neither was it easy to put together the presentation because of the editing required to fit the time allotted. We can trust Donna to choose the cream of the crop and pique our interest about what she left out.

Many of Donna’s photos can be viewed on the blog she continues to maintain, found at She also continues to guide tours at the TBG and, during the winter months, at Allan Gardens. But her blog and her reputation continue to keep her on her toes in developing new presentations. Recently she was invited to speak at the Rose Garden Society. This was rather a surprise to her, given that she does not identify herself as a ‘plant person’. But neither the Rose Garden Society nor our Hort really minds. Donna’s focus on the design, history, people, and social aspects of the gardens she brings to light are just as valuable as a list of plant material.

So as the winter months come to an end, the snow begins to clear, and ideas for this year’s garden are already well under development. Come out to the Monday, February 23rd meeting for a late winter gardening pick-me-up and get the planning juices flowing with luxurious visions of the gardens of Tuscany.

Maria Nunes


Winter Tree Indentification Tour


Parkdale Seedy Saturday


Brampton Seedy Saturday


2015 OHA District 15 AGM Photography Competition


Valerie Knapp - Gardens of the Loire Valley


NOTE: A short AGM will be held at 7:30pm before the speaker begins.

Meetings are held at the Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, just south of Queen Street West. Doors open at 6:30pm. Meetings start informally around 7:00pm and the meeting starts at 7:30pm. Arrive after 6:30pm and enjoy coffee and cookies while you check out the Hort library, chat, and ask questions!


It’s that time of year—when we most need an injection of colour to remind us that spring is really just a couple of months away. This month, our fix is coming from long time Hort member Valerie Knapp. Valerie grew up in Muskoka where she inherited her mother’s avid interest in gardening through practise. As children, she and her siblings had the chore of weeding their mother’s rock garden before running down for a swim in the lake. In Toronto, both her garden and her art have been featured in the Hort’s Garden Tours. Therein lies the nexus of this month’s presentation: the intersection of art and gardens.

Valerie is a mixed-media and textile artist with an impressive body of work that, thanks to the internet, has caught the eye of people worldwide. Her series, Boxed Embroidery, was recently featured in the Australian magazine, Homespun. Valerie’s creative works have often included garden and plant-related themes and material. Don’t miss an opportunity to look at the many ways plants have inspired her at her website at

Now most artists produce work to share with others and this is exactly the sentiment that drove her to consider putting together this month’s presentation: to share the images of the many beautiful, unusual, inspirational, breathtaking and voluptuous sights she and her husband were witness to on a recent trip to France.

From the proliferation of roses in every nook and cranny in the town of Chedigny to the allée of majestic sycamore trees at the Château de Chenonceau and the overflowing kitchen gardens in the extensive parterres at Château de Villandry, the descriptions alone of the images that Valerie will share with us warmed me on a recent blistery winter day! To see them and listen to her presentation will be a midwinter virtual journey (that we might one day wish to make ourselves) that will not only transport us to warmer days, but will also inspire creativity in our own gardens. Among some of the changes she’s made in her own garden is the use of vegetables in what was simply a decorative border, like the curly kale she saw throughout a town square on her trip.

This month’s presentation is not to be missed. Valerie has brought her extensive photographic experience and artist’s eye to bear on a gardening travelogue through the Loire valley. What could be more enticing on a cold January evening?

Maria Nunes


Public Consultations on Neonicotinoid Pesticides

Pollinator Health: A Proposal for Enhancing Pollinator Health and Reducing the Use of Neonicotinoid Pesticides in Ontario

Ontario is taking action to strengthen bird, bee, butterfly and other pollinator health to ensure healthy ecosystems, a productive agricultural sector, and a strong economy.

The province will consult on a proposal to reduce the use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed. If approved, new rules on the use of neonicotinoids would be in place by July 1, 2015, in time for the 2016 agricultural planting season.

Read the announcement

Read the discussion paper

Provide written feedback on the discussion paper by January 25, 2015 (11:59 p.m.) via:

Please reference the EBR registry number with your comments.

Attend one of the public meetings (Registration required)

Public consultation sessions will be held in December and January to seek feedback to improve the health of Ontario pollinators. Spaces and call-in lines are limited for each location and webex. However, we do not want to limit participation and will add more meetings if needed.

Public meetings - Dates and locations

  • Monday, December 8, 2014; 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. - English Webex Session 1
  • Tuesday, December 9, 2014; 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. - London Public Meeting
  • Wednesday, December 10, 2014; 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. - English Webex Session 2
  • Thursday, December 11; 9:00 a.m. to Noon - Toronto Public Meeting
  • Monday, December 15, 1:00 - 3:00 - French Webex Session
  • Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 9:00 a.m. to Noon - Kingston Public Meeting


To register for a meeting or Webex session and obtain location information and conference call numbers you may register online (see below) or contact the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300,

To see the Ontario Government web page (same info as above) with the registration form at the bottom, click here.


Catherine Raven - Posies, Posteriors and Posterity 


Meetings are held at the Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, just south of Queen Street West. Doors open at 6:30pm. Meetings start informally around 7:00pm and the meeting starts at 7:30pm. Arrive after 6:30pm and enjoy coffee and cookies while you check out the Hort library, chat, and ask questions! Note: Our AGM was originally planned for this evening but has now been postponed to January 26, 2015.

The legacy of the gardens at Colborne Lodge is broader than you might think and the personalities behind this remarkable achievement stretch from the Howards themselves to the members of the Hort today. If that doesn’t entice you, perhaps more than a hint of the paranormal will!


It’s not just anyone who can point to herself seated in an official portrait, mere feet away from the Prince and (the late) Princess of Wales. “You did have an important job”, conceded a former colleague of Catherine Raven’s when he accidentally came across the portrait. Important is an understatement, but Catherine the great—multi-tasking, resourceful organizer, talented writer and former editor of many award winning issues of our Hort’s fine journal—is rather modest about it all. “The logistics of organizing for a royal visit is the same as if your mother was coming for tea,” she states, matter-of-factly. Right.

From working on Parliament Hill for nine years as a researcher and a logistics and communications specialist dealing with major events, she has brought to each position thoroughness and clarity—making it a priority to have a good overview about how everything works, a big picture you might say. Catherine has applied these skills in all of her various professional and volunteer roles.

It is fitting that Catherine will have a place in ‘history’, as you might have it, with her presence in the portrait with the Wales’, taken when they came to Canada to open Expo ’86. Fitting given that history permeates most of her activities. Many of us have heard about her work at the Museum of Naval History, home to a real submarine (HMCS Ojibwa). It is a satellite of the Elgin Military Museum in St. Thomas where she is Director of Education and Research. But she is also currently a part time interpreter at Colborne Lodge with responsibility for the heritage gardens.

This month, Catherine will take us on a photographic tour of the gardens and give us an update on the progress of re-creating this historic home’s original gardens, giving us what she promises will be a portrait of its Posies, Posteriors and Posterity.

—Maria Nunes


Wolfegang Bonham - The Gardens of Mexico


Meetings are held at the Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, just south of Queen Street West. Doors open at 6:30pm. Meetings start informally around 7:00pm and the speaker begins the presentation at 7:30pm. Arrive after 6:30pm and enjoy coffee and cookies while you check out the Hort library, chat, and ask questions! Image from

Last winter, landscape designer Wolfegang Bonham of Peace Love and Landscaping travelled alone by motorcycle for 2 months through Mexico’s variable ecosystems visiting incredible gardens including tropical jungles, cactus filled deserts and beach-front palms. Join Wolfe’s journey of discovery.


There’s probably little you can think of that links gardens with motorcycles. Wolfe Bonham is going to hammer down** your understanding of the connection when he makes his presentation, and gives new meaning to the term ‘garden tour’ at this month’s Hort meeting.

The kilt wearing horticulturist/landscape designer is not only a musician and a former jeweller, he’s also a motorcycle enthusiast. Last January he embarked on a nearly three-month motorcycle garden tour through Mexico and some of Central America, clocking 22,000 kilometres.

The trip was planned around visiting gardens of all kinds, from the usual to the unique, like Edward James’ jungle garden, Las Pozas. It was an opportunity to see so many of the plants we grow indoors or as annuals in their natural habitat, or at least, in an environment where they can achieve their true potential. Wolfe also visited the mountain pine forest where monarchs over-winter!

Along the way, Wolfe ran into some problems related to his mode of transportation. But even one of these experiences contributed to his achieving a gardener’s dream, camping out for two days in a desert botanical garden. The other was a little less rewarding; in Belize, he didn’t completely manage to keep the dirty side down***. Wolfe flipped his bike twice and went off a bridge, leaving him badly bruised.

This kind of touring might not be for many of our members. But the freedom and opportunities provided by Wolfe’s very original garden odyssey make attending his presentation on it that much more enticing.

*Front door: motorcycle jargon for the first rider in a group ride.

**Hammer down: motorcycle jargon for accelerate quickly.

***Keep the dirty side down: a parting expression between bikers meaning ride safe.

Maria Nunes 


Janet Davis - Creative Design Ideas With Spring Bulbs

At our September 29, 2014 meeting, Janet Davis handed out a list of bulbs to go with her wonderful images of spring gardens. To download the list please click here


Image from www.thepaintboxgarden.comJanet Davis has visited many chateaux in France. But don’t ask her what opulence lies behind their stone walls. While her husband peruses the man-made interiors of such well-known favourites as Versailles, Davis is content to peruse the man-made gardens surrounding them. She documents her visits, peering through her camera lens to create photographic tableaux of plants, flowers, insects, or landscapes, alone or in combination, as graphic close-ups, stunning garden portraits, or scenic compositions. Such is the mark of the professional photographer she has become since beginning her award-winning garden-writing career over twenty-five years ago.

Davis comes by this interest in gardening honestly, through her mother and grandfather. As a girl, while her friends became teenyboppers, she dug kidney-shaped flowerbeds in the yard of the family’s home on the outskirts of Vancouver. Since those early days, wherever she has lived, she has gardened, even if space constraints have meant only a window box. Today she gardens at her mid-town Toronto home and her Muskoka cottage where she has been experimenting with goldenrod. You can read all about this misunderstood native in her colourful blog

As a writer she began submitting her own photographs with story proposals for newspapers and magazines in the mid ‘90s. It was not easy to compete with in-house photographers, but her persistence led to Davis deciding to focus on photography. She began amassing a library of stock photos that now numbers over 120,000! Her work has been published in Canada’s national newspapers, North American magazines, books, advertisements, and on packaging.

Her images are shot anywhere that plants grow, including anywhere she travels and there are gardens to be seen, whether man-made or nature’s own. She makes annual visits to botanical gardens, such as Montreal’s VanDusen and Vancouver’s UBC. This October she will be touring South Africa. In Toronto she has shot at Mount Pleasant Cemetery and especially at the Toronto Botanical Garden.

For this presentation, Davis will cull from her collection, photos of plants that grow from bulbs, just in time to whet our appetites for the fall planting season. Her particular interest in alliums and her long-standing championing of pollinators will likely come into play in her selection, as well. Don’t miss this opportunity to begin imagining next year’s garden.

Maria Nunes