Jeff Mason - Plants for the Naturalistic Garden 

March 30, 2015 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!

What are those plants and grasses that catch the light and sway in the breeze? Let Jeff Mason of Mason House Nursery help you identify the plants you need for planting your Naturalistic Garden.

Nowhere does the old adage, “the apple does not fall far from the tree”, more aptly apply in one of these bios than in this month’s piece on Jeff Mason. Jeff is the son of Marjorie Mason, one of the Hort’s long time, regular speakers, who last spoke to us exactly one year ago.

Although he comes by it honestly, it seems that Marjorie was rather proactive in ensuring an heir to her love of plants and gardening. At the age of 7 or 8, she “dragged” Jeff to her job as manager of Pine Ridge Nurseries, and at 9, “told” him that he was joining the Ajax Junior Gardeners. Jeff did well, placing second in an annual competition in which members planted and tended their own vegetable garden. But he didn’t last long at the club.

No matter, by 14 he had started working at Pine Ridge Nurseries himself. He spent two summers in “the pits”. This was a section at the back of the parking lot where topsoil and sand were dolled out to customers by the bagful from two huge mounds. To stay in the business after that experience was an unqualified confirmation that he would be following his mother down the gardening path.

Eventually, Jeff left Pine Ridge Nurseries to start his own business growing perennials and small shrubs, like cotoneaster and spiraea, which he sold to Pine Ridge. When Marjorie herself left the nursery, the two joined forces and started their own business, then called Mason Hogue Gardens. They specialized in fancy geraniums and perennials which were sold by mail order. Eventually the mail order service was dropped and they focused on growing uncommon plants for sale at their own nursery.

As we have learned from Marjorie over the years, there has been a constant evolution at what is now called Mason House Gardens. We’ve heard presentations on xeriscaping and drought-resistant plants. Last year Marjorie shared her renewed interest in vegetables. In fact, the latter venture began in 2007 as what had been a personal tradition spilled over into the business with the growing interest in heirloom varieties among gardeners.

Jeff has now also begun to focus on plants for the natural garden in the tradition of Piet Oudolf. Specifically, he mentions the gardens of recent Hort presenter, Tony Spencer: grasses, echinacea, monarda—many native plants, as one might imagine.

As his gardening life evolves, Jeff has himself nurtured a new generation of gardeners, although none of his three children is currently involved in the business. He recalls how his daughter spent her toddler years in a playpen placed between the aisles of the greenhouse, and that by the age of 3, “she could say most of the botanical names of the plants in the garden”. At 25 and in a new home, she has a renewed interest in gardening, so there’s hope yet!

Maria Nunes


Donna Fenice - Gardens of Tuscany

February 23, 2015 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