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


Free Tour of Community Gardens Supported by the Hort

Sunday September 7th and 14th, 2014

Come out and see the community gardens our Horticultural Society supports via our fundraising activities.


  • The gardens are accessible to the public during the day, anytime between 11am and 4pm.
  • This is a self-guided tour, with no signposts or garden sitters, although there may be gardeners in the gardens.
  • Gardens are located from Queen & John Street to High Park.
  • Please click here to see the map.
  • To download the listing and addresses of community gardens on the tour, click here.


Hort Coach Tour 20 September 2014

Great Canadian Holidays and Coaches, our operator

SADLY, this tour has been cancelled because of insufficient numbers. 

Enjoy the fall harvest season in the Niagara Peninsula by joining members and friends for our annual bus excursion, scheduled for September 20.  New this year is a luxury European-designed coach, guaranteed comfortable!  Spaces are limited to only 32, so reserve your place early!  The cost will be $60 per person. To purchase tickets on-line please click here.

Our Planned Itinerary

Departure from the Keele subway station parking lot at 8:30AM (entrance is on Indian Road just north of Bloor. Parking is free on Saturdays).

Direct via QEW to Queenston Heights, where a brief pit-stop will also provide an opportunity to enjoy the spectacular view and the gardens.

Niagara Botanical GardensOn via Niagara Parkway to the Niagara Botanical Gardens, where we will have a brief presentation by the Director, and enough time to explore the extensive and interesting grounds or simply relax in the scenic surroundings.  To see more of what is offered at these wonderful gardens from the Niagara Parks website please click here. Optional but recommended is a visit to the Butterfly Conservatory at the Gardens - group rate if 10 or more people want to visit is $13.73 (including tax) - well worth it! To find out more click here.

Lunch is not included in the package this year:  bring your own picnic from home, or sample the range of sandwiches, wraps, soup and desserts the Gardens cafeteria has to offer.  Coffee, tea and cold drinks are available at any time during the visit; there is plenty of indoor and sheltered outdoor seating if the weather turns wet, or picnic spots on the grounds if it’s sunny.

In the afternoon we will follow scenic Highway 81 along the foot of the Escarpment to Kacaba Wineries, an award-winning boutique winery for a wine tasting.  Click here to find out more. Along the same highway are fruit stands overflowing at this time of year with seasonal fruit and vegetables. We will ensure an opportunity to stop and purchase!

Last stop will be a visit to Vineland Nurseries, specialist plant growers particularly known for Japanese maples, rhodos and interesting smaller evergreens.  Many of you are already familiar with the exceptional offerings at Vineland, but if not, it’s worth consulting their website (  If there is something special you’re looking for, a good idea is to contact them in advance (Phone 844-371-7553).

Then we drive back to the QEW, with target arrival time at the Keele subway station of 5:30PM.

To Book Your Spot

Please send email (and questions) to and pay online below, or send a cheque, made payable to the “Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto” along with the names of participants, your phone number and email address (so reservations can be acknowledged) to Christopher Egerton, 21 Maynard Ave, Apt 407, Toronto M6K 2Z8.  We will maintain a waiting list in the event the coach tour is over subscribed. Minimum of 30 participants needed to go ahead. Booking deadline 10 September, 2014. Tour goes ahead rain or shine. To download the poster for this event click here.  


Learning From a Happy Mingling of Beans & Zinnias

From an article originally published in the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto newsletter, September 2007.

What can I say? I’m a designer—trained to be a control freak. In my work, I assess a problem posed by a client, develop a plan and then follow through. With a few twists and turns, the finished solution is usually not far off the original plan. It is a controlled outcome. And this is the way that I have approached my gardening—that is until this spring when I got involved with the Grafton Parkette Community Garden.

In the garden that I share with Bea, I make a lot of decisions. I assess the project at hand using my gardening experience, consult books and friends, then with a loose plan in place, I move on to the execution. There will be a few diversions, including irresistible impulse plant purchases, but the plan takes shape. Then I nurture, fine-tune and maintain the vision that I have created.Grafton Parkette before May 2007

The community gardening experience worked in a different way. I was involved with the project from its very early stages, but I was not in control. I wasn’t following through with a plan. I honestly didn’t have a sense of what the finished community garden would be. Carolin Taron was the visionary, the instigator and the energy behind the establishment of the Grafton Community Garden. She has been involved with at least 9 community gardens in Toronto since 1990. With her experience, she knows how to get a community garden project moving.

I had dreamed about improvements to the Grafton Parkette, but I didn’t know how to make it happen. I wanted to salvage the poorly maintained, grassy, dog pooh parkette at the end of my street. It would be planted with lush beds of select perennials and shrubs, creating an object of beauty that would be admired, but not touched, by the large number of pedestrians that walk past every day. My earliest involvement with parkette improvements in 2004, when I attended a few community meetings, resulted in what I thought was a rather unsatisfactory, postponed solution. $10,000 was allocated to the Grafton Parkette in the 2012 capital budget for a basketball half court.

Carolin moved into the Roncesvalles neighbourhood last year and immediately saw the potential of the Grafton Parkette as a location for a community garden and a place to grow food in the city. Working with Amy Johnston, Assistant to Councillor Gord Perks, she took the important first steps in the creation of the garden.

  • Involve a core of people with a sustainable interest in the garden location. DONE.
  • Get approval for a community garden at the Grafton Avenue location. DONE.
  • Get a city crew to strip the sod off the site and rototill the exposed, compacted soil. DONE.
  • Get another city crew to deliver compost and wood mulch. DONE.
  • Get the existing water source in the parkette repaired and a communal hose supplied. DONE.
  • Convince the right person in the city that the garden needed soil improvements delivered ASAP—specifically 100 bags of organic sheep manure. DONE.

Those were the logistics of getting the garden in place. By the middle of May the garden was set to go. Our small group had built it. Now, would anyone come?

I was truly amazed at how the garden developed. So was everyone in the neighbourhood. But we all did it together—as a community.

The physical presence of the rototilled, open plot drew people to the site. Some were openly skeptical that anything would grow on the site of an old used car lot. Mostly by word of mouth, Wednesday evenings were established as the time to meet and work in the garden. Two large areas, one at the back of the garden for native perennials and the other in the centre of the garden for food plants and annuals, were designated for communal enjoyment and casual garden visitors. The rest of the garden, that would be the responsibility of individual gardeners, was divided into small plots radiating out from the centre area. Plots were assigned on a first come, first served basis.

I took a plot back in May when there were few people willing to commit to the maintenance of a plot for the whole season. I planted 3 kinds of tomatoes, eggplants and a few Brussels sprouts for fall interest. No flowers, just food plants. What did I have to lose? Even if, as I suspected might happen, all the produce was taken by street people, I would always have more than enough from the country garden. My planting was orderly and typical of a tiny vegetable plot.

The communal areas developed in a more organic, spontaneous way. Carolin and other gardeners brought seeds and plants, and every Wednesday everyone pitched in with the planting. The neighbourhood children were the most enthusiastic planting beans and zinnias in abundance. Not always in the most ideal locations, but no one wanted to stifle the incredible energy. The kids were learning about plants and food and having fun too.

As the garden started to grow green and lush (thanks to the sheep manure), people were drawn from their homes on Wednesday evenings. Everyone was overjoyed that the empty grass area was being transformed. They were amazed and delighted with the garden. We have a Toronto microcosm along the one block length of Grafton Avenue. At the top is a 20-storey apartment building with many new Canadian families. The houses along the street have a mix of people and ages, with singles, retired couples and families that include teenage kids and lots of toddlers.

The people with gardening experience helped and encouraged the novice gardeners. The native plant activists contributed seed and plant divisions. The young families on the street brought their toddlers to help plant seeds and water, water, water. Children from the big apartment building planted seeds and annuals that would fill in beautifully. People that I had seen when walking the dogs in the neighbourhood, but had never spoken to, were handed a trowel and few snap dragon plants as they walked past the garden one Wednesday evening. And they knew what to do. Dig a hole, pour in water, set in the plant and fill with dirt. Voila! This is my garden too. Instant gardening friends. The parkette belongs to the whole community now. There is a sense of ownership and pride that a wasted corner of the street has been made productive and beautiful. Yes, homeless people are still sleeping in the back corner and they help themselves to a few tomatoes, but there has been almost no vandalism and universal appreciation. People walking, running, cycling and driving past have happy, encouraging comments. The garden brings a smile to everyone’s face. And now there is a lot of interest expressed in getting plots for next year.

The spontaneous way that the garden developed meant that the happy mingling of beans and zinnias was just meant to be. Letting the kids plant seeds and strawberries and potatoes and see the wonderful results was an inspiring experience that had nothing to do with control and garden design. It had everything to do with openness, and sharing in the uplifting spirit of gardening.

And then there was “Salsa Night”, a magical Wednesday evening event. The entire street came out to enjoy delicious salsa made from tomatoes and greens grown in the garden accompanied by salsa music and dancing. It goes without saying that Hort members want to become better gardeners. You know, fewer plant failures and more gorgeous “photo-op” successes. In other words, better control of the garden. But the Community Garden experience has led me to believe in letting the garden go its way and being open to the moment. I’m not the creator of this garden but I participated in its creation. I have a lot to offer the garden and the novice gardeners working in it. But the garden has given back to the whole community in a very big way.

In the end it is worth letting things run a bit out of control. I want to encourage every Hort member to get involved with a community garden project. For a few hours each week, leave your “gardens of controlled outcome” and spread your experience out into the community. We can encourage and develop new, young gardeners, beautify neighbourhoods and nourish our own souls.

Richard Kerr


Greenhouse Garden Group

Are you interested in gardening over the long winter with other Hort members? Growing cuttings and seeds in a greenhouse? Send your name to be considered for space on the bench!
 The Board is considering sponsoring a group of members who will garden at the Riverlea Greeenhouse (City of Toronto).  The photo, by Terri Dixon’s daughter Alice, shows the variety of plants being grown, so we would be in good company.
Please contact Gina (aka Hort Treasurer) for more details at

Alice Dixon, Untitled from the series The Last Greenhouse, 2008/2014


Hort Plant Fair May 31

The Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto Plant Fair will be held on Saturday May 31, from 10:30am - 1:30pm at Parkdale Public school, 78 Seaforth Ave, Toronto. Click here to find out more, or to download a poster click here