2022 is the Year of the Garden in Canada. But what does that mean?

Opinion: Canada has a significant history when it comes to all aspects of gardening — however we may define it.

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Most of us have seen or heard information about 2022 being the Year of the Garden in Canada, but what does this really mean?

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To discover more, I contacted Michel Gauthier in Ottawa. Gauthier is executive director of the Canadian Garden Council, which is a partnership of Canadian garden stakeholders. This year the CGC is celebrating Canada’s centennial of the ornamental horticulture sector and honoring the 100th-year anniversary of the Canadian Nursery and Landscape Association.

The planning for this event began in 2019, just before COVID-19. The objective of this initiative was to profile, from many different perspectives, the importance of gardening in our country. We have a long history of gardening from the early necessity of growing food for survival to the importance of having gardens add color and beauty to our lives.

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Canada has over 15,000 garden clubs, including societies that promote the knowledge and use of specific plants. The Canadian Rose, Peony, Iris, Daylily, Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Societies are just a few examples of the national groups who take on this important work. Some garden associations have celebrated over 100 years of service to their communities and our country.

There are also many great historic gardens in our country, such as Butchart Gardens, which was founded in 1904. The Public Gardens in Halifax, which incorporated earlier gardens from 1837 and 1867, opened to the public in 1875. The Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton dates to 1920.

A couple events of note are Canada Blooms in Toronto and the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa. Canada Blooms is a group that promotes and supports the beautification of cities across our country, and it has done a wonderful job in directing the ecological and environmentally friendly development of green spaces throughout Canada.

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The lawn and garden industry stages annual numerous events to showcase new products, new plants and a wealth of seminars that promote new thinking and new methods of dealing with pests, and cultural issues and improved technology to aid business growth. When we look at the larger horticultural picture, our country is highly engaged in the gardening industry.

Beyond personal growth and satisfaction to the many health benefits that come with growing plants, gardening has become a matter of community pride. Municipalities play a key role in the development of public parks and gardens, not only for their community members but also for attracting visitors. Garden tourism is becoming a large part of the tourism industry, especially with the many private garden tours now available.

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When I visited New Zealand a few years ago, there was no doubt that gardens formed very much a part of that country’s culture. During our conversation, I really appreciated Gauthier’s comments about the future development of the Canadian gardening culture. We are such a large, culturally diverse country that it’s often easy to overlook the collectiveness we share in our passion for gardening. I loved Gauthier’s observation that plants and gardens don’t care about the diversity of culture, gender and age. Gardening is a shared love in which we all find something different to enjoy and learn.

In our own community I’m very proud of the fact that our local tourism folks have worked with First Nations to develop a reconciliation agreement and to facilitate the growth of Indigenous tourism. One great development from this relationship is the concept of ‘Protect This Gift’. From this one initiative, we are learning from our Indigenous population how to appreciate and respect our forests, plants, trees, water and wildlife. While hiking or biking in our natural environment, guests are requested to leave them more pristine then when they arrived.

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Canada has a significant history when it comes to all aspects of gardening — however we may define it. Gauthier pointed out that we are the first country to declare The Year of the Garden. National Garden Day is June 18, and the celebration of gardening runs from June 11-19.

The Garden Council of Canada is asking Canadians to participate in several ways. First, by planting red colors in your garden to pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the pandemic and to recognize all the front-line workers who helped so many during this time.

Municipalities are also being encouraged to participate and to embrace this year by making our parks, gardens and public spaces more beautiful, more accessible and environmentally friendly. It would also be nice if municipalities proclaimed The Year of the Garden locally.

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All garden clubs and plant associations are invited to be garden ambassadors and to help promote the varied aspects of gardening in their communities. There are so many folks of all ages who are local garden heroes for the work they do to inspire others; this could be in promoting school and community gardens, raising food for food banks and soup kitchens or growing an inspiring garden for others to enjoy. The Canadian Garden Council’s website lists many different activities and events in which folks can participate.

Rarely there has been a year with so many challenging issues. So, this year, right across the country, let’s turn to our gardens for inspiration, the enjoyment of natural beauty, stress relief, healthy exercise and nutritious homegrown food. This year let’s celebrate all that is great and good about gardens and the gardening life as we commemorate Canada’s garden heritage and culture. It’s also important that we learn more about nature and the natural beauty that surrounds us all.

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