The Almonte Horticultural Society was formed on April 8, 1921, as part of the Ontario Horticultural Society. Early reports show flower shows, public plantings, educational speakers at meetings and sponsoring junior clubs have been the focus through all these years. Junior work is mentioned as early as 1936.
World War II affected everyone and in 1943 the flower show was cancelled in favour of making bouquets for sale to fund “Ditty Bags” for soldiers overseas. Also “Seeds of Britain” received a $25 donation.
In 1954 the flower beds at the Cenotaph are mentioned as a project and bulbs were donated to the churches and the old Rosamond Hospital. The next year new flower beds were planted at the front of the Town Hall with 43 shrubs along the side wall.
In 1961,59 Junior Gardens were judged and in Centennial Year,1967, it was noted there was an improvement in farmyard appearances where the children were enrolled in the Junior Garden Club. By1969 there were 125 junior gardens to judge – mostly in the rural areas.
In the 1970’s and 80’s Sandy Patry and Kevin Didsbury ran a successful program where seeds were handed out at the schools and 48 children met 4 times a year for educational topics.
In more modern times Carol Kenward, Janet Horton, Gerda Franssen, Ann Warren and Mary Ellen Petrunevich gave seeds and manuals to Grade 2 classes and supervised plantings in raised beds at Naismith School.
For the past decades we have offered a bursary to a high school graduate pursuing studies related to environmental or science courses.
In the 1970’s flower beds were added on the Bay Hill area in Gemmill Park. My father George Robertson cared for these and every spring when a few orange poppies raise their heads, I remember him. He also cared for the beds at the Cenotaph for many years.
Through the years the Spring Plant sale has been the major fundraiser and during the COVID crisis Nancy Timmons offered her laneway and wagons so a modified sale could be held. Carol Alexander & Sandy Jackson were in charge. It was a great place for new gardeners to pick up plants but one soon learned if there was a large amount of some creeping ground cover that “Buyer Beware” was a rule because it could be a bad spreader.
Over the years the local society has taken their turn hosting larger events such as the District 2 Flower & Vegetable Shows in1994, 2000, 2003 and 2017.
Some members had taken judging courses offered by the OHA over the past 40 years and Helen Halpenny, Cindy Zorgel, Margaret Inwood and Marilyn Snedden completed these courses which ran for 8 weekends over 2 years. Helen and Marilyn also received the District service Plaque as well as Gladys Skuffam back in 1986. She was our Secretary Treasurer for decades.
For a few years in the past decade we sponsored a “Garden of the Week” contest where members nominated front yard gardens and the owners received a gift bag and their garden was featured in the local newspaper.
Then no organization accomplishes as much as we have without a hard working executive behind the scenes organizing speakers at meetings and keeping members informed. There are 4 two-year directors and 4 one-year directors as well as the President, Secretary and Treasurer. Cindy Zorgel has been president several times with Nancy Timmons producing a wonderful newsletter in past years as well as taking minutes. Carol Kenward produced the Yearbook for years but Ann Warren has taken that over. Now in modern times, we have Carol Alexander, the treasurer also sending email reminders and keeping up the website, Ann Warren doing is publicity and Eileen Henneman does updates on Facebook. Also important when we could have meetings is the social committee of Wendy Dahl and Nancy Timmons. Melanie Mackenzie is our secretary and Newsletter Editor now.
The Town Beautification Committee is perhaps the hardest working group and I’m not naming names since I might miss someone but those members are all owed a lot of thanks. Raise your hands so we can recognize you. They plant the barrels on Mill Street, care for this garden at the library and the one on the Veteran’s Walkway and the Cenotaph.
The “Peace Garden” at Perth & Bridge Streets was originally cared for by our society but now Alan Goddard looks after it.
This circular garden was designed by Alan Goddard in the 1990’s and a fundraising workshop which featured Ed Lawrence and Leonard Lee funded it. Many Wednesdays have been dedicated to weeding and deadheading over the years. Last year it was revamped with a berm bed added next to High Street and pollinator plants are featured now.
In 2004, 300 Emperor tulips were planted here in a circle named “Albert’s Garden” after Paul Eggington’s father. It was a project to track Global warming sponsored by the NCC. For 5 years Paul kept track of the dates when the bulbs emerged, first to bloom and end of bloom. It seemed earlier each year. Helen Halpenny planted other flowers to follow the tulips. Now it’s home to a plum tree in memory of Peter Goddard.
Another memorial tree is the flowering crab at the street side with a small plaque dedicating it to Bernard Cameron who was tragically killed in 2016. That is a sturdy tree because a few years ago I was backing my truck up but didn’t realize the tail gate was down. I can still see the look of horror on Gerda Franssen’s face as she was hollering on me to stop but too late. I was sure I’d killed the tree but it survives with a scar on the trunk to remind me of my close call.
Another feature of this garden is the bench purchased in 2016 recognizing our 95th Birthday. So today we are celebrating 100 years with the unveiling of this amazing new sculpture which we hope will be a reminder over the coming years of the major contribution our society had made to Almonte.
Compiled by Marilyn Snedden for the August 28, 2021 celebration
Photos: Allan Stanley | Eileen Hennemann.