January 2, 2023
50 contributors for 50 years
Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association has thrived for five decades thanks to the passion and determination of its volunteers. Since the association was formed on Jan. 24, 1973, there have been thousands of contributors, and that shared commitment continues right up until this very moment. Volunteers are the backbone of LO. There are so many devoted people who have invested their time and energy into the community that it would be impossible to recognize everyone. In this special feature, we are highlighting each president, plus a selection of pioneers and builders who helped LO become what it is today.

At his retirement celebration in August 2022, Tony DiGiovanni, LO’s former executive director said: “Landscape Ontario is blessed with individuals who voluntarily take responsibility and choose to act. People who care and contribute. Caring is infectious, inspiring and communicates at an emotional level. Our organization is filled with individuals who have a common vision for the future, who set goals and priorities and work together to make them happen. It is made up of individuals who understand the value of sharing and who have empathy. Our association is filled with people who understand that meaning comes from serving others… LO is a community for mutual benefit and improvement focused on advancing a profession by working together to grow a prosperous, professional, ethical, valued and contribution-oriented industry. Who would not want to be part of a community with such a wonderful purpose and vision?”
bob adams


Bob estimated that he attended over 60 events, special occasions and meetings during his term as president of Landscape Ontario in 2008-9. During his term, the new Green for Life initiative began. “The slogan Green for Life says so much. When you stop and think about it, the slogan actually says it all. We are hoping that all our members will display the image on their trucks, equipment and advertising. With over 2,200 members provincewide, and who knows how many trucks, cars and pieces of equipment at our disposal, imagine the impact that our industry will have on the buying public,” Bob said.

bob allen


Bob became a member of Landscape Ontario’s London Chapter back in 1975 — the year after he began Bob Allen Horticultural Services in St. Thomas. Bob held various positions within the chapter board, including treasurer and membership chair, and served as chapter president in 1981 and 1991 and provincial board rep from 1982 to 1998. Bob and his wife Ruby funded a Ontario Horticultural Trades Association scholarship in 2014, designed to help mature students transition to careers in horticulture through the apprenticeship program at Fanshawe College in London.

barry benjamin


Barry had a 40-year record of volunteer service with Landscape Ontario. Before taking on the role of president in 1981, he served served five years on the Provincial Board of Directors. He later joined the Garden Centre Commodity Group, and the Congress Committee. Barry also served the Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation, which began with the purpose of raising funds for research.

leo bezaire


A founding member of the Windsor Chapter of Landscape Ontario, Leo was also a member of the Provincial Board of Directors. He was awarded the Past Presidents’ Award in 1981 for service to the industry. Founding members of LO’s Windsor Chapter were recognized at the official unveiling of the Chapter’s Legacy Garden at St. Clair College in Windsor, on June 3, 2017. Over 100 people attended the event, including LO members, families and friends, as well as representatives from St. Clair College.

gerald boot


Gerald became just the 11th Honorary Life Member of LO in 2011. Haig Seferian presented the award at the Awards of Excellence Gala. “His service ethic is inspiring,” Seferian said. “He is always willing to give his time and resources to advance our industry, while enriching the lives of his family, his fellow members, his customers and community.” Gerald served as President in 2004-5, and he has contributed to numerous committees and sector groups including: Canada Blooms, Publishing/ Communications, Snow and Ice Management, as well as CNLA’s Insurance and Certification Committees.

dave braun


As president of LO, Dave was involved with the sale of part of the association’s property in Milton. He wrote, “Back in 1994, the $1.24 million purchase of a 46-acre new home for Landscape Ontario was termed, ‘the deal of the century.’ Over 20 years later, on May 28, 2015, the association sold 24.16 excess acres of the Milton property, at $9,263,446.80.” Over the two years of Dave’s presidency, LO membership grew from just over 2,100 to more than 2,500. Another major event during Dave’s term was the launch of the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign to honour Canadian servicemen and women.

paul brydges


Paul was the first practicing landscape architect to hold the position of LO President. He had previously served on the Board of Directors and also contributed to LO’s Canada Blooms garden design team. When Paul took on the duties as president in 2016, he wanted the industry to view itself as professionals. Paul stated, “Our biggest hurdle in achieving and maintaining our modern landscapes is to overcome the shortage of qualified team members and also the perception of our profession as mowers of lawns and shovelers of snow.”

len cullen


Len Cullen was such a major player in the industry that a statue of him was constructed in 2019 in (where else?) Cullen Central Park in Whitby, Ont. In the early 1950s, Len joined the Canadian Association of Nurserymen. He served as national president from 1963 to 1964. Tony DiGiovanni wrote: “Len was both a visionary and a pioneer. He inspired many. His passion and enthusiasm for gardens and business lives on in the hundreds of employees and associates who have made their mark on the horticulture and landscape profession.”

mark cullen


In 2014, Mark and his wife Mary challenged members of Landscape Ontario to match their $30,000 a year pledged for the following three years to support scholarships through the Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation. Mark said their goal was to ensure younger generations had the opportunity to pursue careers as green professionals. Mark was also instrumental in the creation of the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign. In November 2022, the campaign exceeded its goal of planting two million trees to honour Canadian Armed Forces members. The campaign has now grown into a national movement, Trees for Life.

hank deenen


Hank, along with Casey van Maris, Tony DeGroot, Bernie Boumeister and John van Roode created the OGMLA (Ontario Garden Maintenance and Landscape Association). Hank chaired the inaugural meeting and eventually served as the group’s first vice-president. OGMLA merged with the OLCA (Ontario Landscape Contractors Association) and the ONTA (Ontario Nursery Trades Association) to form Landscape Ontario in 1973. Both Hank and his son Harold attended the unity meetings that resulted in the formation of LO.

Visit HortTrades.com/History for more articles and videos.