June 15, 2009
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director

A couple of months ago, Tom Intven gave me a book entitled Last Child in the Woods. The author lamented that most young people today are not experiencing or interacting with the outdoors and nature, the way all the previous generations have done throughout history. He came up with the term nature deficit to describe this relatively new phenomenon.

In many ways, we are instilling a fear of nature into young people. No one knows the long-term effect this will have on the lawn and garden industry. However, it is difficult to grow an appreciation for the landscape and nature without personal interaction.   

One of our members, Adam Bienenstock of Gardens for Living and Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, is doing something about this nature deficit. His company has acquired a great deal of knowledge and expertise about the huge benefits of natural playgrounds. Those of you who have visited his playgrounds at Canada Blooms and the Green Living Show know what I mean. I was fortunate to attend a playground opening at the YMCA (High Park area). The joyful enthusiasm of the YMCA staff, media and especially the children was wonderful to observe (see page 21).

Most people enjoy the landscape for aesthetic reasons. Raising awareness for the environmental and life development benefits will elevate the entire industry. Adam is on to something very important.    

Greening our highways important work

Also very important is greening our highways. Climate change has resulted from the burning of fossil fuels, especially from automobiles.   The main culprit is CO2, which along with other emissions create the greenhouse effect that prevents heat from escaping the atmosphere. This results in a gradual increase in the earth’s temperature. There is now a huge focus on methods to reduce carbon emissions. One solution that should receive extra attention to combat the problem is plants. Plants love carbon dioxide. The gas actually performs like a fertilizer. Densely planting our highways, will bring huge benefits by trapping carbon, and also by ameliorating pollution, providing shade, buffering noise and retaining excess water. The main problem is that the harsh conditions on highways do not exactly favour good plant growth.  

This fall, the Ministry of Transportation, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre and Landscape Ontario are combining efforts to plant a research and a demonstration project at highways 401 and 427. The project was initiated by MTO landscape architect Nick Close, with advice and support from Francesco Pacelli, Glen Lumis, Sasha Terry, Uyen Dias, Hannah Mathers, Chris Hunter, Ron Koudys, Sasha Gollish, George Ivanoff, Ralph Mahler, Paul Olsen, Jennifer Llewellyn, Lorne Haveruk and Andrew Gaydon.

This is an exciting project for many reasons. It will determine optimum processes and the type of  plants that can be used for successful highway plantings. Ontario-grown liners from retractable-roof greenhouses will also be used. Preliminary research shows that this type of planting method can replace many of the liners that are now regularly shipped from the west coast, which itself leaves a large  carbon footprint.

A component of the research will include the use of irrigation (from drilled wells) powered by solar pumps. This will be a first and could revolutionize highway planting maintenance.    

Exciting new trial gardens

And speaking of irrigation…. I would like to publicly thank Lorne Haveruk of DH Water Management Services for lending his expertise in irrigating the new Landscape Ontario Trial Gardens. The trial gardens are doubling in size this year. The University of Guelph and Landscape Ontario, through the Grounds Management sector group, initiated this project a number of years ago. Due to popularity, it has expanded to include perennial and hanging basket trials. Ontario Parks Association has also joined us. Stay tuned for an announcement of the open house this summer. Thanks are due to Rodger Tschanz at the University of Guelph for growing the plants and orchestrating the planting. We also owe the students from Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School in Burlington a huge thank you. The enthusiasm that emanates from teacher Allan Nason inspires his students. Allan is helping to build our future membership base.  

Have a great spring!
Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at tonydigiovanni@landscapeontario.com.