July 28, 2022
PAST PRESIDENT PROFILE:
PETER OLSEN 1986
Peter Olsen was one of the builders of Landscape Ontario
In his first column as president of Landscape Ontario in 1986, Peter Olsen wrote that it was a pleasure and honour to be elected to the position. “Thank you for the faith and trust that the association has put in me. I certainly will do everything I can to live up to it.”
Peter wrote that his main concern was apathy among many members towards the association. “It bothers me so much that they don’t want to become involved. Many of these people have no idea into what is going on or how things run in this association. I therefore think that we as a Board have to get out there and meet them.”
He also touched on the issue of strong chapters in the association. “Chapters are the backbone of the association. We have to not only look for new membership, but we have to especially keep and service the members we already have.”
Peter told members about a “major membership recruitment drive” that was to begin in the fall of 1986. “A lot of time and money has been and will be spent to increase our membership substantially and we can use everybody’s help. If everyone brought in just one new member then our size would double to about 1,200.”
He went on to write, “Our association is so important to the health of our industry and the bigger it is the greater the clout we have with government and in other affairs.”
Peter Olsen felt that participating in LO is an investment. “Like most other investments, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.”
Passed away in 2015Nearly eight years after undergoing a double lung transplant operation, Peter passed away on July 8, 2015. In a memorial story about the man's life, his family expressed gratitude for the "second chance" to have their father, husband, mentor and "morfar" (grandfather) in their lives for those additional years.
On the eve of his death, Peter wrote to his grandsons, telling them to always believe in themselves and to stand tall and be proud of who they are.
He was remembered with a ceremonial tree planting to honour the memories of three past members whose work within the industry “benefited the future of generations working in the industry.” He was remembered along with John Wright and Casey van Maris.
LO executive director Tony DiGiovanni told those present for the ceremony that the three men being honoured were all extremely important to the industry.
Family members for the memorial dedication of Peter Olsen included his wife Doreen and daughters Tanya and Leah. In an emotional talk, Tanya said, “My dad always showed us that you can have passion about this industry which is more than simply making a living.”
Peter was born in Denmark in 1946, and immigrated to Canada at the age of 11 with his parents, John and Elsebeth. They established Royal City Nursery at the corner of Woodlawn Road and the Hanlon Expressway in Guelph back in 1962. A new store was built on the site in 1977, where Royal City Nursery sold mainly trees, shrubs, soil, and fertilizer.
He was among the first students in the horticulture apprenticeship program at Humber College. He later went on to teach horticulture at Humber College for 35 years.
In 1986, Peter and Doreen Olsen joined the partnership, expanding the garden centre and created Royal City Nursery’s first Christmas Wonderland.
Called a "horticulturalist at heart" by members of his family, Olsen had a love and passion for plants, and was constantly trying to enhance and optimize their growth. He was a founding member of Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association, and served in many capacities with Landscape Ontario including Planning Committee, Congress Chair, Board of Directors and Garden Centre Commodity Group. He also served as chair of the Provincial Farm Safety Association, and was a long-standing member of the Rotary Club. Landscape Ontario: Strategic
Peter was a horticulturist, who always stopped to pull a weed or unsheath his secateurs to prune just one more branch.
The Olsen family established a scholarship fund in Peter’s name to help budding horticulturalists continue their education. The Peter Olsen Horticulture Apprenticeship Scholarship Fund is held in trust by the Ontario Horticulture Trades Foundation.