August 15, 2008
The citizens of Northern Ontario will be the first to see the benefits of what is being described as one of the most exciting times of co-operation among some of the province’s major players in the gardening industry.

At a meeting held at Landscape Ontario’s Milton offices, both national and Ontario representatives from Communities in Bloom (CiB), Ontario Horticultural Association, Master Gardeners of Ontario, Royal Botanical Gardens and Landscape Ontario began work on an idea to create the Great Northern Garden Symposium.

The idea is to bring top speakers, along with online and video training opportunities to residents of Northern Ontario. “The problem for northern communities is the lack of hands-on information,” said Carol Dunk, director at large of Master Gardeners of Ontario. She is part of a committee to create the Great Northern Garden Symposium along with Lee Rozon, executive director of CiB Ontario, Liisa Wolfgram, past president of Ontario Horticultural Association, James Lee, president of Master Gardeners of Ontario, Tony DiGiovanni, executive director of LO, Denis Flanagan, manager of membership services and public relations for LO, Allan Dennis, editor of Horticulture Review, Nancy Lee, of Royal Botanical Gardens, and Raymond Carrierre, national executive director of CiB.

Some of the ideas in the discussion stage include:
  • Northerners feel isolated and therefore would appreciate the gesture.
  • Gasoline and expense is a major problem.
  • There may be other industries with outreach programs.
  • There may be a connection with universities and colleges.
  • There may also be an opportunity to introduce Master Gardeners to the Aboriginal communities – James Lee has been approached by OMAFRA to look into this possibility.
  • Plan a road-show including Horticultural Societies, Master Gardeners, Communities in Bloom and trades.
  • Develop a two-day seminar using local community colleges and universities as the delivery agent.  
  • Connect with the associate members of Landscape Ontario especially the equipment dealers.

Three areas in the north were identified as targets for a 2009 launch of the program. The communities include Dryden, Thunder Bay and Sudbury. The event would take place sometime in late September and occur over two days.  

Possible topics under consideration may include: environmental stewardship, alternative pest control, new plants, vegetable gardening, landscape design, leadership training, pruning, native plants, pollination, water management and stewardship, pests and diseases and a CiB workshop.

Work will begin of securing speakers and sponsorship to provide transportation, accommodation and speakers. Proposal for the format of the symposium would see Master Gardeners, professionals and business development on Fridays, with the local gardeners and Horticultural Society interests highlighted on Saturdays. Key speakers would be presented on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Members of the committee will meet again in September to further fine tune the proposal.

Caption: Committee members: (Front) Denis Flanagan and Nancy Lee. (Back from left) Carol Dunk, Liisa Wolfgram, Lee Rozon, James Lee and Allan Dennis.