“Gardening is such a peaceful thing; it’s like yoga”, affirms Barbara Phillips, president of The Beach Garden Society (BGS). This group of gardening enthusiasts has flourished to include around 200 energetic local members of both genders and all ages, beginners and experts, united by their appreciation of our natural world’s beauty.
It’s not necessary to have a large space to garden. “Some members have tiny spaces for growing and have produced marvelous secret gardens, perfect for quiet moments to enjoy the busyness of bees and butterflies as they work to meet their needs and ours,” reveals Barbara.
Like many newlyweds, Dave and Bev Money knew nothing about gardening when they purchased their first house. To remedy that, they joined the Scarborough Horticulture Society in 1964. This was the seed of Dave’s enduring affinity with gardening, now in its 50th year. He enjoyed it so much that what began as a hobby effectively turned into a second career. “I became a District Director in the 1980s and ultimately President of the Ontario Horticulture Association in 1992.”
When an existing Beaches club seemed uninterested in expanding, as the representative of the OHA’s District 5, Dave established The Beach Garden Society, attracting 55 people to its first meeting on September 17, 1985 – 34 people joined immediately! He went on to create The Leaside Garden Society in 1986. Today, Dave, and the Garden Societies he helped create are still going strong. This will be the 23rd year he’s chaired the CNE Flower and Vegetable Show.
THE SHARING OF EXPERIENCE
Through BGS, interested novices and experienced professionals can connect and share ideas, from apartment balcony gardens to designed estate landscapes. Club members learn from each other through a monthly newsletter, yearbook and bus trips. Also, they actively participate in hands-on workshops.
Monthy meetings usually include a guest speaker to present their expert knowledge and tips. Afterwards members can socialize with others.
During the year, five flower and plant shows are held, leading to an annual show in September, where spectacular displays of plants, flowers and arrangements compete for prizes in horticulture, floral design and special exhibits.
Members Claudia and Duncan Wood travel the world extensively, writing informative and entertaining blogs about their observations and adventures.
“It is amazing how many members travel to experience, first hand, flower exhibitions and botanical gardens in Canada and abroad,” says Barbara. “Last year I visited the botanical gardens in Phoenix, Arizona — talk about growing things in sandy soil!”
BGS members are active volunteers in community garden beautification projects, including Environment Day, the Kingston Road Festivals, Kew Beach Library, Main Street Library, Northern Dancer Way, Malvern C.I., and War Monument grounds. Volunteers established the Beach Library Garden in 1987 and have maintained it ever since.
BGS volunteers are also active at The Toronto Botanical Garden, Ontario Horticultural Association, and other related groups.
Barbara observes, “It takes many highly dedicated and motivated people, helping on a variety of project committees, to make BGS the success it is.”
SPECIAL PUBLIC EVENTS
With thousands of plants to see, many donated from members’ gardens, there’s something for everyone at The Perennial Plant Sale, at Adam Beck Community Centre, on Saturday, May 17, 2014, from 9:00 am to 11:30 am.
Functioning as a gardener’s ‘show-and-tell’, the popular ‘Gardens of the Beach’ Tour, on Sunday, June 22, 2014, is a favorite annual event. Tickets purchased at local stores allow the public to visit and enjoy the beauty of participating private neighbourhood gardens. Marilyn Walsh, a talented sculptor and photographer, lends sculptures to some locations. A few provide live music. A refreshment garden offers baked goods and juice. It’s a wonderful social outing.
In 2010, the BGS was the first to partner with Toronto Botanical Garden’s garden tour, ‘Through the Garden Gate’.
THRIVING IN THE SAND AND SHADE
Barbara explains that the soil found in the Beaches is dry and sandy. Each year, before planting, 1 to 2 inches of rich soil should be added to existing base. New topsoil should not be mixed in or tamped down; worms will gradually mix the layers while providing helpful aeration.
When considering what to grow, drought-tolerant indigenous plants, suited to the local climate extremes, are trending. Wildflowers and grasses are popular for ‘natural’ gardens.
Plants that thrive in the Beaches include Hostas, Hydrangeas, Japanese Maples, Wild Ginger, Echinacea, and Rudbeckia.
Everyone is invited to attend a meeting of The Beach Garden Society, join in the conversation, enjoy light refreshments, and browse through the library. The experience may grow on you!
by Kevin Davies