GWA Edmonton 2003

39 of us got together for this three day event – from as far as Quebec to the east and Vancouver Island to the west. We had a busy three days but I think every one went home with a new sense of what Edmonton was all about. Here is the site that listed our three day itinerary, so you can refer to it for further information on the places that we visited and their website addresses.

Our first stop was Muttart Conservatory – four wonderful pyramid glasshouses to go though, each offering different plants and environments. On the grounds outside we visited the Plant a Row/Grow a Row beds plus the EHS perennial beds. Afterwards Muttart and Wade Pike, who was displaying some works of art there co-sponsored a lovely lunch which even included virgin mint juleps in keeping with the theme in the show garden pyramid. Larry presented his ‘Gardens of Canada’ talk and then we presented him with a beautiful print of Wades called ‘Gum Bark II Australia’. I was sure he didn ’t have that picture!! Thank you Ron Nichol and Donna Hamel from Muttart and Wade Pike for lunch!


The next group of pictures shows us standing at the front entrance to Rutherford House and being greeted by Derek Roy-Brennis who was our tour host that day. This wonderful historic building is butted right up against buildings on the University of Alberta Campus, making it difficult to do anything with the gardens, but they want to put back the gardens to the original right on the green grass that the coach picture is taken. By the way, this is our coach – isn’t is colourful and in keeping with our tour? This coach was provided by the City of Edmonton for our whole event…Thank you Don Belanger!


Our next stop was Salisbury Greenhouse where Anna Pandos is explaining a bit about the Sproule family owned garden center before taking us on tour. We are all heading to behind the scenes greenhouses where you can bet our garden writers were quick to spot plants and seek them out. Outside shot, then inside shot, then quick refreshments and goodie bags and on our way…oops, forgot to take into consideration the time it would take for some of our group to go through the check out stands with their new found treasures….Thank you Bob Sproule!


Our first evening together was on the Edmonton Queen for our riverboat cruise and dinner (sponsored by Gaia Green and Doktor Doom) I took a picture just to show you that we were on a real paddle wheel…John Helder is chatting with Denis Flanagan on the upper deck. It was starting to get a bit windy and you could feel the rain, but it didn’t last long and the view was wonderful. Larry is seen chatting with my husband Tom and Michael Dean, owner of Gaia Green. We were rewarded for this weather by the most wonderful rainbow that seemed to touch the water right in front of us…great food, great fellowship and then off to bed!


Sunday was our day to visit Devonian Botanic Gardens….Barry Greig is shown in the green hat and purple and blue jacket telling us a bit about the gardens before he takes us to the Japanese Garden. You can see it was raining then, but it cleared up right after…just spotty during the day and great picture taking conditions. Denis is being the bell ringer in one picture…and one of the pictures you see here is in the butterfly house. Can you see that beautiful little creature with the white markings? He is happily munching on citrus leaves waiting to become a butterfly. Thank you Michael Hickman, Laura Frost and Barry Greig!

After lunch, sponsored by New Eden/Pride of Place Plants, Larry proceeded with our GWA Region 7 Meeting, telling those who were not members what we were about and as a result, I believe we will have some new members…it is a fantastic group that I am proud to be associated with. Then Grigg of Doktor Doom and also a major sponsor of the three day event spoke on his products.

His back is to us in the picture that Larry is shown speaking, but you will see him later. Back out into the gardens, this time to visit the AAS trial beds, the peonies beds, the primula dell, the alpine garden, the new rose garden, and anything else we could fit in before we had to leave…of course plants found themselves in our coach again! Thank you Rick Sorenson of New Eden/Pride of Place Plants Inc.


The private garden of Ed and Vicki Gartner was a treat – she is blind and this garden offered her many opportunities to enjoy the scent, taste and touch of plants. The front garden is a visual delight to passers by…and the back garden is their place of serenity and solitude with roses right outside the door for them both to enjoy. Thank you Ed and Vicky Gartner.


This evening’s dinner was at the Union Bank Inn and was sponsored by Gaia Green and Doktor Doom. Here Tom is helping Michael get set up for his presentation. I think Micheal and Grigg had a lot of fun with the group that evening. I know they had all of us laughing while getting good information on their products.

We also had a very unexpected but delightful extra guest for dinner…Nori Pope! Michael Dean had seen him checking into the hotel when he was heading over to the UBI so asked me to call him and invite him over…he joined us, had a great time and then asked if he could tag along with us on Monday…he just had to see our world renown composting facility!

This was the evening that we gave out some great prizes as Monday was the gala and it would be too hard. Our prizes this evening were tools from Lee Valley (thanks Wally!), a set of books called The Botanical Garden from Firefly Books (thanks Simon!) and a print of the City including the hotel and the riverboat – I think Charlotte was a bit over whelmed to get this.


At the Thornton Court Hotel, our meeting room overlooked the terrace and there are a couple of pictures showing our group chatting outside in the morning sun before we headed off. I had Nori sign my book while here because I knew it would be too busy at the gala to do it. There is also a shot of our Riverboat and one of the Muttart Conservatory.


Monday morning was our trip out to the Waste Management Facility. Edmonton composts 60 percent of its garbage and their goal is 70 percent. John Helder, Principle of Horticulture for the City of Edmonton and Susan Antler of the Composting Council of Canada were our hosts today on the coach, telling us all kinds of information and had to fight each other for the microphone. Needless to say we were saturated in composting information…which is a great thing! I do not have any pictures of this as we could not go inside the building. We were told that if we did, you would not want to be around us for the aroma clings to you. We took their word for it. When we got to the composting facility we had a quick intro and video which showed us all how the facility works, then drove around to the various areas to see the buildings and piles of compost that is used within the city and also sold to commercial suppliers. Thank you John and Susan for helping us understand composting better! And thanks John for pointing out some very interesting areas of Edmonton while on our coach tour.

Off to Greenland Garden Centre for a wonderful lunch, short presentation by Tim Chichak and then tour of the garden center. This again is a family owned and run business. You can see Deborah bringing us greetings, her father standing at the back, Rod (her husband) and their son (with dog) standing in another picture and Tim speaking. Wayne is missing in the photos but busy with customers and their Mom was in the kitchen making sure everything was as it should be. More pictures of us outside enjoying the weather and variety of plant material. Nori saw one of his hostas there that he had bred much to the delight of Tim. Of course it was another place that people left with goodie bags and purchases…


We took a couple of group photos on the grounds of the Legislative Building, then hustled over to City Hall to be met by Councillor Michael Phair who not only brought us greetings from the City, but toured us around City Hall including the chambers, and I think delighted us in showing how the ceiling retracts so videos etc could be watched. A beautiful building using parts of old City Hall along with the new. The fountain is right outside the front doors of City Hall. We each received a City of Edmonton pin as well.


The EHS Gala dinner (again sponsored by Doktor Doom and Gaia Green) and presentation by Nori Pope was the ending of our three day event. It was held at Shaw Conference center, which was a block away from our hotel, a beautiful walk along the river valley. Here I am with Nori, and the next picture is of the table that Tom and I sat at. We had decided to spread the writers throughout the room so that they could meet with local gardeners and get a feel for what it would be like to garden in zone 3a. Not the challenge that many suspected especially after looking at the variety of plant material we can grow here. You add that to our very long days in the summer and you have gardens that just about pop out of the soil!

The next picture is of Nori Pope, Michael Dean, Her Honour Lois Hole, Grigg Kellock and myself, another of the four of them and a funny one showing Donna Balzer and Nori Pope chatting away about something important, don’t you know!

Well, that is my recap of this meeting, and I would love it if those of you that attended had something to share would send it along to me so that I can add it to this…I truly hope you enjoyed the weekend, I know Tom and I did!



Following are pictures and comments sent in by some of the attendees. Thanks for your input.

submitted by
Chris Biesheuvel



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