Documents: Special Interest: Horticultural Therapy:

The Gardener and The Trade Show
by Elizabeth Symons
by Elizabeth Symons

Elizabeth (Liz) Symons is a former high school Biology and Special Education teacher. Shortly after receiving her master’s degree, health problems forced her into early retirement.

As her first remembered gardening experience aged three, was holding packages of seed while her aunt planted them in her grandmother’s garden; she turned naturally to her lifelong love of gardening as a source of solace.

She writes articles for a variety of people, and expects to achieve Master Gardener status in the fall of 2002. Currently she is teaching a course on gardening to a group of seniors at the University of Windsor. Last summer she toured with Donna Dawson on her Hampton Court Tour, and will join Des Kennedy on his Ireland Tour this August.

March 31, 2002

Sunny skies came to Windsor Ontario this Valentine’s Day. My thoughts turned to garden projects, new garden designs, sowing seeds and of course, the imminent arrival of spring you say. Wrong, it was Canada Blooms, The Toronto Flower and Garden Show, this year called ‘A Walk in the Park”. It runs from March 13-17, 2002 at the South Convention Centre in downtown Toronto, and Landscape Ontario and The Garden Club of Toronto produce this event. 

Everywhere people are planning to attend, and the question on everybody’s’ lips is “When are you going?” not “Are you going?” We all seem to flock to all the major flower and garden shows held across this country and in the United States. It seems to me that we retirees who love to garden seriously, are missing some excellent opportunities by not showing as much interest in Trade Shows. From past experience I have come to count them an integral part of what I call my garden adventure peregrinations.

Last October I went with friends to the Canadian Greenhouse Conference held in Toronto. The first morning I managed to be on board the bus by 6:45 am and set off on a great tour of Local greenhouses with their attractions. Our tour guide was Wayne Brown of OMAFRA, Vineland Station. He proved an energetic and knowledgeable guide answering many questions, even the more prosaic if not down right silly ones, of our driver. 

I recognize that I am not ever to have acres of plants under plastic, yet I still learned details about greenhouse production that were applicable to my small-scale basement grow lights set up. 

You might be anxious that your knowledge is not up such a specialized gathering. Never fear! No one was disdainful of my questions (nor ever has been in the five years that I have been doing these “adventures”). I was delighted to see that many of these professionals resorted to innovative (read jury-rigged) technology to solve a myriad of their problems. It has always been my personal belief that ‘necessity truly is the mother of invention’, especially when it comes to finding solutions for slightly handicapped gray haired gardeners like me. That is another story…

The next morning was the start of the trade show and the concurrent lectures series. The latter always pique my curiosity and spur me on to more reading and research on the presented topics. They come in handy for Master Gardener’s hours and provide much fodder for articles I have written for the local paper. These proved no exception. There are often delightful fringe benefits such as finding myself seated next to Charlie Dobbin of White Rose fame. Since I was still flush with my memories of Donna Dawson’s Hampton Court trip last summer, it was natural to speak about Donna and her tours. 

There was no lag in the conversation, but unfortunately, I managed to put my foot in my mouth royally, by telling Charlie that I actually enjoyed seeing some ruins rather than The Garden of the Rose! Gracious lady that she is, her smile never faltered for a moment. I hope that she will remember the eccentric woman who prefers ruins to roses with kindly understanding and chalk it up to incipient senility! I digress again…

All the speakers I selected were excellent. They entertained and informed with the exception of one famous personage who seemed bored with the need to address anyone much less a roomful! Yet I returned home armed with a bundle of notes which have been invaluable in the course on gardening I am teaching at the University of Windsor’s Uni-Com Program.

A trade show is always of interest to me. It is a hive of activity with lots of well-known faces strolling by or working in booths, and every one is happy to talk about their product no matter who the audience is. As I had been on the greenhouse tour the first day, I had a better appreciation of what some of these products were used for and by whom. 

To the uninitiated, there is something mesmerizing about watching several types of little mechanical devices delicately placing miniscule plants into larger pots for further nurture until their ultimate sale to the gardener come spring. I never knew how many types of peat were used in various potting mixtures, or from what countries the best were harvested. 

While I shall never need a total system for potting soil handling, the simple handout telling me what to look for in potting soils for various plants plus how much will I need to fill azalea pots, geranium pots, square pots, hanging and ‘saucerless’ baskets to name a few; is now on my potting bench and accompanies me on forays to the garden centre. That in itself has made my ’shopping’ easier. I know what to look for. No need to struggle for glasses to read fine print, while simultaneously balancing amorphous plastic packages on unsteady perches as arthritic hand and shoulder muscles scream lustily to put the damn thing down or get a better anodyne! 

The booth that featured disinfection and protection equipment forcibly reminded me of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease that wreaked havoc in England last year. Donna’s other tour members and I had to pass over several of these disinfectant mats as we visited great estates.

This made me aware of how cavalier I am about disinfecting my garden tools properly. How I never wear protective goggles while hacking away at errant vegetation of any type. How, on occasion I blush to admit, I have sometimes failed to disinfect my pots and containers before replanting them. Of course, when the results are failures I never blame myself!

I must not fail to mention my prize purchase. I have long been a fan of the ‘Superior Tools for the Avid Gardener from Rittenhouse’. They advertise on “I Can Garden” web site. Currently they are showing a new light nozzle designed ergonomically to attach to their coiled hose. For easy spray control one simply applies slight pressure to bend the blue hose and water flows instantly. This seemed a boon to arthritic hands having to hold a hose for any length of time. I came away with that one and have been using it happily in my basement potting room whatever, and my hands are extremely grateful. They also had new secateurs that could be adapted to the needs of individual hands. I am looking forward to trying them soon. 

However, the piece de resistance I found was a ‘PyramidCap’ that can be used to secure three plant support stakes to form a triangular trellis for far less than the outrageously costly obelisks one sees in up market stores. These simple caps can be found at C.French Ltd in Beamsville ON. I already have many designs in mind for them. Lets hope they come to fruition! 

I am convinced that one does not need to be earning a living in the horticultural and agricultural industries, to benefit from trade shows. They educate one and provide excellent insights into what one can do on a small scale to make the life of the average gardener better and more rewarding. Therefore, gardeners be on the look out for these trade shows. Get up a party of your gardening friends and plan to attend one. You may not all come away with the same impressions, but I guarantee that you will all have some unique experience or product to put into practice in your own backyard! 


  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row