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Fort Erie Horticultural Society -100 years and Growing Strong!

Submitted by Ruth Vold Markle

Sept 16th, 2021, VOL. 3 ISSUE 2

Often, I am asked ‘what do Horticultural Societies do?’  I think that is such a good question in these times of online wisdom being shared and ideas that may or may not work be being expressed everywhere.  I often smile and say, ‘why don’t you come and see what we do?’ The best way to learn is to be a participant, I think.  And so if you allow me, I will try and explain in words, and we can pretend we are sharing a time together at a horticultural gathering.

The province of Ontario was anxious at its beginnings to develop ‘teaching societies’ for many areas and projects.  So in the beginning the horticultural societies were commissioned to teach about botany and the preservation of existing plant life in the province. One of the ways that learning was encouraged was through ‘shows’ or ‘demonstrations’.  So examples of plants and vegetables were ‘shown’ to help everyone understand a ‘standard’ and the ‘best’ of an item.  Folk seemed to love the competitions and as a result, many of the beginning societies grew through the ‘shows’ or competitions.  That was one way of encouraging learning.

Often the gatherings would welcome a special speaker who had expertise in an area of growing or there would be a sharing of ideas.  The goal of the beginning societies was to teach, to preserve, and to grow.

Have times really changed very much in the last 100 some years?  More than ever we want to learn how to properly grow our own food, we want to preserve the native trees and plants and we desire to make our communities a healthier and prettier place.  The methods we use may vary of course and have changed with the passing of time…but the essential goals remain true.

Our Fort Erie Horticultural Society has thrived and survived for the last 100 years…indeed this is our celebratory year.  And just like the year 1921 when we began…the times are unique.  In 1921 society as a whole was still in recovery from the First World War and its impact on the planet.  There was also recovery from the 1918 influenza that had devastated many families.  In this time of recovery, our Society began.  And here we are…100 years later…still growing strong…

Today we as a group do a lot of volunteer work.  For some time we were connected with the Fort Erie Secondary School in helping in the existing greenhouse and teaching and working with teens.  In recent times our volunteer teams have maintained the planters at the Kinsmen Pool each summer season.  We have maintained memorial gardens at Gilmore Lodge and the Fort Erie Lion’s Club on High Street.  Until the storms of October 2019 and October 2020 arrived and exacted devastation we had a lovely perennial bed at Waverly Beach…many of you encouraged us in our work as you walked those trails …

One of our special projects has been to partner with the Town of Fort Erie to plant trees in the parks.  We all are aware of the devastation of the ash tree loss, and it is a primary goal of our group to plant and bring new trees to the area for everyone to enjoy.

When we were volunteering with the Fort Erie High School we began to think about the impact of supporting students as they sought higher education.  So in the past three years, we have committed funds to bursaries at Niagara College for students who are involved in environmental and horticultural programs.  We think this is a wonderful way to inspire others and to keep the legacy of growing strong alive for the future…

You might see us at Waverly Beach or Erie Beach helping to clean up and clear up.  Or you might see us weeding at various spaces in and around the town.  Often you may see us at early or later hours watering and maintaining spaces.  Our project at St.Pauls Anglican Church this year was a special pollinator perennial bed to jointly celebrate our Society’s 100th birthday and St. Paul’s 200th birthday…We thought the encouragement of new life in the butterfly story was parallel to all birthday celebrations!

If you come to our gatherings at the Lion’s Senior Centre on High Street, you will be gladly invited to enjoy a variety of learning experiences…We have hosted two flower and art shows…have heard from experts on growing native plants to caring for our environment to wisdom on solving a host of growing problems in natural and healthy ways. We have learned to be wise about insects and the environment and to care for our feathered friends who delight in this Niagara Region.  There is always something to learn. My very good mentor used to remind me…’ it takes a lifetime of learning to grow life’…

As president of the Fort Erie Horticultural Society is has been my delight to help new gardeners not only with my words but also with my gardening tools.  I enjoy seeing others share dreams of growing and nurturing their space and I love to be an active part of helping that dream come true. If you need me…I will be there for you.  I think that sums up our Fort Erie Horticultural Society…we are ‘down-to-earth gardeners’ and we will help you grow your dreams!

So please come celebrate our 100th year on Saturday, September 18th from 2 pm to 4 pm at the Mill Greenhouses on Dominion Road…enjoy a visit with us and share your dreams for the ‘growing future’…

See you there!

There are no upcoming events at this time.