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Award-winning documentarian to Discuss Perennials at CGC’16

"The sheer joy of the first rose in bloom or the return of a butterfly, bird or garden creature does wonders for the psyche."

August 11, 2016  By Dave Harrison

Noted horticulturist, broadcaster and documentarian Kenneth Beattie.

September 2016 – Looking for some advice on flowering perennials in the fall?

Renowned horticulturist and broadcast media veteran Kenneth Beattie can help. He will be discussing the topic at CGC’16 at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls next month.

The conference runs Oct. 5-6. Beattie’s presentation is on the Wednesday afternoon during the garden centre/retailing session.


Beattie is an award-winning documentarian and TV host whose career path has taken him to the four corners of the world. His professional activities, spanning over four decades, have positioned him as one of Canada’s most notable and accessible resources in the plant world.

He worked for more than two decades in front of the camera as host, news anchor and correspondent.

  • “The Earth’s Garden,” his award-winning international documentary series, continues to delight audiences globally.
  • He was also the host of the especially popular “Get Growing” Canadian TV series, originally on the W Network. The series attracted the largest viewing audience of all time within its genre in Canada.

He serves on a number of international conservation societies, working with such personalities as Prince Charles, Sir David Attenborough and actress Betty White.

Beattie said his passion for plants came at an early age. “Curiosity, intrigue and an ability to observe are gifts that I cherish,” he explains. “Combining these characteristics with mentoring from family and educators, I suppose, instilled the joy of nature from a very, very early age. Gardening was simply what was done for almost every household where I grew up.”

While to some gardening is a chore of weeding and insect control, to others it is a “delight in being outside and reaping the rewards of your efforts.”

Today’s consumers do their homework, he says. They take the time “to research an issue, an approach and the selection of plants available. The informed consumer today is on a mission, armed with oodles of information, whereas years ago developing the garden was just a regular household task.”

Gardening today has been “categorized, labeled and specified much more than ever before.

“As an example we can now find plants categorized according to cultural requirements, companions, xeriscape and drought tolerant, container specific, edible, ornamental and so on. Therefore attitudes have changed in my opinion, and for the better.

“Horticulture/gardening has been elevated to a level where it is socially expected that you will garden. The current association of gardening with lifestyle and healthy living has done wonders for the industry.”

Gardening is an “absolute passion,” he says, and can be “highly addictive. Garden centres and plant retailers should have warning signs or caution signs posted!”

People are motivated to garden for a variety of reasons, but most commonly because the accomplishments are tangible.

“In a world that is ever increasingly electronic and more distant from nature, the mere act of getting outside let alone in the garden is being regaled as a phenomenon.

“Those of us who garden understand that being physically tired after a day in the garden is considerably different than eight hours behind a desk in the office. The sheer joy of the first rose in bloom or the return of a butterfly, bird or garden creature does wonders for the psyche.

“What’s in it for them?… countless moments, memories and magic.”

The industry, he explains, has somewhat of a challenge in serving the millennial market. Communication is the key. Millenials have access to “massive amounts of information,” and retailers need to provide “specific, pertinent and locally germane information in a non-intimidating fashion.”
Gardening can be a little scary for newcomers, Beattie explains. “What if I don’t do this correctly,” they’ll wonder. “That’s why gentle mentorship, strong leadership, a proven, accountable track record, and above all, engagement with the millennials is the way to proceed.”

Gardening has much deeper roots in Europe, due to its history. North Americans are relative newcomers to gardening. “Canada is only 150 years old,” notes Beattie.

“Gardening and the appreciation of landscape and the importance of its societal role is inherent in the European culture. Passion is difficult to measure, therefore comparing North American emotion with European emotion may not be appropriate.

“We as North Americans are doing well as a younger culture, learning still from our European roots. It’s commonplace in many European cities for folks to purchase flowers weekly from the market or grocery store along with planting seasonal perennials, trees and shrubs. Availability of plant material and the inherent desire to “naturalize” the urban-scape play a huge roll as well.”

“The Earth’s Garden” is a 13-part award-winning documentary series, that has been broadcast to global audiences. The series aired in North America for one season and just recently has been acquired by Hortus TV for streaming via the Internet.

Its key message? “To understand plants is to understand life,” says Beattie. “The connections that we have spiritually, economically, physically, health-wise with plants. We as humans have much more in common than not.”

Beattie has also devoted considerable time and expertise to urban habitat development initiatives.

“Urban habitat is where most Canadian live, as such it is important that a natural component is ever present. I have developed programs to educate and encourage Canadians of all ages to ‘Grow Healthy Lifestyles,’ as well as to develop wildlife friendly habitats.”

The programs have been developed for a wide range of audiences across Canada.

Perennials have a special place in any garden or yard.

“They form the foundation or framework of a landscape/garden in my opinion. Reliable, consistent and of course ‘divisible,’ these workhorses of the garden are the backbone of the industry. Many gardeners consider perennial plants less maintenance than their annual counterparts. This may be true in some cases, but nevertheless the consumer seems to share this opinion.”

Perennials provide a longer season for the most part as well as a habitat for many beneficial insects. “This alone should be encouragement enough to fill your garden with perennial plants.”

Succulents and thematic garden design are among the recent trends in the perennial market.

Succulents, perhaps a short-lived trend, appeal to the novice gardener as they are rather low maintenance. “The media has done much to support incorporating succulents in designs as far reaching as vertical and roof gardens to balcony enclaves.”

Thematic design is very popular with urban gardeners and in particular those with smaller properties. Themed gardens in a colour range, a geographic sense such as Mediterranean or containerized are getting significant media attention these days. “Creative growers and retailers are wise to develop and market selections or ‘kits’ of plants that are tailored to a specific theme,” notes Beattie. “The sky is the limit.”

His CGC’16 topic is titled, “Fall Forward – The Final Act.”

“I would hope that growers and retailers alike will come away from my presentation with some enthusiasm to think outside of the box and be bold to create themed collections and/or kits of plants for fall planting.

“Additionally, I would be thrilled to learn that the industry is providing accurate, practical and of course valid information for our discerning and learned consumers.

“We are growing and should be sustaining new generations of gardeners,” says Beattie. “It is our responsibility as professionals to set the bar higher each and every season.”

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