March 21, 2022 By Greta Chiu
2022 is turning out to be a special year for Canada’s ornamental horticulture sector. Not only has it been proclaimed the Year of the Garden, it also marks the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.
“The Year of the Garden is this centennial celebration of our garden culture,” explains Michel Gauthier, executive director of the Canadian Garden Council.
The non-profit association had begun planning for the Year of the Garden prior to COVID. Now with the gradual lifting of pandemic restrictions, their timing turned out to be more apt than they could have imagined.
“[This] is an opportunity to profile to government how important this industry is and the role that it plays,” Gauthier says. “When we speak about gardens and gardening today, it’s not what it was 10 [or] 15 years ago. It’s changing.”
The practice has had widespread appeal, attracting those interested in healthy eating and minimizing environmental impact. The result is a sector that has made a profound impact on the nation’s economy and the quality of life in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, sales in ornamental products for the home and garden rose 9.5 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year.
With the many new and young gardeners who took up the hobby during COVID, now is the time to water these “young roots,” says Gauthier. “If there’s one sector that’s benefited from COVID, it’s the ornamental horticulture sector. We saw more people gardening….and there’s demand for more product.”
To celebrate, Gauthier says they’re inviting gardeners to plant “red” to “honour front-line workers and to show their gardening pride.” Members of the public can also sign up their gardens as Celebration Gardens and to “Live the Garden Life.” “Maybe they want to redo their garden, their backyard and turn it into a garden sanctuary,” he says. Whatever the goal, he anticipates that this will motivate consumers to spend more time with plants. Celebration Gardens will appear on a map of Canada, and their owners will receive a certificate commemorating their participation.
Garden centres can also take advantage of the theme and promote the Year of the Garden by highlighting red ornamentals among their product selection. Industry partners can financially support the endeavor by becoming a promotional partner.
Co-chair of the advisory board for the Year of the Garden, Gloria Beck of Parkland Nurseries and Garden Centre in Red Deer, Alta., says they kicked off the year with ice sculptures specially engraved for this occasion.
“Garden centres often do events or educational videos. They can increase the awareness this year to live the garden life and encourage friends, neighbours and children to garden,” she says.
For consumers who don’t have space in their yard, they can always turn to container gardening and houseplants. “Garden centers and greenhouses have a huge role to play in the education [and] the sharing of information,” she says.
For Parkland, they often hold functions in the gardens surrounding their garden centre. The team is currently planning the year’s activities, including opportunities with local schools for engaging school-aged children.
“Last year, we invited our Indigenous friends and had a pow-wow here, for example. People came to watch and they shared the history of their dances and what they meant. The Chief looked around and saw the plants and flowers and said ‘this is where we should be dancing – in nature.’ That resonated with me.”
She encourages garden centres and greenhouses to talk to their municipalities and have them proclaim their city, town or village to be a part of the Year of the Garden. “I did that here in the County of Red Deer and the City of Red Deer. Both have proclaimed to be involved with the Year of the Garden for 2022.”
“Vesey Seeds have named an official ‘Year of the Garden’ tulip,” says Gauthier. A variety known as ‘Graffity,’ they will be on display in the National Capital Region. Canadian gardeners will be able to purchase this particular variety in May for planting in the fall, as a legacy to the Year of the Garden when they bloom in 2023.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the YOTG tulip will be on display as part of the Canadian Tulip Festival held annually in Ottawa. This point has not yet been clarified and has been removed for the time being. We apologize for the error.
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