So­ci­ety is 90 years old and shovel ready

GO Plant sale cel­e­bra­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - KATHY RENWALD

The Mount Hamil­ton Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety turns 90 this year and they’re throw­ing a plant sale.

On a brisk spring day, I go up to visit a work crew from the so­ci­ety. Jake Van­mil is wrestling a tree out of the ground, and Ica Smith ratch­ets over­crowded day lilies from a peren­nial bor­der.

Since 1999, mem­bers of the so­ci­ety have been look­ing af­ter the gar­den at Ja­son’s House, a res­i­dence for peo­ple with cere­bral palsy op­er­ated by the March of Dimes.

He­len MacPher­son, who has been a mem­ber for 30 years, works with a core group at Ja­son’s House on the Moun­tain five or six times a year.

“When I joined the so­ci­ety I didn’t know any­thing about gar­den­ing,” she says. “I’ve learned so much, but vol­un­teer­ing here is the most re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence you could ask for.”

Res­i­dents can see the lovely gar­den from in­side the house, or from the ac­ces­si­ble path.

“The neigh­bours love it, and peo­ple drive here just to see it,” says Pam Rogers, com­mu­nity case co­or­di­na­tor at Ja­son’s House.

On this day, about 10 mem­bers of the hor­ti­cul­tural so­ci­ety are mov­ing plants, and edg­ing and weed­ing. Van­mil, 92, is wait­ing for a chain­saw to stop so he can con­tinue reef­ing the tree’s roots.

“I’ve been vol­un­teer­ing here as long as I can re­mem­ber,” says Van­mil, who joined the so­ci­ety 50 years ago.

Among this group, com­mit­ment runs deep as the roots of a wal­nut tree. When the group formed in 1927, the Moun­tain be­yond Con­ces­sion Street be­longed to farms and fields, and some of it was pretty messy. Cit­i­zens were fret­ting about van­dal­ism, so the call went out for im­prove­ment and beau­ti­fi­ca­tion.

In stepped the Mount Hamil­ton Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety — ready to weed, dig and plant. Tulips went in at the top of the Sher­man Cut, scil­las were planted on the Queen Street hill, petu­nias bloomed at the Moun­tain Li­brary, and the Mount Hamil­ton Ceme­tery got a reg­u­lar spring clean­ing. While many clubs strug­gle to re­main rel­e­vant, this group keeps grow­ing.

“We cur­rently have 130 mem­bers. In the last 2½ years we have at­tracted around 50 new mem­bers,” says Claire Kostyshyn, the so­ci­ety’s pres­i­dent.

Also work­ing at Ja­son’s House is Brenda Tay­lor, a new so­ci­ety mem­ber who was per­suaded to join by a neigh­bour.

“I didn’t know how to trim shrubs prop­erly, or the cor­rect way to pot up plants,” she says. “I’ve just learned so much from all the mem­bers.”

Over the dreary win­ter they line up ex­cel­lent speak­ers for their monthly meet­ings, mem­bers bring in plants to swap, and in the spring Van­mil al­ways has a new crop of gera­ni­ums, cus­tom grown for the so­ci­ety.

Once the weather warms up, gar­den vis­its be­gin. The dou­ble blood­root is much ad­mired at Kay and Tad Suzuki’s, as is the art­ful prun­ing at Kostyshyn’s Ja­panese-in­spired gar­den.

I was in­vited to visit the gar­den of Heather and Ron French this week to see the helle­bores and prim­ula.

“The gar­den is ma­ture but we’ve made changes to add more pri­vacy and use more plants that need less work,” says Heather French. “Peonies, se­dums and oak leaf hy­drangea are all long lived and pretty trou­ble free; the box­wood was grown by some­one in the so­ci­ety.”

Mem­ber­ship in the Mount Hamil­ton Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety is a bar­gain at $13 a year. But the so­ci­ety needs to raise money for projects, for the plant and mon­e­tary do­na­tions they make, and bur­saries for out­stand­ing hor­ti­cul­tural stu­dents at Mo­hawk Col­lege.

Their ma­jor fundraiser is the yearly plant sale. This year it’s Satur­day, May 20, at Che­doke Pres­by­te­rian Church, 865 Mo­hawk Rd. W., start­ing at 9 a.m.

From mem­bers’ gar­dens ex­pect to see hostas, day lilies, cone­flower, phlox, or­na­men­tal grasses, an­nu­als and veg­eta­bles.

A mixed bag turns up at the trea­surer’s ta­ble, from tools to bird­houses to sur­prise plants. The con­nois­seur ta­ble holds de­lec­ta­ble plants, a rare rose, a choco­late brown clema­tis, a gor­geous Ja­panese iris.

Keep­ing a club go­ing and grow­ing for 90 years is im­pres­sive, but Mount Hamil­ton isn’t the old­est, notes Kostyshyn.

“Brant­ford Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety has been around for 165 years. We have some catch­ing up to do.”

JOHN RENNISON, THE HAMIL­TON SPECTATOR

Bill McPher­son and other mem­bers of the Mount Hamil­ton Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety dig up plants at Ja­son’s House (a home for pa­tients with cere­bral palsy), to be sold at the so­ci­ety’s plant sale May 20. They are com­ing back later to redo the gar­den.

PHO­TOS OF FLOW­ERS BY KATHY RENWALD, SPE­CIAL TO THE HAMIL­TON SPECTATOR

For pesky shady ar­eas, the dainty epimedium is a sur­pris­ingly tough plant.

Wind­flow­ers clus­ter near a path in the Frenches’ gar­den, above, while prim­u­las sup­ply bright colour.

JOHN RENNISON, THE HAMIL­TON SPECTATOR

So­ci­ety mem­bers Lor­raine Stacey, cen­tre, and Betty Park ex­tract plants at Ja­son’s House for the May 20 sale.

KATHY RENWALD, SPE­CIAL TO THE HAMIL­TON SPECTATOR

When Heather French joined the so­ci­ety she was a novice gar­dener. Now, her years of learn­ing are on dis­play in her small back­yard.

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