September 15, 2013
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO executive director

Tony DiGiovanni Although it is difficult to define exactly what leadership is, I can spot it a mile away. I expect you can, too. The strength of Landscape Ontario is its ability to attract hundreds of leaders and leading organizations that continually inspire others to care and accept responsibility for advancing and improving the industry and each others lives.

Thankfully, leadership is infectious. One of my favourite sayings from Stephen Covey is, “Leadership is a choice — not a position.” We are blessed with many members who make the choice to work together in a common effort to grow a prosperous, professional, ethical, recognized, valued and contribution-oriented horticultural community.   

Recently, I read a book entitled, C.A.R.E. Leadership by one of our members Peter Van Stralen (The Grounds Guys). Peter has done an excellent job at defining transformational leadership principles. It is a must-read for members in our industry. You can pick up the book from Amazon, or go to  

Leaders for 100 years

Another excellent book is Sheridan Nurseries: One Hundred Years of People, Plans and Plants by Ed Butts and Karl E. Stensson. It is the story of one of Canada’s leading organizations that not only shaped Canada’s horticulture industry, but was instrumental in forming CNLA and Landscape Ontario. You can pick up a copy of the book from

I had the good fortune to attend (along with over 1,000 other guests) the Sheridan Nurseries Gala to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary.  What a night! It was a fitting tribute to the longevity and legacy of Sheridan Nurseries as a Canadian horticultural icon, with the evening’s entertainment for the event Canadian music icon Gordon Lightfoot.

There was also an archive display that highlighted the rich history of the company and the industry. I could have spent hours looking at photographs, old catalogues, tools, medals, plans, awards and other items that chronicled Sheridan’s important leadership role. Hopefully Sheridan will find a way to make the historical items available online, so many more people can learn and be inspired by our history.

And speaking of horticultural leaders, Debbie Whitehouse retired from Niagara Parks Commission this month. Debbie always reflected Niagara Parks in a competent, professional, dignified, diplomatic and enthusiastic manner. Debbie is one of those unique and inspiring leaders motivated by a service-oriented contribution ethic. In her long career, she left behind a legacy in those she has influenced simply by being a wonderful role model. We wish Debbie well in her retirement.  

Trial gardens

I would also like to recognize a few other industry leaders. Rodger Tschanz from the University of Guelph is instrumental in coordinating the annual trial garden event at the Landscape Ontario home office. Rodger is passionate about plants, but more than that he is passionate about people. Landscape Ontario is very fortunate to be the recipient of Rodger’s deep knowledge and exceptional character.  

I am also pleased to acknowledge the contributions of Paul Zammit, horticultural director from the Toronto Botanical Garden, who spoke at the trial garden open house on container gardening. I have never heard such an energetic and enthusiastic speaker. Wayne Brown from OMAFA delivered a talk called Downy Mildew on Impatiens — Industry Slayer.  What was once a staple of shade gardens is having a tough time surviving the disease.     
A week before the open house event, the gardens were full of weeds. One telephone call to Gerald Boot resulted in a visit from a team of professionals from Boots Landscaping. The gardens never looked better.   Thank you Gerald — another wonderful industry leader!

Recently Canada’s premiers met at Niagara-on-the-Lake. It afforded an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about our industry. A simple telephone call to Tim Miotto of Mori Nurseries and Tonie Mori from Mori Gardens resulted in an amazing garden display at the conference. In the middle of the garden display, we placed a sign that read, “Compliments of the Nursery/Floriculture and Landscape Industry — Did you know that Ontario’s green industry employs 70,000 people, generates 7 billion dollars of economic benefit and is responsible for 1 billion dollars of farm gate value. In addition it enhances lives through economic, environmental, social, recreational, therapeutic and legacy benefits of gardens, plants and green space.”  

Leadership is a choice! We are fortunate to have so many members who choose to work together on behalf of our industry.   

Now a word on another topic — Flora Niagara…  We are sorry to report we have not been successful at raising funds to stage this international event. However, the pursuit of the event has proven to be a very successful government relations activity. Flora Niagara put us in front of many MPPs, MPs, mayors, councillors and media. It gave us the opportunity to tell the story of our wonderful industry to people who would have never heard about us. We were able to plant many seeds, which will grow opportunities in the future.  
Tony DiGiovanni may be contacted at or at 1-800-265-5656, ext. 304.

Sheridan Nurseries held a gala event on Aug. 16 to celebrate its 100th anniversary. Guests were entertained by Canadian music legend Gordon Lightfoot.

The two sides of Tom.
The two sides of Phil.