February 15, 2012
LO volunteers work to create garden with impact at Canada Blooms
LO’s Green for Life garden at last year’s Canada Blooms measured in at over 9,000 sq. ft. This year the build team will create a more intimate garden, just under 1,400 sq. ft.
By Paul Doornbos CLP, CLT
LO garden site supervisor

Many of you may remember past LO champion Tim Kearney CLP talking about esprit des corps that occurs as a result of participation in a garden build at Canada Blooms.  

Executive director Tony DiGiovanni will tell you that his counterparts across the horticulture industry are blown away with amazement and are even somewhat flabbergasted trying to conceive the notion of industry competitors coming together to produce gardens of distinction and collaboration.

Past president Tom Intven called it the ‘LO gene’ of prosperity through engagement.

Current LO president Phil Charal has challenged us to build on that theme of engagement with a focus on relevance.

All of this leads us to this year’s Canada Blooms. Our association is one of the co-founders of the show. Over four years ago, some asked why our industry didn’t have a more visible presence.

In typical LO member fashion, we responded with a kinaesthetic answer. We got involved! We began to show what we meant by building gardens from Ecotopia, to 2,500 sq. ft., to 5,600 sq. ft., to 9,000 sq. ft., combined with 4,500 sq. ft. of vertical space.
We pushed the limits of possibility, creativity and implementation each year with increased size and more complex concepts. But, we also learned a hard lesson: “Bigger isn’t always better.” The bigger/better gardens taxed many members physically, mentally, and the very LO gene referred to earlier.

As an association, we advocate work/life balance. But for a large number of member participants in the LO garden, we didn’t take our own advice and the scope, pace and challenges took a toll. It wouldn’t be sustainable at the double-or-nothing pace we were on. Sometimes progress involves realization and a willingness to take a step back by looking in the mirror and examining the result and the end goal.  

With this in mind, the LO Canada Blooms Design/Build Committee 2012 has come up with a much smaller (1,373 sq. ft.) garden. The passion, professionalism, dedication and attention to detail remain the same. Humour is also very much present as evident in the comments from some of the veteran build members. “We could fit this year’s garden in last year’s water feature,” followed by, “Yes, but size doesn’t matter. It’s all in how you use the space!”

Challenges facing team

There are some challenges that face this year’s team following the impressive and largest LO garden to date, with the smallest and yet equally impactful garden. Some wonder how the smaller garden will look. Another concern is scheduling people and materials needed in the construction phase to operate efficiently in a smaller space. This year’s show will be open for ten days, which means choosing proper plant material, developing a way to equally recognize participants, scheduling a plant change mid-way through the show, and to develop a tear-down team and schedule. There are all components and considerations equally vital to the overall success of the garden.

One distinct advantage to a smaller space is that it is easier to create an intimate atmosphere. It will also enable many of the visitors to visualize the space as their own, as it would fit, or be comparable to many of their own green spaces.

The team is working well together with the sense of pride, passion and commitment all evident during our planning meetings. The communication among members is excellent and the emphasis is to deliver not only a garden for the industry to be proud of, but also a process/system that will enable future teams of LO garden builders to utilize the experience of those who went before them without being overwhelmed with the tasks. This will allow for many LO members to participate in the coming years, thereby sustaining LO’s presence, relevance and engagement in Canada Blooms.

We hope to once again deliver a garden that shows off the talents of our industry, reflects the engagement of our members while continuing to build our relevance within our provincial and national community.