April 1, 2019
Tony DiGiovanniLandscape Ontario staff choose one word to act as a theme for the year. This year’s word is “renewal.” Spring is also about renewal. By the time you read this, the long-awaited (and much-needed) spring season will have arrived. You will be in the midst of a maddening schedule. Hopefully, your company will be fully-staffed. The biggest challenge facing our members is finding employees. In a recent survey of members, 80 per cent said they could take on more work if they had the staff. This challenge is by far the largest issue facing our profession. Landscape Ontario’s new Strategic Plan is placing a renewed emphasis on this issue. We are focused on trying to find solutions to this perennial, wide-spread and complex issue.

Spring is also the season for home and garden shows. Our members shine at these events. Canada Blooms is the largest garden show in Canada, and the second largest in North America. Our members are involved in many local shows across the province, from Windsor to Ottawa. The outstanding garden displays built for these festivals seem to contradict what I often hear about our profession having a poor image. Visitors cannot help but realize the awesome creativity and professional mastery involved in building a garden. Garden builders at these events elevate our profession and inspire the public, allowing them to see the beauty and benefit we contribute to enhancing the quality of life.

This year, Landscape Ontario printed 70,000 copies of Garden Inspiration magazine to distribute at the many home and garden shows across the province. The magazine helps to promote the benefits of plants, gardens and green spaces, and promotes the hiring of our professional members. I would like to thank all members who helps to build incredible gardens at various shows across Ontario. You inspire the public. You make us look good.

At Canada Blooms, I attended a book launch hosted by Mark and Ben Cullen. Their book is called Escape to Reality: How the World is Changing Gardening and Gardening is Changing the World. Theirs is not your typical gardening book. Although it offers great information and tips on how to maintain a beautiful and healthy garden, it goes well beyond. It places gardeners at the centre of a movement to change the world for the better. It encourages us to understand that we are part of a large, interdependent ecosystem and our job is to work with nature in order to enhance the environment.

Traditional gardeners are in a constant war with insects. Mark suggests we create insect hotels. Traditional gardeners focus on clean gardens, straight edges and manicured lawns. Mark suggests that rot and decay are a gardeners friend. The book also focuses on the importance of food gardens and dedicates a number of chapters to ideas, programs and examples of how urban life can be vastly improved by energizing and mobilizing the community to create local food gardens where the produce is shared by all. Imagine a city where everyone is taught how to grow, preserve and share food right in their neighbourhood. I am personally intrigued by this idea. In my experience, this is the way it used to be. As Italian immigrants, my parents and their friends created vegetable plots in every available space. My grandfather even got into trouble because he expanded his extensive vegetable garden into the vacant field beside my parents’ home. Food was always plentiful in our house because most of it was grown in our front and backyards. I remember being embarrassed because my mother would wander downtown Toronto streets picking dandelions. They were delicious. When we were sick, she would frequent the laneways looking for chamomile plants growing in the cracks of the pavement.

I love the idea of gardening as an environmental and social movement. This is what Mark and Ben’s book is really about — renewal of the garden profession.

Proceeds from the book are used to support an amazing Highway of Heroes Living Tribute campaign. The goal is to plant two million trees on, and adjacent to, the stretch of Highway 401 from Trenton to Toronto, officially named the Highway of Heroes. This movement recognizes the sacrifice of the 117,000 individuals who gave their lives for our country and the 1.8 million who volunteered during times of war. Recently, the federal government announced $2.9 million in support for the project. Last year, the provincial government contributed $1 million. In addition, $3.5 million has been raised from private sources. The project is gaining momentum.

And speaking of renewal: At the last LO provincial board meeting, a presentation was made by a committee to revisit our membership categories and dues structure. The goal of the committee was to devise a new membership scheme that would align with our values of professionalism, stewardship, community and leadership. The new scheme would also encourage inclusivity and reward continuous improvement. The best part of the presentation is that it was authored by an enthusiastic and energetic group of board members well under the age of 40. In fact, many of our board members are under 40.

Renewal is in the air. Have a great spring.
Tony DiGiovanni
LO Executive Director