April 15, 2009
It is truly difficult to put into words the energy that develops when people bring their abilities together to create something special. This unique feeling began to develop as soon as the idea of building LO’s booth entered my mind.  

We all know that Canada Blooms is our industry’s best exposure to the consumer. Over the last dozen or so years, many volunteers, companies and individuals believed in the brand that has become Canada Blooms. It may not be well publicized, but many of us outside the GTA region also believe in the brand. In fact, we want it to grow and prosper right across our province and our country.

Time to step up

This is why I thought it was time that those who criticize the lack of Landscape Ontario presence should step forward and help. Many clichés come to mind, including “put your money where your mouth is,” and, “Ask not what Canada Blooms will do for you, but what you can do for Canada Blooms!”

I was one of the most outspoken. It was mainly due to a passion for the industry and what I saw as missed opportunities to promote everything that we stand for. I especially felt that the volunteer work many of our chapter members willingly donate to their communities received little fanfare. Of course, our industry always acknowledges its own, but does the general public understand it? I sense not. This was my goal to change that.

After discussing this with my staff, their eyes lit up and within minutes the answer was to go for it. Our own Stephanie Scott unleashed her passionate design ideas and visionary skills. Within a day or two, I was receiving drafts of what the garden could look like.  
From there, my job was to sit back and enjoy the process of members working together to achieve a unified vision. This coupled with a most opportune unveiling of our wonderful branding initiative, all the ingredients were there to ensure success.
It is embarrassing for me to receive the praise for what we as a group achieved. Because, without so many dance partners this would not have been possible.  

You needed to have Canada Blooms and Landscape Ontario willing to have this contractor from Ottawa do his thing in prime real estate at the entrance to the show.

I needed my staff to know the high level that was expected and the amount of planning and re-planning necessary to ensure this could be done in a short time.

Fabulous help

I needed and received fabulous help and advice from our own head office staff, including Kristen McIntyre, Denis Flanagan, and of course the entire branding team of Lee Ann Knudsen, Robert Ellidge, Darren Bosch and Ian Service.

You need companies like PAO Horticultural to step up and provide the most dramatic of impact pieces, our history, our roots and our strength…our wonderful oak.

You need the Permacons, Fossil Landscapes, Moonstruck Landscape Lighting and Peter Bosman to provide thousands of dollars of product and time to help us do this within a budget.

You need staff members to work ‘til midnight to make sure all is ready and on schedule.

You need volunteers from as far away as Ottawa and Windsor, to local apprenticeship students from Humber and Kemptville who quickly took ownership of “their profession” and willingly and professionally helped.

There were many sleepless nights, heated arguments and frustrating hiccups that raised the stress level of everyone. The funny thing is the only common denominator not in jeopardy throughout the process was the desire to create a special showpiece.

There was the lousy air, of which we all complained. There were the head colds that everyone got (some worse than others), but no one complained about. How could you complain when testament to our being was proudly displayed as testimonials to the many community events in which we participate?

And then of course, the crowning glory was to watch the crowds and lineups circle our booth for a chance to be in our special place. It was a place which is dedicated to all the volunteers in our wonderful association.  

A place where a nice person like Vanessa Howarth could still be with us, despite being taken away from us …volunteering!

A place where Beth Edney can invite you into her “kitchen” for a bite to eat, while working countless hours on her booth and still help everyone else.

The moral of the story is there is phenomenal esprit de corps within our ranks when people believe in what you do. I believe now that many more people “get it” and that momentum has been created and that we should all be proud of this.

I also believe we don’t talk enough and communicate enough.  Instead, it is easier to criticize from the sidelines, instead of trying to make a difference. Believe me, it is a hell of a lot more fun to help than to throw mud.

Remuneration comes in different ways. No amount of money can pay for the smiles of elderly enjoying the flowers, or couples pensively reading the various community work displays or watching video in our booth.

You can’t pay me enough compared to when a student thanks me for the opportunity and says they thought it was “really cool,” and they were going to come back when the show was open and bring their parents.  

So instead of thanking me, look around and thank all the volunteers who year in and year out give of their time and make things better…for all of us.

Tim Kearney CLP
Garden Creations of Ottawa

Caption: Well-known weatherman Dave Devall received a special presentation at Canada Blooms from Landscape Ontario. He is shown on left with Mark Cullen.