Guelph Garden Seminars 2018

Grow your gardening know-how and enjoyment with this series of free garden seminars by Guelph-Wellington Master Gardeners and the City of Guelph’s Healthy Landscapes program.

Seating is limited – registration required. Please click on the seminar topics above for more information and to register.






A Day in the Garden: Gardening for Health and Healing

Gardening for Health and Healing is the theme of the Guelph-Wellington Master Gardeners’ annual “A Day in the Garden” event on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. Come escape the winter blues and be inspired for a new gardening season with insights from three speakers, as well as enjoying lunch, demonstrations and prizes.

Feature presentations:

Holistic Horticulture: Re-visioning Our Relationship with Plants by Jane New, MA, B.Ed., Horticultural Therapist 

For thousands of years humans have had an intimate relationship with plants and the natural world but the impact of western science has shifted that relationship. This presentation will explore the many ways that we can expand our vision of the plant world to encompass therapeutic connections as well as science-based knowledge.

Garden Seduction by Ken Brown, author and former Toronto Zoo horticulturist.

A general interest presentation where Ken allows his passion for all things horticultural to flow out to his audience. With anecdotes, facts, a wealth of experience and a generous sprinkling of humour, Ken entices even the blackest of thumbs to want to go out into the garden and partake of all of its benefits and pleasures. Participation in things horticultural can have positive benefits in so many aspects of our lives and Ken enthusiastically identifies and demonstrates how we can all improve those lives by spending some time Dallying in the Dirt.

The Medicine Garden – A Piece of History, a Path to Wellbeing and a Way to Save the World by Chris Lamont, Registered Herbalist

The Physic gardens of the Middle Ages were not just used for healing, but also for cultivating and studying medicinal plants. Today, there are close to 70,000 plants being used for their medicinal properties, many of which can easily be grown in our gardens. Growing our own medicine gives us the opportunity to care for ourselves and our loved ones, while also protecting some valuable species that have been over-harvested to the point of near extinction.  Join Chris Lamont, Registered Herbalist as he discusses the medicinal qualities and therapeutic uses of plants you can grow at home.

There will also be an opportunity to shop at vendor tables, including:

Tickets are $50 in advance or $55 at the door.

The event takes place from 8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Victoria Park East Golf Club (1096 Victoria Rd. S., Guelph, ON).

To register:


Annual Spring Plant Sale, May 26, 2018

Guelph-Wellington Master Gardeners, Nature Guelph and The Guelph Enabling Garden are joining forces again this year for a combined plant sale Saturday, May 26, at the City of Guelph Waterworks Department (29 Waterworks Place).

The event takes place 9 a.m.-2 p.m., rain or shine. The City of Guelph Water Services will be selling rain barrels at the event.

Cash and cheques will be accepted. For more information or to donate or volunteer, please email

How to bring Amaryllis back into bloom

Amaryllis are popular holiday gift plants, no doubt because of their large, showy flowers and easy care.  Although many people throw them out after blooming, it is possible to bring your Amaryllis back into bloom every year.

To bring your Amaryllis into bloom again, you need to provide the same conditions that the plants experience in nature. Amaryllis are native to tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas, growing in areas with a warm humid growing season and a short, dry and cooler resting season.  You need to provide your Amaryllis with two seasons instead of four!

First, extend your enjoyment of the flowers by keeping your Amaryllis in a location with diffuse light and cool temperatures during this holiday season.  Keep it barely moist, being careful not to wet the part of the bulb that is above the soil.  After the flowers fade, cut the flower stalks near the top of the bulb being careful not to damage the leaves, then place the pot in a sunny window.  Over the winter the leaves will make food to store in the bulb for next year’s flowers.  If the pot does not have drainage holes, repot it into a pot that has them.

In the spring, when all risk of frost is past, move the bulb outdoors to a sunny spot on the deck or in a flower bed where you will remember to water it.  Fertilize the bulb with dilute fertilizer when you plant it out and fertilize again monthly.  Water when dry but do not overwater.  The winter and summer have combined to provide a long, warm, humid season for your bulb, season one.

Your Amaryllis needs a short, dry, cool season before blooming again, season two.   Decide when you want it to flower and count back 90 days.   That date is the start of the dry season; for December holiday blooms the dry season should start in late August, for February blooms the dry season starts in late October.

At the chosen date, cut the leaves down to 3 to 4 cm and move the Amaryllis to a cool, dim spot in the basement or in the back of a closet.   Stop watering and fertilizing and let the bulb sleep for ten weeks.   At the end of the rest period, replace the soil, leaving at least 1/3 of the  bulb above the soil.   Water once and move to a bright, sunny area.  Do not water again until you see new leaves emerging.    Keep it warm, moist and in bright light until the first flower opens.   Flower stalks will be long, weak and prone to falling over if the light is too dim.

Repeat indefinitely; if you provide the right conditions your Amaryllis will grow and multiply over the years and reward you with multiple flower stalks as it grows larger.

Judy Brisson, Guelph-Wellington County Master Gardeners  

This post was first published in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of the Puslinch Pioneer.


Banish winter blues with Bay Laurel

A generous dose of  Lauris nobilis can help banish the winter blues. You may know this splendid perennial with the dark green leathery leaves as Bay Laurel and you have probably been using its fragrant  leaves in your soups and stews for years. Planting and tending a small specimen of this treasure indoors, on a sunny window sill, will surely boost your spirits until those first blessed spring days when it can be moved to a warm, sheltered, partly sunny spot on your patio or in your garden. The ultimate size of your Lauris nobilis – outdoors, in ideal conditions and left unpruned, it can reach a height of 18 metres – will be determined by the size of the container you choose for it. In a 12-inch pot and carefully pruned the growth will generally be limited to 1.5 metres. Small yellow flowers appear on female specimens in early spring and develop into purple berries in autumn.

Starting your plant from seed will only make you more depressed – it will take 6 months for germination – so I strongly recommend the fast and cheerful version. Purchase a 15 cm or slightly larger potted specimen from a reputable nursery such as Richter’s. Caution: insist on Laurus nobilis, since this plant, often sold under other names, may not be edible.  Attractive hybrids such as Laurus nobilis ‘Augustifolia’, Laurus nobilis ‘Auria’, and Laurus nobilis ‘Undulata’ present interesting variations.

Transfer the young Bay Laurel, carefully, to a decorative flower pot; standard garden soil mix is adequate. Take care to ensure that good drainage is available since overwatering is to be avoided. This Mediterranean native requires as warm and sunny a spot as you can provide but will tolerate some shadiness. Like most houseplants Bay Laurel will benefit from a light misting during winter months to maintain a good level of humidity. Slow growth during this period is beneficial since it helps to limit size. Occasionally pinch back some  leaves to encourage branching. Indoors, feed an organic fertilizer spring and midsummer. When used as a patio feature it must be brought indoors before temperatures fall below 0 degrees centigrade or whenever frost or freezing rains are imminent.

Bay Laurel offers us a cheerful, rich green presence during these dark snowbound days while providing just the right aromatic seasoning for a heart-and-soul warming winter stew. With patience, both you and your new Laurus nobilis will soon be back in that garden where you both belong!

Come to think of it, wouldn’t a Bay Laurel in a hand-crafted pottery container make just about the best Christmas present a gardener friend could ever wish for?

Go for it!

— Dana Rodgers, Guelph-Wellington Master Gardener

A version of this post first appeared in the November 2017 issue of the Puslinch Pioneer.

Master Gardeners featured in Toronto Star

The history, purpose, qualifications and contributions of Canada’s Master Gardeners are showcased in a Toronto Star feature by gardening expert Mark Cullen and son Ben Cullen, a member of Guelph-Wellington Master Gardeners.

The article, Master Gardeners are in a class of their own, published Nov. 11, describes how MGs “contribute much to the gardening community at large, elevating both our appreciation and knowledge of horticulture over the years.”

The Cullens write:

“Master Gardeners are dedicated to the art and science of gardening. And, with their generosity of knowledge and time — on public garden tours, at local horticulture societies, at small shows and big ones such as Canada Blooms and in various online forums — they help sustain a broader community of Canadian gardeners.”

Many thanks to Mark and Ben for spreading the word about Canada’s Master Gardeners!

Read The Star article.

Garden magic in New Zealand

Kia Ora! (good health in Maori)

A recent job offer in Auckland New Zealand prompted my husband and I to pack up four suitcases with an assortment of clothing and take the opportunity to live in a country known for its natural beauty.  Auckland is in the midst of a booming economy with an influx of 40,000 new immigrants every year.  We luckily found short term accommodation within walking distance of the Auckland Botanic Gardens.  I was in heaven!

Auckland Botanic is a 64-hectare oasis in South Auckland, approximately 20 km from downtown Auckland.  As you approach the gardens you can hear the steady roar of highway traffic on a very busy motorway, which runs from south to north of Auckland city.  Very soon though the noise of the traffic lessens as you are transported to the serenity of the large and beautiful gardens, peaceful streams, and friendly Kiwi’s and visitors all who say hello, good morning or gidday!

In the perennial beds, I found many familiar plants, many still blooming, although it is winter on this side of the world!  Other gardens contained camellias, hibiscus and roses, which still had lots of colour.  The magnolias were in bud.  There is an edible garden, with rain harvesting and worm composting.  The food from this garden supplies the lovely café on the premises where you can enjoy great food and excellent coffee.  I was fortunate to meet with two of the managers on site who treated me to one of these great coffees and private tour of the gardens.  Auckland Botanic’s garden focus is to educate the public by offering free or low-cost workshops, bus trips and access to a wonderful library.  Frequent crowds of young school children come to learn about the garden, worm composting and pollination. The garden’s library and large visitor centres have friendly staff.  They provide the public with information on what to grow in this temperate climate with humid conditions and clay soil.  All of this with no entrance fee!

All together I spent a week walking about the Auckland Botanic.  Every day brought a new surprise in the gardens or in nature. Colourful Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule) with giant red mustard (Brassica juncea), a beautiful contrast in a border, greeted me each day with more poppies in bloom.  I spotted an eel and a native duck in the pond and colourful parrots (originally from Australia) and butterflies flew in and around the gardens.

Gorgeous, huge tree ferns such as black tree fern (Cyathea medultaris), wheki-ponga (Dicksonia fibrosa) and a smaller wheki (Dicksonia squarrosa) are all available to view in the gardens.  Along with the South African kaffir lily (Clivia minata), Bromeliads and the Tree Aloe add to the tropical feel of New Zealand.  There are examples of many native trees including pohutukawa (Metrosideros excels) with beautiful red flowers, ribbonwood (Plagianthus regius), and the cabbage tree (Cordyline australis), a favourite among many Kiwi gardeners.

Another high point of the trip was an invitation to take part in a “work day” at one Auckland’s premier private gardens, Ayrlies Garden in Whitford, which I happily accepted.  What a treat to see these expansive gardens and wetlands.  I spent the day hauling mulch and digging out errant Harake flax (Phormium Tenax).  I was fortunate enough to meet the owner Beverley and her daughter Stephanie, genuine friendly Kiwi’s.  I came equipped with my “gum boots” and new garden gloves. Customs is very strict about gardening tools and contaminants on boots, so we made sure our boots (garden and hiking) were spotlessly clean when we had first arrived. These islands are very susceptible to foreign invaders and the latest is the airborne Myrtle rust.  Many of New Zealand’s native plants are from the Myrtle family.

Although it has been a short time since we first came to New Zealand we haven’t been disappointed with its beauty.  Be forewarned though, come prepared for physical exertion as Auckland and New Zealand can be very hilly in some areas (Auckland is built around 48 extinct volcanic cones)  and driving can be a little crazy on the winding and twisting roads (especially on the left!)  But the views of the sea and large rolling hillsides with of course the requisite sheep (also cows and horses) are worth it!

Christine Hamilton, Guelph-Wellington Master Gardener

Exploring the lush gardens and vineyards of Niagara

There were garden delights and inspiration for everyone (and then some!) during the Guelph Wellington Master Gardeners’ (GWMG) annual bus tour, an excursion that featured five enchanting private gardens, two wineries and a marvellous visit to Vineland Nurseries in the lush Niagara Region June 24.

The trip first took us to the neighbouring gardens of photographer Marilyn Cornwell and artist Laurie-Ann Braun in Grimsby. Marilyn’s romantic Victorian garden features a lovely antique conservatory, special plants such as a Seven Sons Flower (Heptacodium), Calycanthus, an amazing tri-colour beech and intricately woven willow trees. Across the street, Laurie-Ann’s garden greets visitors with mature Japanese maples out front and a private back garden with a wonderful pool and entertaining area surrounded by lush, graciously placed plantings.

Our next stop, the home of mother-daughter gardening duo Mary Lynn Horton and Amy Skelton in Beamsville, presented an abundance of unique shrubs and trees, including fig trees in containers, mimosa trees, an umbrella pine, a Paulownia tree, purple robe locusts, Northern Mahogany Black bamboo and Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) trees that yielded more tha 40 Paw Paws last year! The gorgeous koi pond, a winding pathway to a private seating area and the birdsong that fills the air makes for a very peaceful garden space!

In St. Catharines, Barb and Al Large welcomed us to their spectacular cottage garden and a stunning valley experience:  Numerous heritage trees include a maple more than 250 years old out front and 100-year-old willows pruned every few years to frame the backyard, a wee winding stream running though the garden, a water feature, and fabulous roses and vines.

The fifth and final garden of the day provided an utterly unique and unexpected experience with a collection of hardy, sub-tropical and tropicals that likely cannot be matched anywhere else in Canada. Owner Dave Wootton says his garden is blessed by being one of the warmest areas in Canada, sitting very nearly on the shore of  Lake Ontario in Beamsville (Lincoln). The amazing variety of plant specimens in this Harry-Potter-like garden are set off by the water features Dave constructed himself using copper tubing and old brass/copper plates that were found on walls of homes in the 60s. Two conservatories protect many of the tropicals from deep winter.  

Fortunately there was room in the belly of the bus to accommodate the trees, shrubs and perennials that many GWMGs picked up at Vineland Nurseries, which specializes in “special plants for small spaces,” including dwarf and unusual evergreens, heathers, rhododendrons, Japanese maples and bamboos. The family-run nursery is a labour of love for owners Jim and Simone Lounsberry and their three children and dedicated staff. Several tri-coloured beeches found themselves along for the ride, no doubt inspired by the tree in Marilyn’s backyard!

Interwoven into the day’s activities was a stop at  Featherstone Estate Winery, where co-owner and winemaker David Johnson talked about their approach to maintaining immaculate vineyards on their 23 acres without the use of chemical pesticides, an approach helped by the lambs that strip the grape leaves from the lower part of the vines.  A delicious tasting experience included the superb Black Sheep Reisling, named for their contribution to the wine-making process.

Finally, a visit to De Sousa Vineyards capped off the day’s adventures with a vineyard tour and wine sampling, including a Baco Noir and lovely ice wine.

GWMG wish to thank everyone who so generously hosted us this year, as well as Bob and Leslie Newman for planning this whirlwind adventure, an inspiring day that will be long remembered.



Sean James, GWMG, receives an Ontario Volunteer Service Award!

07 Mar 2017 5:25 PM | Anonymous
Sean James, a Guelph-Wellington Master Gardener, will receive an Ontario Volunteer Service Award! We want to thank Sean for his hard work and dedication. Sean is an extremely knowledgeable member who continually strives to learn and share his passion for gardening by giving talks, inviting discussion and writing articles that foster Master Gardeners. Sean enthusiastically uses social media to promote gardening and environmental issues. Sean is an inspiration to us all!”Sean will be receiving his award from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship on April 19, 2017. Congratulations Sean!