Pink Booties Or Blue Booties?

Does My Ginkgo Wear Pink Booties Or Blue Booties?

I have finally gotten around to planting a Ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) in my backyard this summer. Known as the Maidenhair Tree, this conifer is thought to have originated in China–growing as far back in time as the dinosaur age. It has a very feminine appearance with its unusual fan shaped leaves which turn a glorious yellow in autumn. While most garden books state that ginkgos grow 50′-80′ feet tall and have a spread of 25′-40′, I have never seen them grow that big in the North. Although they are extremely hardy to zones 3-10 and tolerant of salt and pollution, they can rarely be found growing in Northern gardens which I think is a downright shame considering that there are no needles or cones to contend with. They make a great shade tree. If you travel to New York City, you will see ginkgos lining the boulevards because they are so tough.

Ginkgos flourish in rich, organic soil in full sun providing they receive sufficient water and TLC in their first year to get them well established. My ginkgo came potted in a plastic container so I was able to place the tree in the shade and keep it well watered until I was ready to give it a permanent home. In the North we ensure that the width of the hole we dig is at least three times the diameter of the root ball and that the sides of the hole are broken up to allow for water to penetrate the soil. I tend to practice ‘tough love’ with my trees so I rarely amend the soil in the planting hole apart from adding MYKE and/or bonemeal to promote root growth. Most importantly, though, I take the time to make sure that the tree I am planting is transplanted no deeper than the soil in which it was originally grown.

What most gardeners don’t know (and I didn’t until recently) is that the ginkgo’s male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. Apparently the female trees produce yellow fruits that resemble plums (which I like) that smell like rotten eggs (which I most certainly don’t like). According to my research, you really can’t determine the sex of a ginkgo grown from seed until it has flowered which can take up to 20 years so that leaves me scratching my head and wondering if my ginkgo is male or female. I suppose I will have to wait until I am in my mid-70s to find out. In any case, I hope to gaze at this wonderful tree’s beauty for some time to come.

If you are interested in planting a ginkgo, visit your local greenhouse and inquire about the range of male species they carry. “Fastigata” has a wonderful upright form, ‘Pendula’ is a weeping variety and ‘Autumn Gold” is a spreader with terrific fall colour.


Paint the Picket Challenge

Paint the Picket Challenge

Ever come across something so inspiring that you can’t wait to share it with others?

Several years ago, I visited the Spanish Horticultural Society’s Flower and Vegetable Show where I learned all about their “Paint the Picket” category. Members registered free of charge (non-members paid $5.00) and each was provided with a wooden picket. They were instructed to prime and decoratively paint the picket using a horticultural theme and hand them in to be judged. Winners were announced and given ribbons and/or cash, I think, but the pickets were retained by the Society. They were fashioned into small sections which could then be connected together to form a decorative fence that could be used to decorate their venue for future Society events.

I liked this idea so much I approached John Bois, Past President and one of the founding members, and asked if District 13 could tweak their Society’s creation and use it in the 2011 Convention. The Spanish Society agreed and we came up with the idea of the entire OHA working together to produce a decorative fence that could be donated to a community organization such as a hospital or hospice in Sudbury–a thank you gift of sorts that would show our appreciation for being such generous and accommodating hosts of our upcoming convention. It would also serve as a permanent reminder that the Ontario Horticultural Association exists to “Keep Ontario Beautiful.’

To keep the project manageable, 110 pickets were cut out by Klara Kluge’s husband (Massey-Walford Horticultural Society) and paid for by the Massey-Walford and Spanish Societies. Some 50 pickets were primed by the Thessalon Society–the rest were left unpainted due to time constraints of having the pickets ready for the Barrie Convention.

Four pickets were distributed to each of the eighteen District Directors. They have been instructed to take them back to their respective Societies who will decide collectively how their members will work together to get their pickets painted. They may pick names out of a hat, have the Societies designate certain members or hold a competition themselves to decide on who will decorate the pickets–whatever they so choose. As Host District, we will be distributing 1 picket to each of our 14 Societies (we have 14 in total) at our Fall meeting in Blind River.

The Executive and Board were assigned 12 pickets to represent their members and the 2011 Youth Camp delegates/leaders will receive some pickets next year as well.

The plan is to have the completed decorated pickets from the Districts and the Board returned to the March 2011 Board Meeting. The Youth Camp pickets will be completed on the Friday of their weekend camp and picked up later that night so that the entire fence can be constructed and prepared for viewing during the Sunday Plenary session. That way, we will have the chance to see our finished creation before it makes its way to its new home.

To ready your picket for decorative paint, be sure to prime it first with white latex house paint which can be rolled on or applied with a brush. Be sure to do all sides and use a brush to get into hard-to-reach spots. You may have to wait 4 hours or more until the paint fully dries before applying a second coat. Decide on how you will decorate– freehand, stencil, etc. and apply your design. Please write the name of all your Societies and District on the back of the pickets, not on the front.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” –Andrew Carnegie

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned


The Barrie Convention is finally over. I have returned home and have decompressed enough to mull over what I have learned this past weekend. Here are my top five observations:   

  1. When you are at Convention, time goes by in a blur. You feel somewhat cut off from the outside world. I found this state of affairs quite soothing in some respects. I didn’t have to cook or clean (not that I do this much anyways…) or read a newspaper or answer emails or phone calls from friends or work for five days, and my family commitments were virtually nil. This was quite an enjoyable experience at least until I arrived home at midnight on Sunday night and found numerous calls and over 200 emails in my inbox!
  2. Going to Convention is not so much about speakers and bus tours and OHA business but about the sharing and the laughter. It feels like a family reunion of sorts with delegates high-fiving and hugging each other and grinning like monkeys. We really look forward to seeing familiar faces, poring over photos of other people’s gardens and hearing what has transpired over the past year. Each year the friendships that have been forged deepen and there is a sense of urgency to book vacation and plan for next year’s event.
  3. Expect the unexpected and you will be fine. No matter how much you or others plan, some things will go pie-shaped. The schedule will change, the food may be cold or not to your liking, the bed hard, or the weather too hot or humid. Embrace these changes for it is this stuff that will form your memories and provide much laughter in the years to come.
  4. Get someone else to pack your luggage. I remembered the playing cards for our late evening euchre games, my notes for inviting this year’s delegates to Sudbury’s Convention in July 2011, and my GPS for navigating around Barrie, but totally forgot my sandals for the Saturday night Banquet. Wearing sneakers did not add to my sense of comfort at all.
  5. Planning and executing a convention involves vision, a lot of hard work, and plenty of sweat equity. As Sam Walton once remarked, “If everybody else is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction. But be prepared for a lot of folks to wave you down and tell you you’re headed the wrong way.” People will always second guess the choices you make and add their two cents of advice – some of which you heed and most of which you ignore. Marching to a different drummer takes a lot of courage and fortitude and a well-defined sense of purpose.

Carol Dunk and her District 16 volunteers did a fantastic job with just a year’s notice and they are to be commended for staying the course and producing a fine Convention. Bravo!      

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s off to Convention I Go

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s off to Convention I Go

Welcome to Suzanne’s Blog!

Let me introduce myself. My name is Suzanne Hanna and I am the Ontario Horticultural Association Director for District 13 which encompasses the geographical area between Sault Ste. Mare and Sudbury, including French River and Manitoulin. With the help of members from our 14 Societies, I have the glorious and sometimes scary job of overseeing the organization of next year’s Convention which will be held July 15-17, 2011 in Sudbury.

Over the next eleven months, you can follow my committee’s trials and tribulations of planning a convention and learn more about what the OHA is all about and why this organization perseveres to Keep Ontario Beautiful. In addition, I will share our District’s best kept gardening secrets, horticultural points of interest, upcoming events, where to get the best deals on plants and supplies and, of course, our tips for planting in the North.

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts or photos. Gardening is a journey, not a destination and we all have something to share.

In the meantime, I’m all packed up and heading off to Barrie for this year’s Convention. Here’s hoping I pick up some tips (and plants, of course) to make my job easier.

Audio Post

Visit the new 2011 convention website, ,  for Competition schedules for Photography, Arts, Youth, and Creative Writing.