It's Exciting To Be A Canadian Gardener

by Jenn Smith December 06, 2019

This is the most exciting time in history to be a Canadian gardener.

You heard it here first. Or, maybe you first read it in our most recent book, “Escape to Reality.” It is a statement worth repeating.


First: because of what we know. Our knowledge of the plant world grows each day, and with this knowledge we are better equipped to succeed at this hobby — or full-time occupation, in the case of more than 200,000 Canadians employed in horticulture.

Second: choice. Those of us who live in Canada have won one of life’s lotteries. For example, a look inside any store quickly proves there are more choices of whiskies, phones, diapers, pet foods: you name it, there are more choices than ever before.

And this is also true for plants. Take hydrangeas, for example. When Mark started out in the retail gardening business with his father 40 years ago, there were three species of hydrangea.

Today, there are dozens of hydrangea hybrids on the market. They bloom longer, stand up straighter and bear much larger blooms than ever before. Take Incrediball (hydrangea arborescens Abetwo Incrediball) for example, with its creamy white blossoms born on strong stems, and about the size of your head.

What Cirque du Soleil did for the circus business, plant hybridizers have done for the gardening public. We call hydrangeas the new annuals: plant them en masse and watch them perform while you read the weekend headlines, go for a walk, or take a trip around the world. For the most part, they take care of themselves. They are that low maintenance.

Third: differing opinions. The other matter to address — the “elephant in the room” — is that Canadians have widely varying differences of opinion. This is generally true. It is especially true where many gardening issues are concerned. Take our endorsement of hydrangeas, for example. Someone will read this and object to nature being manipulated by the “hand of man.”. We will argue that hybrids are not the same thing as genetically modified plants.

But, the point is: we can disagree.

There are organic gardeners, and there are Organic gardeners with a capital “O.” We place ourselves among the former. We only use natural pest controls, where we use pest control at all. Usually we let nature duke it out. Birds eat many garden pests, like tent caterpillars. Who are we to interfere with nature’s web of interdependence?

Often, when humankind tries to take control of nature, we botch it up. The results are often unfortunate, like rabbits in Australia or the dandelions in your backyard that were imported as a coffee substitute from Europe about 300 years ago. Europeans might say the same about Canada geese. Who thought it was a good idea to import our native geese to Europe? The word “disastrous” describes the importation of giant hogweed, phragmites and dog-strangling vine here at home.

Let’s not beat up on ourselves for making a few mistakes. There are many hybrids and imported plants that enjoyed by our native pollinators and foraging insects. We recommend hybrid salvia, perennial or annual varieties equally, if you want hummingbirds in your garden. And who doesn’t enjoy the appearance of a mature Japanese maple, Korean boxwood or a Norway spruce? Their names suggest that they came here from elsewhere. Does that make them less useful in our landscapes?

Jenn Smith
Jenn Smith