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Brian Minter: Garden Days should be celebrated all year in Canada

As we look forward to celebrating 150 years as a country on July 1, there are numerous activities in which Canadians will be engaged and enjoying the many aspects of our gardens should be one of them! Gardens have always been part of our culture from sustainable food growing to creating beauty both in private and public gardens and parks. Tourism Canada has long recognized that gardens have been a significant visitor attraction from coast to coast.

In recent years the Canadian Garden Council has organized Garden Days nationally to recognize the importance of gardens in our Canadian lifestyle.  Initially, it was a means to recognize the value and benefits of home gardens and community parks to the health and well-being of our citizens. Since then it has also evolved to celebrate environmental stewardship, such as the creation of animal and beneficial insect habitats. With so many natural areas lost to development, gardens are playing an increasingly important role in providing nectar and pollen so pollinators can thrive.

A couple of years ago as the Garden Days spokesperson for B.C., I worked with CBC to ask British Columbians to write in and tell us what their gardens mean to them. As we read the responses and looked at the images sent in, we were blown away by the depth of feeling and the range of relationships folks had with their personal gardens — everything from a child’s first experience planting seeds, seeing them sprout, nurturing them, being enthralled watching bees and butterflies participate in the garden process to older folks who wrote of planting areas of their gardens in memory of lost friends and family members. Young Millennials wrote in to say how excited they were about growing and enjoying their fresh homegrown veggies.

This project was a real eye-opener! These letters confirmed that gardens are very much an essential part of many people’s lives.

Garden Days has been celebrated this past week with over 175 significant garden events across our country. In B.C., Revelstoke’s main event was ‘Art in the Garden’; in Kelowna it was a ‘Flower Power Garden Tour’; in Chilliwack ‘Lady Bug Love’; in Pitt Meadows a ‘Pot a Sunflower’ workshop for kids. Butchart Gardens is offering a gnome hunt, and Milner Gardens and Woodland is offering a 2-for-1 admission.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow the UBC Botanical Gardens are also featuring activities to celebrate Garden Days. The B.C. Landscape and Nursery Association has encouraged its member garden stores to create pollinator displays to showcase which plants are most effective in providing pollen and nectar. The Garden Days website and the webpage of the B.C. Council of Garden Clubs are two good resources for garden event information.

Gardening is recognized as adding value in numerous ways to our lives. The health benefits alone of working with soil and plants have been scientifically verified. Not only is the activity of gardening great as a physical workout, it can also provide a sense of well-being and happiness, while the creativity of planning and growing a colourful garden engages our artistic skills. Teaching children to plant and eat organically grown food helps them connect with the importance of ‘dirt’ and the natural world.

The Canadian Garden Council designated June 9-18 this year as Garden Days, but in reality this can be a year round event for all Canadians, whether it’s growing beautiful containers of herbs and vegetables on your deck, creating artful planters to add beauty to your patio or planting a pollinator garden to benefit a wide range of bees and other beneficial insects.

Visiting our beautiful parks and gardens will help inspire us, and we are fortunate that we have so many great ones in B.C.  The number of garden tours taking place in our communities now and over the next few weeks will give us a glimpse of what can be accomplished in both large and small space private gardens.

So take a moment to find out what is happening near you and get yourself connected to your local garden community.

Brian Minter writes on gardening every Saturday in The Vancouver Sun. This article originally appeared in Brian’s column on June 15, 2017 and has been reprinted with permission.

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