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It’s a gardening club that’s as old as dirt.
Emerging 15 years pre-Confederation throughout the reign of Queen Victoria, the London Horticultural Society is marking its 170th year, a testament to the devotion of generations of members who kept it going through two world wars and a worldwide pandemic, its president says.
“We have an excellent group of directors and members who want to assist,” stated president Pat Graham. “Many hands make light work.”
The group began in 1852, 3 years prior to London was included as a city and the exact same year the Toronto Stock Exchange opened. Back then, the group was called the Horticulture and Mechanical Association of the Town of London.
When members of the London Horticultural Society convened for the first time, Ontario didn’t exist. The settlement was in Canada West, a region that covered a big swath of Ontario from the Ottawa River to Lake Superior and south to Lake Erie. The population of Canada West was about 480,000 individuals, consisting of Indigenous communities, settlers and U.S. patriots.
Members of the club have actually made their mark on nature throughout the last 170 years, not just through public gardening jobs and neighborhood awards, but by cultivating their own flower ranges, Graham stated.
W.E. Saunders, a previous president of the group in the 1920s, reproduced a hybrid, pale yellow rose variety named after his wife Agnes that is still grown today.
Other London members reproduced unique varieties of peonies and irises, accomplishments that put London on the map in the flower world, Graham said.
The club effectively petitioned town hall in 1919 to make the peony London’s main flower. The flowers appears on the city’s official crest.
The London Horticulture Society keeps a plot of peonies outside the Tourism London offices on Wellington Road, among several public gardens in the city to which the club tends, Graham stated.
At its peak in the 1920s, the club had more than 2,000 members. After more than 2 years of the pandemic, the club’s subscription has to do with 100 individuals and is seeking to grow, Graham said.
The group is holding a 170th anniversary event at the Civic Garden Complex on Oct. 23. to honour the achievements of club members past and present. “We want to give back to the short-term and long-term members of our society,” Graham stated.