London backyard membership celebrates 170 years of rising, pruning, weeding – The London Free Press

London backyard membership celebrates 170 years of rising, pruning, weeding – The London Free Press

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It’s a gardening club that’s as old as dirt.

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Turning up 15 years pre-Confederation throughout the reign of Queen Victoria, the London Horticultural Society is marking its 170th year, a testimony to the commitment of generations of members who kept it going through 2 world wars and a global pandemic, its president states.

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“We have a good group of members and directors who want to help,” stated president Pat Graham. “Many hands make light work.”

The group started in 1852, 3 years before London was incorporated 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 very first time, Ontario didn’t exist. The settlement was in Canada West, a region that covered a large 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, including Indigenous neighborhoods, inhabitants and U.S. patriots.

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Members of the club have made their mark on nature throughout the last 170 years, not just through public gardening projects and community awards, but by cultivating their own flower varieties, Graham stated.

W.E. Saunders, a previous president of the group in the 1920s, reproduced a hybrid, pale yellow rose range called after his spouse Agnes that is still grown today.

Other London members reproduced special ranges of irises and peonies, achievements 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 official flower. The blossoms appears on the city’s main crest.

The London Horticulture Society keeps a plot of peonies outside the Tourism London workplaces on Wellington Road, among a number of 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 two years of the pandemic, the club’s membership is about 100 individuals and is aiming to grow, Graham stated.

The group is holding a 170th anniversary event at the Civic Garden Complex on Oct. 23. to honour the accomplishments of club members past and present. “We wish to give back to the long-term and short-term members of our society,” Graham stated.