London backyard membership commemorates 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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Surfacing 15 years pre-Confederation throughout the reign of Queen Victoria, the London Horticultural Society is marking its 170th year, a testimony to the dedication of generations of members who kept it going through two world wars and a worldwide pandemic, its president states.

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

The group began in 1852, three years prior to London was included as a city and the same year the Toronto Stock Exchange opened. At that time, 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 remained in Canada West, an area that covered a big swath of Ontario from the Ottawa River to Lake Superior and south to Lake Erie. The population of Canada West had to do with 480,000 people, including Indigenous communities, settlers and U.S. loyalists.

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Members of the club have made their mark on nature during the last 170 years, not simply through public gardening projects and community awards, however by cultivating their own flower ranges, Graham said.

W.E. Saunders, a previous president of the group in the 1920s, bred a hybrid, pale yellow increased variety called after his wife Agnes that is still grown today.

Other London members reproduced special varieties of peonies and irises, achievements that put London on the map in the flower world, Graham stated.

The club effectively petitioned city hall in 1919 to make the peony London’s official flower. The blooms appears on the city’s official crest.

The London Horticulture Society keeps a plot of peonies outside the Tourism London offices on Wellington Road, one of numerous public gardens in the city to which the club tends, Graham said.

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 people and is wanting to grow, Graham stated.

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