The 10 gardens at the
Stratford Garden Festival will be a welcome taste of spring for winter-weary
By Geoff Dale, Special to QMI Agency
treacherous icy roads through mountains of snow to an idyllic garden landscape
dotted by cedar trees, multi-stemmed dogwood and a tranquil cascading waterfall
may not be the daunting challenge it sounds.
That’s exactly what Matthew Morris, a Guelph-based garden
designer and owner of Nature’s Palette, wants to achieve with his first exhibit
at the 14th Stratford Garden Festival (Feb. 27-March 2). The event’s seasonably
tempting theme is Beyond The Garden Gate.
“I’ve tried to create an oasis within a forested area through a
mixture of modern techniques and design placed in a natural setting,” Morris
said. “Once you get through the specially made garden gate and along the
cobbled pathway, you discover the dogwood, cedar and a simple tricking waterfall.
“It’s a new old world concept.”
Promising some new visual treats among the 10 gardens this year,
Lung Association area manager and festival spokesperson Deedee Herman said the
festival should provide “the much-needed hint of spring we’ve all been craving.
“At the opening garden party, we’re having local artists and
Stratford Festival folks decorating and painting garden gnomes. The concept is
to get people imagining what lies beyond the garden gate, tempting and inviting
you to explore along their journey.”
In addition to Morris, another first-time entrant is the brother
team of Garnet and Dave Drummond, who will be following in the footsteps of
their father John (Greenbelt Farm) with their Drummond Brothers Landscaping and
Property Services, just outside Mitchell.
“They were following their dad around at the show since the age
of about eight,” Herman said. “Now the two boys have their own business, and we
were delighted to find a spot for them.”
From Day 1, Orr Insurance has sponsored the event, raising
more than $700,000 for the Lung Association for its medical research
commitments and lung care initiatives such as asthma and obstructive pulmonary
“There are so many reasons that draw me back every year,” said
Johan Bossers of A Touch of Dutch Landscaping and Garden Services.
“It’s an important fundraiser, and everything at the show is
garden related, no sign of vacuum cleaners or home windows, the kind of things
you often see at home and garden events.”
Bossers and fellow garden designers David Lara and Eric Brouwer
created an exhibit called Imagination: Beyond A Touch of Dutch Garden Gate.
Anchored by pillars of cascading water, the route follows the
curving pathways of interlocking brick pavers and patterns to flowerbeds
mulched with differing sizes and texture of river rock, boundaries made of
armour stone and a centre garden filled with spring flowers.
Meanwhile Steve and Susan Coxon of Sebringville Garden Centre,
participants for the past decade, are showcasing their magical theme Where
Fairies Dance — a pleasant stroll through a fairy glen of cool moss, lacy ferns
and possibly a glimpse of an inhabitant or two greeting spring.
“We tend to be more on the theatrical side,” Susan said. “The
theme we are exploring this year is huge in the U.S. and just making its way to
Canada. We sell the necessary products so basically anyone can build their own
special magical garden.”
Vendors such as Shirley and Alan Roch of Riverbend Gardens and
Nursery in Wroxeter, sell a wide range of items from daylilies and hostas to
pussy willows and curly willow stems and relish the opportunity to showcase a
new product or two along the way.
“This year we’re going to have hascap or honey berries,” she
said. “Originally from Russia, it is a very dark blue berry, tasty and healthy.”
Dirk Berghout of Florabunda Seeds is enthusiastic about the
heirloom vegetables he added to his product line in the last couple of years.
For the festival he also will highlight new items, among them black-eyed Susan,
bells of Ireland, sunflower (Dwarf Incredible) and flowering maple.
“The gardens at the Stratford show are the most beautiful
anywhere, bar none,” he said. “The beauty is that they can be done by
For Suzanne Steed of Steed & Co. Lavender in Sparta, the
festival gives her the chance every year to demonstrate the versatility of her
ever-growing product line.
“This year I’ll be showcasing our new honey dijon lavender
mustard,” she said. “It has those lovely sweet characteristics but there is
also a nip to it, so get your palettes ready for a zingy taste treat.”
“This is going to be an exciting show with many favourites
returning and plenty of new vendors,” Herman said. “There will be displays of
dry stone walls and another one focusing on ironwork. Also the folks from Big
Ass Garlic in Baysville will be along for the first time. It’s a wonderful way
to greet spring.”
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14th annual Stratford Garden Festival
Thurs. Feb. 27, noon-5 p.m., Fri.
Feb. 28, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat. March 1, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday
March 2, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Stratford Rotary Complex, 353 McCarthy
Rd., Stratford. Directions can be found on website http://www.stratfordgardenfestival.com.
Presented by the Lung Association and
sponsored by Orr Insurance, funds are raised to support the association in its
medical research commitments and lung health initiatives focusing on asthma and
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
$9 at the door. Children 12 and
younger free. Pre-arranged groups of 15 or more, $7 a person
Beyond the Garden Gate
This piece appears here in the London Free Press Home section.