This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
A historical overview of OHA B

efore any of the garden groups incorporated, Niagara-on-the-Lake Agricultural Society formed in

1792, in what was then Upper Canada. Five years later the Agricultural Fair was established in Toronto York. By 1846, the Provincial Agricultural Fair had become the Canadian National Exhibition. The Agricultural Society later reorganized as the Ontario Department of Agriculture and Land in 1888. The first horticultural society in Ontar-

io formed in Toronto in 1834. 110 years of OHA achievements and community involvement

In 1906, an Act of the Ontario Legis-

lature sorted Agricultural and Horti- cultural Societies into two incorporated associations: the Ontario Horticultural Association and the Ontario Agricultural Fairs Association. From its inception the Ontario Horti-

cultural Association was heavily involved in the community. During its first year the members helped restore many aban- doned cemeteries. The Vacant Lot Gardening move-

ment started in Ontario in 1912. With assistance from the Ploughmen’s Asso- ciation teamsters, vacant

lands in the

Toronto area were ploughed to grow food for the needy. During the First World War these gardens, numbering in the hundreds throughout Ontario, provided great quantities of food. In 1916, the group sent a variety of vegetable seeds to England where they were distributed by the Red Cross to war prisoners. OHA also sent food parcels to aged pensioners in Britain and contributed to the “Seeds for Russia” and the “British War Victims Fund” during this time. That year northern Ontario was

ravished by fire, and the association provided assistance and support to their fellow Ontarians in various ways. The Depression was the start of hard

times for many people across the Country and the OHA was there to help out where they were able. Seeds and tree rootstocks were sent to 1,000s of families in the prai- ries after the area was swept by dust storms and drought in the 1930s. The OHA and member societies also organized “Relief Gardens” for the needy and conducted lectures on growing vegetables. The society initiated and advanced the

1936 legislative process to see the Trillium grandiflorum become Ontario’s Floral Emblem. Today, it is also the association’s copyrighted official stylized logo. That year the group was also respon-

sible for sending seedling maple trees to England’s military cemeteries and seed- lings and seeds throughout Europe, Sicily and mainland Italy. In the early 1940’s, OHA’s First World

War vegetable gardens, now called Victo- ry Gardens, provided fresh vegetables and fruit to many needy families. The move- ment was introduced to public schools also assisted with this program. The Ontario Horticultural Association contin- ued to promote the education of horticul- ture-related subjects in public schools. By 1945, 1,200 schools took part in another endeavor and planted 600 acres of tree seedlings throughout Ontario. Continu- ing encouragement and support in the planting of trees at the annual spring Arbour Days. Taking a political stand, the OHA

successfully lobbied for legislation to erad- icate the proliferation of billboards that detracted from Ontario’s beautiful land- scape along provincial highways in 1948. To further support highway beautifi-

cation the club assisted by planting trees along the highways in the 1950s. They also sent 2,000 young trees to Holland to assist with re-establishing reclaimed land from the sea. To celebrate Canada’s Centennial in

1967, the club promoted the Royalty Crab as the Canadian centennial tree. The OHA established the Ontario

Horticultural Association Oak Grove as part of the arboretum in Guelph in 1978. The First tree planted was a Scarlet Oak

honouring Mabel Stewart. In 1981 two trees were planted to honour Harry Occo- more and Ellen Bigelow. The Associa- tion acquired a plot of land to extend the existing area and oak trees were planted and benches dedicated to the memory of former presidents. The club became involved in the Cana-

dian National Exhibition flower show in 1981. Marjorie Durnford started a program

of Community Gardens in 1985, copied in other locations later. OHA assisted with and provided

1,000s of trees to replanting the many tornado-struck areas throughout 1986 in southern Ontario. Planting wildflowers at Todmorden

Mills in 1991 was the brainchild of Charles Sauriol and carried out by the societies of District 5 and the City of Toronto with the assistance of Dave Money. In 1994, a memorial Book was estab-

lished by Alex MacIntosh in memory of his late wife. Entries in the Memorial book, along with the donations received have provided funds for societies to plant trees in memory of members or other horticultural friends. The Memorial Book is on display at the convention each year. The Master Gardener Program started

up in conjunction with the Societies of Ontario Horticultural Association in 1996. The association sold the yellow OHA

Commemorative Tulip to celebrate its 90th anniversary in 1996. The 1998 ice storm devastated sever-

al districts, rural and urban forests in Eastern Ontario and Quebec. Society members sent plants of all kinds that they had donated themselves and contributed money to replace trees. Directors of the affected districts received the donations at the Peterborough Convention. In preparation for their centennial cele-

bration the Ontario Horticultural Asso- ciation Millennium Tulip was created for the group in 1999. Bulbs were sold as a fundraiser for the association; 188,800 bulbs were sold throughout the province. Today, interested gardeners can read

all about the club’s history with The Story of Ontario Horticultural Societ- ies 1854-1973, available from the OHA. This group is far from putting down their gardening gloves, so be on the watch for some of their exciting plans this upcom- ing year as they prepare to celebrate Cana- da’s sesquicentennial. Information from the OHA

Fall 2016 • 67

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