Candice Welch and John Reinhart
Candice Welch and John Reinhart

Gardening season and U of G’s 50th anniversary come together in June as the campus hosts the Ontario flagship event for a national celebration of all things gardening.

University gardens and green spaces will be highlighted for visitors expected on campus June 13 to 15 for Garden Days. This national project begun in 2013 is intended to highlight benefits — esthetic, environmental, recreational, culture, tourism – of public gardens and green spaces across Canada.

Last year the event was a single day; this year, the project will run over three days. Events will take place in a number of Ontario cities, including Guelph.

“Ontario has 50 per cent of the horticultural industry, and certainly southern Ontario is a hub,” says Michel Gauthier, executive director of the Canadian Garden Council based in Milton, Ont.

The event is organized by the council and supported by the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) and Communities in Bloom.

Referring to related research and teaching at U of G, Gauthier says, “because of the University’s involvement and programs, that’s certainly contributed to the success of the gardening industry. I think it’s only fitting they be the flagship event for Ontario.”

On June 13, shuttle buses will take visitors between campus locations: the trial gardens at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute, the Arboretum, the Conservatory Gardens, the recently renovated Branion Plaza and the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming. The event will take place from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

Visitors will also take in U of G-tinged plantings on campus walkways and gathering spaces such as Branion this spring. In planting containers, grounds gardeners have rooted tropical species — hibiscus, mandevilla, red-leafed banana – all in Gryphon red and yellow.

Referring to the 50th anniversary of the University of Guelph this year, grounds manager John Reinhart says, “It’s all extra for the 50th, Canada’s Garden Day, convocation, alumni weekend. We’re trying to give it the extra oomph to make it special for the 50th.”

The Conservatory Garden
The Conservatory Garden will be in full bloom for Garden Days.

Along with other U of G members, he belongs to the planning committee for the event. That group is headed by Margaret and Ivan Stinson, OAC Class of ’49, who last year proposed that Guelph join the national gardening event.

“The University has a lot to offer the community,” says Ivan. “It’s a chance for people to see and appreciate what they can participate in here.”

Besides the 50th anniversary of the University of Guelph and the 140th anniversary of the Ontario Agricultural College, this year marks the 65th anniversary of his graduating year. A classmate is John’s dad, Bert Reinhart, who taught animal science until retiring in 1985.

The Class of ’49 has supported several campus projects, notably establishing the Conservatory water garden and greenhouse portal, as well as donating the Johnston Hall clock faces and restoring the portico, now on Johnston Green. The class also established a scholarship fund worth $230,000 to support students entering U of G’s bachelor of bio-resource management program.

The Stinsons have volunteered with the CNLA and Landscape Ontario for years. Even further back, gardens have been part of their lives since childhood.

“A beautiful landscape is part of our being,” says Margaret. Now 84, she learned to garden on the family farm in Winterbourne, Ont.

Ivan, 86, grew up on a mixed farm in Dresden, Ont. “I grew up appreciating plant life, and it’s so interesting to see how plants develop and grow,” he says.

“And how you interact with them,” adds Margaret.

They attended the first-ever Conversat Ball on campus a year before Ivan graduated. They attended Conversat again in 1949 and 1953, and plan to attend this year’s “return of the ball” June 21.

They were married in 1952. Both taught high school, including most of their careers spent at Centre Wellington District High School in Fergus, Ont. After retiring in the late 1980s, they moved to Nova Scotia.

They have gardened wherever they’ve lived. In Maitland, N.S., their open gardens were listed as a tourist attraction. They took part in rural beautification programs, including judging properties and gardens for Communities in Bloom and participating in regional and provincial tourism programs.

They also helped to establish Nova Scotia’s first heritage conservation district in Maitland.

The Stinsons returned to Guelph in 2005, where they continued working with Communities in Bloom. Until last fall, they tended a small garden in the Village by the Arboretum, where Ivan chairs the landscape advisory group. They now live in the new Village of Arbour Trails.

A lilac tree will be planted June 13 in the Conservatory water garden in memory of their son, Ross, BA ’78, who died in 2010.

A large metal “50” will also be unveiled that day in the Conservatory Gardens. The piece was created by Gord Murphy, a longtime machinery operator in Physical Resources.