on April 13, 2015 by test_editor in Coming Events, WEB-EXTRA content, Comments Off on Web-extra (April 16, 2015): A Poet Among the Peonies; Local Volunteer Tells A Tale of Flowers and of the CEF long ago (April 28).

Web-extra (April 16, 2015): A Poet Among the Peonies; Local Volunteer Tells A Tale of Flowers and of the CEF long ago (April 28).

[ED: Kitchissippi has a long gardening history that continues to this day in amateur and professional ways. From early market gardens, to the establishment of the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) touching our border, things grew up around us. And now when concrete grows taller than trees those who remember still raise their voice.
We are blessed to have groups like the Ottawa Horticultural Society OHS (ottawahort.org) still meeting monthly at the Tom Brown Arena. Their regular talks cover many areas of interest so you are sure to find something of interest. Or listen to local Master Gardeners at Bldg 72 CEF give amateurs the best tips. Jump to the bottom for more on coming local garden talks, sales etc.
On April 28th at 7:30 the OHS talk will cover a gardener’s favourite: Peonies, and the special relationship to a famous local Ottawa family. The honoured speaker is no shrinking violet either as the profile article from Friends of the Farm proves.]

The following profile is reproduced with permissions from the Friends of the Central Experimental Farm‘s Spring 2015 newsletter (http://www.friendsofthefarm.ca/pdf/spring15.pdf).

Blaine Marchand: A Poet Among the Peonies.
By Mary Ann Smythe.

Growing up in Champlain Park – part of Kitchissippi Ward in Ottawa – Blaine Marchand often stopped to admire a garden at the end of his street, and imagined what he could create in his parents’ yard.

The childhood interest blossomed into an adulthood passion. A house purchased in the same neighbourhood in 1982 was transformed from an asphalt-covered yard to a dazzling showcase of colour, texture, and scent. And as though the city garden wasn’t enough to satisfy his horticultural bent, Blaine and his partner, Jamie Robertson, bought a Victorian schoolhouse near Cobden, Ontario in 1998. Thanks to hours of research and physical labour, the three acres on which the house sits are home to an orchard of Canadian heritage apple trees, Preston and Skinner lilacs, an extensive day lily collection, and a peony garden that holds 500 varieties, including an interesting collection of A.P. Saunders peonies. Many of their plants are linked to the Farm’s early hybridizing/breeding program. “For us, it’s an important link to Canada’s horticultural history,” says Blaine.

The peony collection, featuring the usual reds, pinks and whites, but also more uncommon yellows and lavenders, represents a turnaround in Blaine’s initial impression of the plant. “I really didn’t like them. They have such a short bloom time and are easily knocked over by wind and rain.” It was a talk by Mary Pratte – former advisor to the Friends’ Peony Team – on CBC radio in 2000 that prompted a change of mind. “I came away thinking ‘that sounds interesting.'” Soon Blaine was more than interested; he was hooked. He is past-president of the Canadian Peony Society, editor of its quarterly newsletter, and is currently organizing the Society’s National Peony Show in Ottawa, June 6-7. In 2011, he joined the Friends’ Peony Team. “Just what I needed,” he laughs, “another garden in my life.” Blaine enjoys the camaraderie of the team, the satisfaction of helping to get the gardens in good shape. Despite his extensive knowledge of peonies, he still “learns a lot. Bill (Wegman – Team Leader) is an incredible source of information.”

When Blaine speaks of gardening – the serenity of weeding, the joy of building a garden or discovering a heritage plant – he paints a vivid picture. His words have the power to persuade, to evoke a long-forgotten scent or touch, to relive a childhood memory. When Blaine speaks it’s from his poet’s soul.

Like gardening, Blaine discovered his love of writing in childhood – filling notebooks with short stories. He was soon to channel his creativity in a new direction, thanks to a Grade 7 teacher at St. George Elementary School who recognized Blaine’s talent with the written word. “Mrs. Davis was the first person who said to me ‘you could be a writer.’ She also read poetry in class and I became fascinated with the imagery it evoked.”

So fascinated that it became his preferred means of written expression. And, in the process, established him as an award-winning writer, proving his teacher’s prediction true. Blaine has published eight works, six of which are poetry. He has several awards to his credit, chief among them the Archibald Lampman Award, a Canadian literary award for the year’s best work of poetry by a writer in the National Capital Region. Two more works are underway – one devoted to his time in Pakistan, the second about growing up in Ottawa.

Blaine’s writing has been fed by travel. In 1978, he joined the Canadian International Development Agency on contract. “I thought I’d be there a couple of months. Growing up in Ottawa it was almost a given that people would have government experience at some point in their lives.” The contract turned into a permanent job in 1981, and in 2011, he retired after more than three decades at a dream job. “It was wonderful to travel and to be exposed to so many different cultures.”

The last posting was in Pakistan where Blaine integrated himself into daily life – even joining a horticultural society in Islamabad and maintaining a small garden. “I really stood out at the meetings,” he laughs at the remembrance, “and had to take a friend along to translate.”

For Blaine gardening and writing poetry have much in common. “The whole thing about gardening is about discovery – what goes where, what works and what doesn’t. It’s like poetry: a line comes to mind and then I have to find someplace to fit it in, to build around it, just like a garden.”

Mary Ann Smythe is a freelance writer/editor and active volunteer with the Friends.

[ED: After a long winter gardeners just need to get out. Here are some local events of interest:
If you missed our local master gardeners at the CEF on Apr 7 you may still catch a triple talk night April 21st or a single talk on May 5. There will be more talks on gardening to tell you about in our May 14 issue. For more info see our calendars at Newswest.org, and check out the April 26 CEF tree tour and April 18 craft fair See friendsofthefarm.ca .
The GoGos at 1st Unitarian are targeting May 9-10 for their annual plant sale, details in this issue’s community calendar. The Rare and unusual plant sale is May 10 in the CEF. And they will babysit your purchases while you continue to shop.
Cleaning the parks in Hintonburg and Wellington West got moved to May 2nd. The Hintonburger sponsored lunch still follows it.

More items are in the Newswest Gardening Calendar.
Know something local gardeners should know ? send it to editor@newswest.org ]

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