Top 10 reasons to join your local hort society

It simply makes sense for any gardener (or would-be gardener) to belong to a local garden society. Unfortunately, a schedule conflict interrupted my long and happy relationship with mine. Here are ten reasons why I’m finding a way back – and why you should, too:

1. Inside dirt on what will work in your garden.

Your local garden society isn’t only for experts. But they are there, and they like to share: well-informed, experienced, generous gardeners who happen to live near you. They’ve conquered the garden problems you’re grappling with now. Knowing what works (and what won’t) can save you time, money and a lotta dead plants.

2. Plants, plants, plants.

In April and May, many garden societies organize their own plant sales – to fund the good works they do. While prices might not be cheaper than in stores, the selection is usually better, with interesting, hard-to-find varieties (as well as the common garden sort). Members also contribute things from their own gardens at good prices.

Plus, when you shop at a society garden sale, there are lots of cognoscenti around to help you decide. You won’t always find that in a garden centre. Don’t forget, you can often get a little snip of something from your new friends’ gardens at other times, too.

3. Garden voyeurism.

Those who like to peep over the garden fence get plenty of eye candy at society garden tours, usually in June. There are tours all over the city. Members get discounts and advance ticket sales. Some do sell out early. Your society might also organize members’ tours to gardens, inside the city and out, that you otherwise might not see. These are great value.

4. Ribbons!

I became addicted to ribbons as a member of the Beach Garden Society (BGS). Monthly meetings are paired with a horticultural and flower show, from March to September. Got a healthy asparagus fern you nursed through the winter? Or a just-opened tulip? Bring it in, fill out a card and put it in the show. Who knows? You might go home with a ribbon.

5. And while we’re on the subject: Creative juices.

I discovered flower arranging – something I never imagined, and was a regular at BGS flower shows. Members who were talented floral designers willingly gave workshops to us rank beginners. It’s a kick to see your creation, and learn from your mistakes and others’ creativity. And did I mention the ribbons?

Everything in life should come with ribbons. (Great job cleaning the kitchen — definitely an Honorable Mention. Wouldn’t that be nice?)

6. Bulk bonanzas.

The society might band together to get group discounts on things like bulb orders. Again, great, unusual varieties along with better prices. Now, if they would only come and plant them for me, all would be perfect.

7. Winter garden therapy.

When things look their bleakest outdoors, in November or February, it’s a treat to get together on one night a month to think green, leafy thoughts. [I should add: A speaker, often with an inspiring visual presentation, every month grows your garden knowledge and feeds your garden optimism.]

8. Garden porn.

The BGS had a great gardening library to share, and I suspect this is a feature of many societies. A wide selection of glossy garden books, just waiting for you to sign them out.

9. Getting to the hort of the matter.

Hort, of course, means horticultural. But saying “hort society” in that casual, off-hand manner makes you one of the club.

10. Community.

That’s a good thing to have in a big, anonymous city like Toronto. The people you meet at a garden society come from all kinds of backgrounds and have all kinds of other interests. They just happen to like gardening… as you do. Sharing is good.

All this for a measly ten or twenty bucks for a one-year membership. That’s exceptionally good value. While I haven’t been able to make it to the BGS meetings for some time, I’ve just realized another society nearby meets on a different night. I miss all this, so I’m going.

Check the hort society links in the right column of our blog. Or try the Ontario Horticultural Association link if you can’t find the link you want. Drop by a meeting, it’s typically free for first-timers, and discover some reasons for yourself.

There is also an array of regional plant societies for specific passions, from hostas to water gardens. You’ll find some links on the blog. And don’t forget the Toronto Botanical Garden (the Garden Centre formerly known as Civic) offers deals for members, too.

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