A Message from the Founder
It has been such a great pleasure to meet so many people and fellow gardeners from all around the world including many celebrity garden writers, horticulturalists and curators of collections from other botanical garden and arboretums. In particular, we had a special visitor, Dr. Feng of the Beijing Botanical Gardens who is the Peony Director and plant breeder managing over 7,000 plants. He offered never ending praise for the gardens, while acknowledging our independent spirit and for establishing such a diverse collection of peonies. Donors David Maltby and Blossom Hills’, Joe and Hazel Cook continue to send new varieties each season. Likewise, we also offer propagation material particularly of our conifer collection to other gardens and arboretums, to help ensure these extremely rare varieties do not disappear from cultivation.
Our focus for 2016 will be the mapping out and planting of a new dedicated Peony Garden. Once completed, there will be enough room to display the existing 900 plus varieties and have plenty of room for more varieties in the future. This new garden development will start this spring and by the fall, hundreds of varieties will be transplanted to this garden. 2015 brought us our first seeds from our open pollinated program. Although some visitors do not like to see the seed heads on the plants, we are dedicated to collecting seeds of certain selected varieties for future development of Canadian Peonies. The garden centre is set to expand in 2016 with a large polyhouse allowing for more garden plant gifts and other seasonal products. It will also offer a much larger area to browse for plants, seeds and bulbs out of the weather. An additional seating area will also be incorporated into the area. New bench seating continues to be added throughout the botanical gardens due to the generosity of so many Garden Legacy Donors; we remain absolutely grateful for your kindness and sincerity in supporting our vision.
Reflections.... After four seasons, we have watched the gardens in its opening year go through one of the worst droughts in many years, 2 of the coldest consecutive winters 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 in 40 years or longer, shattering records in some cases since records were first kept in this county back in the 1800’s. It was a tough but great learning experience and an opportunity to see exactly how plants would react to such extreme conditions. Last May 26-27th 2015, we recorded -6.8C at the farm, a night that most gardeners and agriculturalists won’t soon forget. That night the frost damaged, injured and destroyed annuals, several blooming trees and shrubs. So what is a gardener to do? Well, we just started over again with replacing plants as resources became available. Mother Nature always has the last word!
Even after all that, the gardens continue to flourish and mature. Some might say they are growing at a "tree"mendous rate. We witnessed the first planted tree in the gardens exceed the 50’ mark in 2015 in just seven seasons. Even for an Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) that is pretty impressive, growing initially 9’+ a year. Many of the native tree plantings have already reached 30’. We continue to grow, to plant and to add new features in the gardens every year.
The gardens have come a long way in such a short time. So many visitors assume this garden already existed, or perhaps they were passed down or inherited prior to “our arrival”. Even more unique, we are one of the very few privately run botanical gardens and do not receive any municipal, provincial or federal funding of any kind and yet the Whistling Gardens’ plant collections although still young, match or exceed some of the largest most well respected botanical gardens. In fact 2010 marked the last year for soya beans and corn where the bird aviary is now located and most of the tree plantings with the exception of the conifer garden, took place in 2010. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement as we share our story of transforming a “corn field into a botanical garden”. Thank you! We truly hope you will come out and watch us continue to grow after all it’s not every day you get to witness the birth of a new garden.
As subtle hints now suggest the global garden community is discovering our destination, we remain optimistic that maybe we are just the little garden that could. Here’s to 2016!
Yours in Gardening