2023 Garden Tour!

This year’s garden tour hosted by the Fergus and District Horticultural Society is set for June 25 from 12:30 to 4:30pm. 

The four magnificent gardens, part of a self-guided tour, are at:

– 199 St. George Street West, Fergus; 
– 629 Anderson Street, Fergus; 
– 6885 5th Line, Belwood; and 
– 31229 9th Line, East Garafraxa. 

The tour is free but cash donations for the Centre Wellington Food Bank are welcome.

We caught up with Bert Peel, the man behind the garden tour, to find out what is involved in putting together a successful tour each year. 

Q: These public tours have been part of the Fergus Horticultural Society for 30 years. You have been managing these for a long time. What do you look for in the gardens you select? 

A: We try to give people a wow-factor. We select gardens that spark creativity. 

We help people understand how various treatments, plants and flowers work together creating beautiful, peaceful environments that bring nature into their surroundings and accentuate the beauty of their home. 

We try to give them ideas for shade gardens, areas in their yards where people are often stumped. 

We show them a variety of gardens from large treed lots to small properties so it doesn’t matter the size of home, you will get some ideas.

Q: You are very knowledgeable when it comes to plants and how to create gardens that continue to bloom, provide colour and change throughout the year. Your property of 12.6 acres is testament to that. You must have a background in horticulture.

A: Nothing could be further from the truth. I am from South Africa where everything was tropical and we only had one season. I knew absolutely nothing about plants. 

When I came to Canada it was July 1, 1967. I got off the plane to one big party where Canadians were celebrating Canada’s 100th birthday. 

There was Expo 67, parades, fireworks, concerts. I knew I landed in a country where I wanted to put down roots. 

I got involved with the local church and noticed how boring the exterior cement walls were. So I planted gardens all around the church. 

Even though I knew nothing, through trial and error, and I made many errors, the gardens began taking shape.

From there I met my wife Marilyn and we planned to create a retreat in Belwood for people with HIV and people who were terminally ill. 

That was 1997. Our accountant told us we would also need a business tied to the retreat to be able to live on the same premises, government rules you know, so we included a B&B. 

We call it Riverwood B&B and Retreat Centre. 

I went crazy on the property creating gardens everywhere. 

As far as learning, I have found fellow gardeners are people who love to share their knowledge so it is easy to learn from them and of course, trial and error. 

Over the years that is how I acquired enough to know what works, what doesn’t, how to grow and look after these gardens. 

I don’t know what I would do without Marilyn. She does so much helping me with everything.

Q: Your gardens are on this year’s tour and they are spectacular. What can you say about the people that put their gardens on the tour?

A: They are all special people. 

They work so hard to make their gardens perfect for the tour. 

They will be at their gardens while the tour is underway welcoming people and answering any questions about their gardens. 

Just ask them anything you want. They want to share their knowledge and help anyone and everyone that walks through their gardens.

Q: Do you have anything else to add?

A: Just one thing. If anyone is interested in being part of the tour next year let me know. 

There are so many amazing gardens in our area and sharing these with the public just helps our community. 

The self-guided tour is intended to be leisurely so take your time. Pictures are allowed so bring your cameras if you want.

If people want any more information before the tour they can send an email to fergushorticulture@gmail.com.

On tour day, there will be horticultural society members at each site who can assist.

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