Greenhouse of Knowledge

Horticultural event brings together professionals and amateurs to talk about growing

Global meets local - as local as the garden plot out your back door - when TRU hosts the Horticulture Horizons conference later this month.

The conference brings together horticulture instructors, experts, master gardeners, students and former students, as well as home gardeners hoping to gain new knowledge as spring soil beckons.

It's jointly hosted by the university's horticulture program and the Friends of the Garden Society, the non-profit group that tends to the horticulture gardens in and around campus.

"It's sort of a shared promotion," explained Kevin Scollon, a TRU horticulture instructor for the past 21 years. "Part of the Friends of the Gardens' mandate is education, so we look to these types of opportunities."

And the opportunities are ripe, what with spring bursting out all over and an enticing list of presenters lined up for the conference.

How global is your garden? As keynote speaker, Glen Bowman of Bowman Greenhouses in the Okanagan will answer that question, his point being that commercial growing has globalized in the past 15 years. Bowman started off with perennial plugs and has since expanded to annuals, herbs and grasses.

Garden centre plants once supplied by a limited number of growers or by the proprietors themselves are now imported from countries around the world that offer superior conditions.

"At their Kelowna greenhouse, they offer over 1,000 different types of perennial plugs that are supplied to nurseries. He brings in stuff from everywhere, South America, all over the world."

Presenters will focus on food and ornamental production.

Alison Linklater, a TRU-trained horticulturalist who owns and operates Westwold Carrot Company, will give a primer on home vegetable gardening. Scollon will dip into the subject of garden ponds, still a popular landscaping feature, but one that has its own distinct challenges. He'll stick to the basics.

"Mine's going to be a really basic talk about how to get the thing in the ground, the nuts and bolts," he said.

The conferences generally attract a range of gardeners from the serious backyard variety to industry representatives, landscape employees and City gardeners.

"We have over 40 former students working for the City of Kamloops."

The co-operation of the TRU Culinary Arts department in preparing a conference lunch lends an appropriate and tantalizing touch to the day. Culinary arts instructor Derrick Moffatt, himself an avid gardener, will give a talk on culinary herbs.

Other workshop topics: A demystification of fruit-tree training by Salmon Arm horticulturalist Harriet Hanna; rockscaping artistry with master gardener Shelaigh Garson; and an introduction to square-foot gardening with instructor and local-food activist Harry Adams.

Southerner finds succulent success here

Succulents can be a prickly subject, yes, but not as prickly as some may think.

"All cactus are succulents, but most succulents are not cactus," said Jeff Harris, who gives a talk at Horticulture Horizons on growing non-cold-hardy succulents in Kamloops.

Harris confesses he has no professional qualifications on the subject of non-hardy succulents, other than being an ÉmigrÉ from California and a past vice-president of the San Diego Cactus and Succulent Society. He has made a hobby of growing the plants, which are distinguished by water retention, their own distinct survival mechanism.

"Their form, their beauty, their strangeness," he said, explaining what qualities attracted him. "My mother gave me some cuttings and I found a society dedicated to them."

Having met a Canadian and moved to Kamloops five years ago, he had to adapt his growing to suit the northern climate. While hot, dry summers here are well-suited to hardy succulents - prickly pear cactus are native here, after all - the non-hardy varieties can't survive the cold season.

At Horticulture Horizons, Harris will share what he has learned. Some heavy lifting is required, bringing the potted plants indoors each fall. They can be brought outdoors again in May.

"What I need is a 20-year-old back," he quipped. "One hundred plants are quite heavy."

By trial and error, he has found what works best here, closely watching the weather in September and October when the mercury can take unexpected dips. Summer makes up for it with succulents.

"Their growth is about twice what you would get anywhere else because of the sun we get in the summer. They are a really adaptable plant and pretty easy to grow.

"It's a whole other world," he added. "They reward you with beauty of form and colour and structure. I've never seen anything like that before."

HORTICULTURAL HORIZONS

WHEN:Saturday, April 14, 7:45 a.m.-4 p.m.

WHERE:TRU International Building

EARLY-BIRD REGISTRATION:$60, extended until April 8; regular registration $70

ALSO:Friends of the Garden Society plant sale on Saturday, May 5

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