July 2018 – Dorothy Tol

A Gardener’s Love of Learning

One day, shortly after Dorothy Tol retired from the federal government, an Ottawa Citizen ad caught her eye. Volunteers were needed to help on gardening teams in the Central Experimental Farm’s ornamental gardens. She contacted the Friends of the Farm, attended a spring orientation session and suddenly a retirement plan started to grow.

Working with the Friends of the Farm is just a natural extension of Dorothy’s lifelong goal to be a good gardener. Since joining The Friends in 2015, she has acquired knowledge about many plants– including some nasty invasive weeds– by rotating through the different volunteer gardening teams.

First, she signed on for the lilac team, a Wednesday morning team of volunteers that cares for lilacs at The Farm’s ornamental gardens. Then, excited to learn more, she agreed to double duty and signed up for the perennial beds in the Macoun Memorial Garden too. These gardens, located in the northwestern corner of the ornamental gardens, commemorate the life and work of Dominion Horticulturalist W.T. Macoun who died in 1933.

“Everyone is so nice on the teams,” she says. “I’ve worked with some great leaders.”  Her vision is to eventually rotate through the teams and gain knowledge through some varied experiences. Recently, she said goodbye to the Macoun Memorial Garden team and joined the team in the newly created Shelterbelt. “My vision is to eventually move on to the peony beds, the daylilies, and then the hosta beds.”

Behind the scenes, Dorothy also helps with the Friends of the Farm Victorian tea, a fundraiser held every summer under the shade trees in the arboretum, located just across the road from the ornamental gardens.  One of her fondest memories is gathering wildflowers to organize into bouquets for the Victorian centerpieces that beautifully decorate the tables.

When Dorothy is not volunteering with The Friends, she enjoys creating beautiful containers for her own garden. With heavy clay soil at home, she has discovered that container gardening is easier. She hits the plant sales in early July, buying her plants then. Dorothy also belongs to a number of local horticultural groups. She enjoys exchanging tips with other gardeners.

When it comes to gardening, Dorothy embraces a good challenge. “I’m still trying to grow from seeds,” she confesses. “So far, I haven’t had much success.”

Julianne Labreche, July 2018. Photo by Polly McColl.