Paul LaPorte was the guest speaker at the Innisfil Garden Club’s annual general meeting at the Churchill Community Center on Sunday.
LaPorte is the current president of the Ontario Native Plant Growers Association. He is the owner of Ephemeral Ark Nursery (specializing in native woodland species) and a horticultural and environmental design consultant.
He collects seeds and shares knowledge with other local plant growers in Ontario. “We’re kind of reaching out to make sure we’re preserving local genetics and collecting seeds from Ontario to plant. We’re working with Carolinian Canada and World Wildlife Canada to make that more available to the public. It’s reached a very high level of popularity,” he said.
His background is computer animation. “When I moved away from Toronto, it became a matter of getting off the computer, so gardening became something to do and I became a natural world,” he said.
He learned a lot and focused on native plants, becoming president of the Native Plant Society of North America for a period. He began giving a presentation on the subject, and “it really started to grow in popularity, so the question became: What is a native plant?”
“It’s a very broad topic and a native plant from Michigan is not the same as what we call it here in Innisfail,” he said.
On Sunday, Laporte gave a presentation titled Organizing the chaos of nature. He led the club through a history lesson on the impact of European settlement on Ontario’s environment during the 19th century. When Europeans began to travel the world, largely led by the market for whale oil, they brought plant species with them either unwittingly, or with the intention of bringing conveniences and beauty to the new European settlements. Humans’ quest for energy coincides with the introduction of new species into new lands.
Whale oil burns clearly and was in great demand at one time for light and heat. It also helped lubricate machinery during the Industrial Revolution. Chasing whales brought people to discover the wider world.
LaPorte has given hundreds of presentations to various groups. “I don’t think people talk much today in terms of how we got to where we are now,” he said. “Through these discussions, hopefully we can start to look at solutions and right the wrongs. And maybe look again at our environment in a way that we help preserve it and take care of it.” it better.
The club elected a new CEO at the meeting and distributed awards in various categories. The club has 88 adult members and three junior members. Innisfail Mayor Lyn Doolin attended and thanked the club for contributing over 800 hours of community service maintaining and planting gardens last year.
Longtime member Nancy Elder described the group as very sociable and welcoming. She initially got involved in the club while bringing her mother along.
“I really enjoyed the speakers,” she said. “As a new gardener, I learned a lot about planting and different types of plants. When I retired, I started preparing entries for the Flower Show, and that encouraged me to come to every meeting.”
The club, also known as the Guilford and District Horticultural Society, meets on the second Monday of every month from March to November. Visitors are welcome. Meetings begin at 7:15pm at the Churchill Community Center (6322 Yonge Street).
Rosaleen Egan is a freelance journalist, storyteller and playwright. She blogs on her website rosiewrites.com.