The History of the Garden Club of Toronto
The Garden Club of Toronto formed in 1946
The Garden Club of Toronto was formed in November 1946 by a group of women who had worked together throughout World War II at the Red Cross Canteen on Adelaide St. Here, they prepared and served snacks and meals to members of the armed services who used the canteen as a drop-in centre. Relieved that the war was over and the need for national service had ended, the women looked for work that would be more creative and colourful, entertaining as well as satisfying. Because of a love for plants and flowers, a garden club seemed to be the answer. They patterned their aims after those of the very successful and highly respected Garden Club of America, formed in 1913.
In 1947 the Garden Club of Toronto was granted a charter by the Province of Ontario. From the very beginning, the Club has been committed to flower shows and public service. In 1947, the first full year of operation, the Club created flower arrangements to enhance the Hogarth exhibition at the Art Gallery and responded to a first project request with a donation toward the gardens at historic Barnum House in Cobourg.
Assistance with seven small gardens such as the Infants’ Home and West End Creche followed. For several years, the Royal Winter Fair asked the Club to create a flower show at the Coliseum. A small court that attracted many visitors was decorated with flower arrangements, plant and garden exhibits.
In 1954, the first Flower Show that included educational displays, competitive flower arrangements and horticulture classes was held at Leaside Memorial Gardens and, in two days, attracted almost 1,000 visitors. From that moment, the Garden Club never looked back. Flower shows were held for some years at Casa Loma and then the first “really big show” was attempted at The Sony Center for Performing Arts ( formally known as the Hummingbird Centre and previously, the O'Keefe Center). Experience had told the members that the public liked variety - competitions, gardens, educational displays and something to buy. Garden Club efforts peaked when the Automotive Building’s four acres were filled with gardens, competitive exhibits, children’s displays, garden society booths, a lecture auditorium, shops and commercial features. These shows were followed by the floral extravaganza that opened Toronto’s new Convention Centre.
In tandem with the members’ interest in flower shows was their concern with specific garden projects. The first major project, in 1954, was the planning and planting of the Fragrant Garden for the blind at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. This was followed by nine major gardens for public and non-profit organizations in Greater Toronto, the inauguration and support of the Civic Garden Centre and scholarships for students.
In l958, the Garden Club of Toronto, with garden clubs in London and Hamilton formed a provincial group called The Garden Clubs of Ontario which now has fourteen member clubs. Through The Garden Clubs of Ontario, our members helped to form The World Association of Flower Arrangers, a membership of national organizations from thirty countries. The World Association meets every three years with a World Flower Show. The fourth World Flower Show was hosted by Canadian garden clubs and held in Toronto in l993.
In 1997, the Garden Club of Toronto, with Landscape Ontario, sponsored the first Canada Blooms Flower Show. Both organizations continue to play major roles in this annual flower show.
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