History of the Old Seed House Garden

dshprop25-9-99-3In 1993  Margaret Harding sold Dominion Seed House to W. H. Perron. Although operations came to an end in Georgetown, to this day Perron carries on the Dominion Seed House business and in a nod to tradition, the postal address remains in Georgetown. Many people in the surrounding area were saddened by the departure of such a big part of local history. The landmark mock-Tudor building remained on the Harding property and was leased to a nursery operator.

Operation Plant Rescue

The site was left fallow and even after a couple of years perennials were still alive and growing well in the fields. 
In 1995 members of the Georgetown chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) came up with a vision to create a public garden on the site as a reminder of the history of Dominion Seed House in Georgetown. They were given permission to rescue acres of abandoned peonies, iris and daylilies and sell them to raise funds for the plan.

Duncan McFarlane, a 20 year veteran farm manager for Dominion Seed House until his retirement in 1990, volunteered to walk the overgrown fields and identify each of the rows of plants in preparation for the sale. He found:

Heritage peonies imported from France by William Bradley circa 1930: Germaine Bigot (light pink); Eclataine (Rose red); Octavie Demay (deep pink edged silver); Tourengelle (white tinged pink); La France (light pink); Marechal Vaillant (pink); Modeste Guerin (pink).
Other peonies found: Baroness Schroeder (white)
; Festiva Maxima (white flecked red); 
Laura Dessert (yellow centre, white outer petals)
; Early Sunrise (rose-red); 
Bunker Hill (red);
 Karl Rosenfield (red)

sale1-mThe local CFUW held a “Dig-Your-Own Plant Sale” o
n May 4th and 5th 1996 with help from the Georgetown Horticultural Society. Gardeners from all over southern Ontario converged on the site to take plants home before bulldozers moved in. Peonies were $4 a clump, iris $2 and daylilies $1. An astonishing $40,000 was raised for the new garden!

Serious planning begins

In 1997 the Harding property was sold for development and a public process began to create a master plan for the 54 acre site. Members of CFUW Georgetown lobbied successfully to have a public garden included in the designated 8 acre park block.

A group of interested individuals formed a committee in 1998 to move the garden project forward in partnership with the Town of Halton Hills. Through workshops led by a landscape consultant, a vision for the garden started to take shape. Different options were made public and citizens were invited to participate in the choice of the final plan.

In spite of public pressure to preserve the landmark mock-Tudor building, it was demolished in October 1999. The Steering Committee for the garden successfully lobbied to have the historic fieldstone foundations at the west end of the building preserved. They were originally under a barn and later became part of the building as a result of expansion. The foundations became a key element – the Sunken Garden – in the final garden design.

The Friends of the Old Seed House Garden

In January 2000 a new volunteer organization called the Friends of the Old Seed House Garden was officially launched with a community open house. The event was well attended and by the end of the evening there were 56 charter members of the Friends. Working committees were formed for design and development, fundraising, grant applications, membership, publicity, newsletter, website development and history.
Garden Design. 
The Friends’ Design and Development Committee began meeting with Town Parks staff in February 2000 and met bi-weekly for the next three years to finalize the design concept, complete the detailed engineering drawings and supervise the development of Phase 1. In 
In June 2001 the Friends and the Town of Halton Hills signed a 10 year renewable lease for the garden for $1 per year. 
By the end of Phase 1, the Friends’ Fundraising Committee had raised an impressive $280,000 in cash and in-kind donations, including the original seed money raised by CFUW Georgetown. A successful tree donation program made it possible to plant 65 trees throughout the garden.

Birth of the Old Seed House Garden

grbrk-sep12-01-3Through the summer of 2002 the fundraising team worked hard at lining up cash and in-kind donations while plans were finalized and permits processed. In September the footings were poured for the bridge, and the shed, benches and the light standards and the underground electrical conduit were installed. In October there was an incredible explosion of activities, all of it based on donations from the community. The kiosk arrived from the high school and GDHS students installed the shingles. The bridge took shape and three benches were installed. On October 9th a local landscaping company arrived and began fine grading. Suddenly, although we were concentrating on Phase 1, they volunteered to build Phase 2, which was the dry stone riverbed. Later the same day, half of the riverbed was constructed. October 11th was a momentous day as the first plants were put in. Four beautiful maple trees and many burning bushes added a new splash of autumn colour to the burgeoning garden.

Three amazing days in October

On Thursday October 24th, the landscaping company arrived en mass with heavy equipment and a crew of 11. The riverbed was extended and a lookout, first dreamed of that morning, was built later that same day, including enormous quarry stone seating and shrubs. Forty trees were delivered and promptly planted. At 4pm a sod truck arrived and by 6pm the site was littered with sod skids and a significant area already transformed from dusty brown to luscious green.

On Friday October 25th volunteers picked up all of the shrubs and perennials from Sheridan Nurseries and Van Wissen Perennials and organized them into planting areas. Sod was rolled out on phases 1 and 2 and the dry stone riverbed was completed. The pathways were extended into Phase 3 with all materials and labour donated by the landscaping company.

The keenly anticipated Planting Day finally arrived on Saturday October 26th. Early in the morning volunteers brought the shrubs and perennials to the garden and moved them into their assigned planting areas. At noon the rest of the volunteers arrived and dug into the task at hand. At the same time all of the lighting bollards were installed. Two hours later, the garden was fully planted and looking gorgeous!

Thanks to the tremendous support of businesses and individuals, the Old Seed House Garden officially opened in June 2003. It has become a landmark for residents and visitors alike, preserving Georgetown’s garden heritage, offering a habitat for wildlife, and providing an oasis along the town’s main thoroughfare.

Copyright © 2013 The Friends of the Old Seed House Garden