December 15, 2014
Year of the green wooden sheep
From left, Gerwin Bouman; Virginia Burt and Sarah Culp, both of OALA; Greg Clarke and John Chisholm, both of SB Partners, enjoy the annual Growers’ Fall Dinner.
Denis Flanagan CLD
LO Manager of Membership and Public Relations
Denis FlanaganAccording to the Chinese Zodiac, 2015 is the year of the sheep, with some versions adding the words green and wood. This relates to the prediction that the year will be connected to the earth and trees (wood), which means it should be a great year for our industry.

Signs of the zodiac and horoscopes regularly make predictions, so I thought it would be fitting as we close out the 2014 season, that we should reflect on what the crystal ball gazers think will be in the cards for the horticultural industry.  

During recent growers’ meetings, discussions revolved around trends in plants for the future. At an interesting panel discussion on the topic of locally grown versus west coast grown cedars, the merits of both were strongly debated. All concluded that the geographic area was not as important as the care and after-care of newly planted cedars. This resulted in a goal to have a stronger educational program for contractors and the general public on proper planting techniques.  

At a second meeting, hosted by the Growers Sector Group, representatives from the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects (OALA) were invited to give a presentation. Virginia Burt ASLA, OALA, who specializes in healing gardens, labyrinths and sacred spaces, gave an interesting talk that showcased some of her projects.

Burt also highlighted a list of plants she felt would be in demand in the future. The list includes many native plants, plants suitable for green roofs and an emphasis on unique mature dwarf tree specimens. This dovetails nicely with the November issue of Landscape Trades magazine, which features the new plant introductions for 2015.   
Our members are predicting a strong year ahead, with many spring contracts already signed. Some challenges still remain, such as a shortage of certain materials and skilled labour. These issues are being worked on by your association.

Several successful leading edge companies are starting to offer complete one-stop shopping for clients. This includes not only comprehensive planning and installation services, but also lighting, irrigation, sound systems, holiday decorating, year-round maintenance, plant rentals and event planning services.

Speaking of events, our Garden Centre Sector Group members see success in the future through unique giftware, niche plant collections and social events, such as ladies’ nights and charity events.

We have never had a more diverse set of consumers to match with marketing strategies. From baby boomers to Millennials, they are very well informed, tech savvy, into food, wine, entertainment and travel. Represent all of those interests in your landscape designs, and you should do well. 
Our members will also compete for discretionary dollars in 2015. A major media story will be the Pan Am Games. We trust that the representatives from 42 countries will visit some of our great green spaces and take home a positive memory of Ontario.

Make sure you come to Congress, Canada Blooms and your local Chapter meetings and read the trade magazines in the new year, so that you can stay ahead of the market.
Denis Flanagan can be reached at or at 905-875-1805, ext. 2303.