2017 Highlights

The days are pretty monochromatic and dreary when the sun isn’t shining and there is not much to do in the garden but reflect on last season and dream about the upcoming one.  So it’s a good time to look back at 2017 and share some of the great garden moments we had during our sixth season of volunteering.

Last year we had a lot of snow over the Christmas holiday ad as a result, our decorations stayed up for a good part of the winter. We were able to unplug the lights but some of the coloured balls were buried under the snow until it melted.


The Gardeners were anxious to get started in April and before long, the grass was green, the daffodils were blooming and blackly season was in full swing.

Spring is a great time to divide perennials and one of our Gardeners has a great hosta collection in her garden.  She was generous enough to share quite a few to get started on a shade garden we have been creating, hidden behind the time capsule.

The lilacs we planted a few years ago are starting to come into their own and brought flowers and fragrance to early summer.

There was a flurry of activity just prior to the Garden being featured by the Horticultural Society’s Garden Tour,

as we prepared, Town Staff was busy installing benches and chairs and interpretive signs.

We had a huge windstorm the night before, but between Parks & Rec and the Tower Hill Gardeners, we were all cleaned up in time to host a very special event dedicating our newly installed benches.

The families of the people being honoured by the dedication of the benches were piped in by Morley MacDonald, grandson of Charlie MacDonald who is remembered fondly as “the first Towerman”.  He helped build the Tower and Garden, plant the Plantation and then watched for fires from the top of the Tower and tended the flowers at its base.

Eric and Dona Simpson enjoy the view from the bench honouring Eric’s father, who was the District Forester in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  Like many Parry Sounder’s, he has fond childhood memories of the Garden and confirmed the location of the fabled Sunken Rose Garden.  We have no plans to restore it, as it has morphed into our Secret Shade Garden, hiding behind the time capsule!

The Horticultural Societies of District 18 and the Hobson Family joined to honour the memory of Madeleine Hobson, who dedicated her life to local (and provincial) horticultural efforts.

It was a rainy summer relative to 2016 and we rarely had to water, but we had green grass

… and flowers galore.  Fall in Parry Sound is glorious.  Georgian Bay delays the frost and the lower sun in the sky softens the colours in the Garden,

and it is THE best time of year to plant.

So we placed and order and got to work.

Summer gave way to fall’s brilliant colour.

We wrapped up our gardening efforts at the end of October, but got together in early December to decorate,

and create some seasonal magic to end the year.


Drum roll!

Ta- dah!

We have all (Tower Hill Gardeners and Town of Parry Sound Parks & Recreation Staff) been working like crazy this week to get the Garden ready to be the star of the show on the Horticultural Society’s Garden Tour on Sunday.  The benches and Muskoka chairs are installed, and so is the interpretive signage for the Wildlife Habitat Garden.

The Garden looks awesome … join us between 1:00 and 5:00 pm on Sunday.

It’s Iris Season in the Garden

IMG_0764We still have plenty of Lilacs blooming (see the dwarf one in the background?) and will be having the official opening of our Lilac Walk at our Garden Days event on June 18th, but right now the irises are the stars in the Garden.  They are blooming everywhere.

IMG_0758Not only by the pond, but also IN the pond.

IMG_0757They look great with a stone wall as a backdrop.

IMG_0756The Cream coloured ones look pretty nice in the rock garden.

IMG_0761But I must confess, these purple ones are my favourites!


Creating a Lilac Walk – Part 2 – Planting Leonard’s Lilacs

We were delighted with how all the new lilacs (purchased with our OHA  special project grant) did through the summer. We had to water them during the dry spells, but by fall they were all established and our “Boomerang” managed to come back with one lonely bloom in the middle of September.

2015-09-17 19.01.04

We made the decision in the springtime to wait until the fall to transplant Leonard’s Lilacs to a permanent home in our garden.  The “Agincourt Beauty” had huge blossoms and was really thriving …

2015-06-08 13.11.11

but the only example of “Slater’s Elegance” was really struggling.  The healthy branches had put out some amazing white flowers,

2015-06-08 13.13.36

so we tried our hand at propagating.  These lilacs don’t spread by suckering so we gave air layering a try.

2015-07-10 13.57.53

David watched over the shrub all summer long, keeping the layer moist and watching for new roots.  We were hoping to move them in September, but we had a very warm dry month.  Finally, moving day arrived on the last day of the month.  We had a record number of volunteers that day.  Some stayed at the Garden digging holes and the rest of us met at David and Lynn’s place.  The plants were dug, loaded them into the trailer and brought to the Garden.

2015-09-30 10.11.19

Most of the holes were already dug when we returned so we soaked them and got the lilacs all planted in no time.

2015-09-30 09.58.03

They look great planted alongside the path, creating the Lilac Grove we envisioned.

2015-09-30 11.37.36

The warm temperatures extended well into the fall and we got the rain we needed in October, so the lilacs settled in with a minimal amount of flagging. This week the grove is a winter wonderland. The lilacs are ready and waiting for spring … next year’s leaves and flowers tucked tight in their big fat buds.

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An Evening Stroll Through the Garden

At this time of year, evening is a great time to visit the Garden.  Besides not being as hot as it can be during the day, the lighting is not so harsh and the flowers are not so noticeable.  The Garden is green and serene.

Most people enter the Garden here and head up to the Tower. This is where the policeman once stood.


After making the climb to the top to admire the view, the rest of the Garden can be enjoyed by following the paths that were laid by the Ontario Forestry Branch firefighters back in the 1920’s.

We follow this path from the Rock Garden at the base of the Tower over towards the Sundial and Birdhouse. The Birdhouse is a model of the original Fire Tower.


It is perched atop an exposed rock (there are quite a few in the Garden).  The “trefoil garden” … three round beds encircled by flagstone is usually filled with annuals and flowering perennials.  This year there are cannas and Stella d”Oro daylilies.


The Sundial sits at the intersection of several flagstone pathways … one leading back towards the Ranger Cabin …


… and over towards the pond. Beyond the pond there are a few paths leading nowhere, having been cut off by the road that was built to create a driveway for the Museum.  We can only imagine where they lead to in days gone by.


We find ourselves, though, at the “front walk” to the Ranger Cabin.


We climb the stairs and overlooking the pond, realize that we have missed a few of the pathways and decide to go around again and see things from a different perspective.


Here’s the view back towards the Tower from where the birdhouse is perched.


One more time around the pond to watch the fish enjoying the cool evening (they hide under the waterlilies when the sun is high) and we head back up towards the Tower.


Clockwise this time, around the base of the Tower (and maybe a second climb to the top?) and we head back through the pillars like many generations of visitors before us, reminded once again how lucky we are to have this special place.


Garden Days at Tower Hill


Don’t miss our first ever Garden Days and GardenOntario Week event this Saturday, June 20th from 10 am to 4 pm.  For a complete listing of events and vendors click here.


A Long Time Comin’

It was a long wait, but spring has sprung in Parry Sound.  The Garden looked like this when we decided to get back at it only a month ago.


It didn’t take long for the grass to green up and the cheerful daffodils watched as we raked and cleaned up the beds.


It was a rough winter on the fish … only the small ones survived and the water was quite murky with all the runoff.


So we (Town Staff provided the equipment and most of the manpower) pumped it out, cleaned it, restocked it and it looks great.  The crabapples are in full bloom and the one we planted at the top of the Rock garden beside the Cabin is thriving and blooming too.  Bring on summer!



Our first taste of Winter

Just two days ago I planted the last of the daffodil bulbs (generously donated by Dick Martin) and today it looks like this in the Garden!


So much for those golden autumn days … the pond is even frozen over.  I didn’t test it for skating or ice fishing, though.


Our gardening season is definitely over and now it will be a garden for the birds.  As we did our fall garden clean up we left many perennials (like these Purple Coneflower and Black Eyed Susan’s) and ornamental grasses standing.


They, along with the crab apples will provide sustenance through the winter for the wildlife in our Garden.  Come for a visit before the snow gets too deep !


Yesterday we weeded … and today we planted!


Yesterday morning this was entirely covered with crabgrass.  Look what 4 women can do in less than three hours!

This morning we planted the perennials that have been waiting since spring.



The first flowers (maple) and fish (gold) of spring!

  • About Our Group

    The Tower Hill Heritage Garden is an initiative founded in 2011 with the intention of restoring the historic Ontario Forestry Branch Ranger Cabin and the gardens surrounding it; into a park and garden celebrating our natural heritage.
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