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The West End Horticultural Society : N.D.G.'s Best Secret for 85 Years


By Mary Sawczyszyn, Treasurer


In 1933, the West End Horticultural Society(W.E.H.S.) was founded in N.D.G.. The effects of the great depression were still being felt and the populace was forced to supplement their food supply with vegetables grown in gardens wherever vacant land was available.


In N.D.G., a group of citizens with foresight banded together and decided that it would be to their advantage to start up a garden club. It would be named the West End Horticultural Society.


The first meeting was held at the corner of Sherbrooke Street West and Marlowe Avenue at the Trinity Memorial Church. The following year the Society moved to Wesley United Church (on the corner of N.D.G. and Royal Avenue) where it operated for many years until 1996. Management changes at the church imposed too high a financial commitment for the rental of its hall and the Society moved the meetings to Knox Crescent Kensington Church on Godfrey Ave just below Monkland Ave. The Society's meetings are still held there today. 


A strong part of our membership support came into being in 1935 with the inauguration of the N.D.G. Garden Club. The members of the N.D.G. Garden Club grew vegetables and flowers on an appointed piece of land in N.D.G. Many of these gardeners were also members of the W.E.H.S. and would enter their flowers and vegetables in the Society's garden competition and annual flower and vegetable show. The Society and Garden Club co-existed alongside each other.


The Society thrived and held Spring Garden, Rose Garden, Summer Garden and Flower Show competitions which were juried by professional judges from the Montreal Botanical Gardens.


The Society's members came from Hampstead, Cote. St. Luc, Montreal West, N.D.G. and Westmount. Throughout the years, members donated 22 silver trophies in memories of loved ones covering different categories such as: Best Rose, Best Gladiola, Best Plant, Best Arrangements, etc. Members were keen competitors vying for the silver trophies.


Financial support came from membership fees (currently $20.00 per person annually), military whists, raffles, perennial sales and annual grants from the Quebec government. Our first big annual perennial sale was held in May of 1977 under the leadership of then president, Edda Mark. This annual activity is now one of our largest fundraisers


The W.E.H.S. has had many fine speakers over the years at its monthly meetings. Some of these include Dawn Smith of Smith Brothers Florist who gave her first presentation in November 1978 for a sum of $20.00, the late horticulturalist and Montreal Gazette columnist, Stuart Robertson in March 1979, Elwood Quinn of La Ferme Quinn in 1981, as well as Mayor Bourque who was a supporter of the Society while he directed the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Some speakers have returned numerous times to address our group. The Society believes that Dawn Smith wins the prize for kindly returning to the Society almost annually for her much sought-after floral design presentations.


The N.D.G. garden club initially existed on land belonging to Loyola College but when the school started to expand, the garden club had to move. Mr. Ross Morell and Mr. Hector Paradis found land for the gardeners on Fielding Ave. followed by a move to Cote St. Luc and then another one to Somerled Avenue. The gardeners were certainly nomadic!


The club members thought they had found a permanent spot when Mr. Reg Herman spearheaded a move on to the property of the Montreal Association for the Blind. However, in 1972, the Constance Lethbridge Centre was being constructed and the gardeners moved on to the Julius Richardson grounds. Finally, in 1978, a permanent home was found and the garden club thrived on the property of the Salvation Army Eventide Home on the border of N.D.G. and Montreal West. In 1998, the property was sold to the Parmalat conglomerate and in 2001, the garden club was forced to disband.


The garden club members were not interested in locating yet another property and preparing the land for their flowers and vegetables. As a result, entries into the W.E.H.S.'s annual shows declined drastically and the 1998 and 1999 shows had poor participation and mediocre displays. The expense in terms of rime and dollars to put on one of these shows was no longer justified. The exhibitions were discontinued in 2000.


However, long rime members and new members have banded together and today the 85-year old Society is thriving with numerous activities for its members including meetings with top-notch speakers presenting an array of diverse topics. In addition,  tour of members'( and non-members') gardens has been reinstated.The Society is proud to have resumed this much celebrated bi-annual event. Every other year, including this one, members participate in the W.E.H.S. photography ontest. Impressive amateur photos of various flora are exhibited by memebers with prizes awarded to the best entries.


Under the direction of current president, Suzanne Csik of Montreal West, and the Society's hardworking Executive committee, the W.E.H.S. has celebrated its 80th anniversary with a party. The Society, with all of its wonderfully supportive members, has played and continues to play an important role in the community by helping to beautify the West End. Donations of perennials from members' gardens are made to Eco Quartier NDG (to give to other community organizations for their gardens and properties) as well as St. Monica's elementary school on Terrebonne Ave. While the W.E.H.S. has endured for over three-quarters of a century, it has maintained a relatively low profile. Hopefully, this milestone will bring much needed publicity to the Society and new members will join. This way, local gardens and neighbourhouds will continue to be enhanced by the Society's members and their very green thumbs.


      Visit online at http://wehs.e-monsite.com  for the latest info

      Join the W.E.H.S.  WEB group  by e-mailing to:  wehs-subscribe@yahoogroups.ca



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