Art in the Garden
This year, Paul Loiselle, owner and horticulturalist at Kiwi Gardens, will be hosting the company's 21st annual Art in the Garden event on Father's Day weekend, June 17 and 18. More than 2,500 people come each year to roam the 10-acres of mature perennial gardens and view the work of more than 30 artists from Ontario and Québec.
"It's like an old-fashioned garden party," Loiselle says. "It's a wonderful experience." He selects the perfect spot in the garden for each artist. It provides an opportunity for guests to see what the one-of-akind works of art would look like on their own properties and creates an approachable atmosphere in which to engage with the artists.
For Loiselle, plants are his artistic medium and one of the reasons he started Art in the Garden was to justify having such lavish gardens. "No one in the right mind would have such incredible gardens for their own sake," he says.
And perhaps Loiselle is one-of-a-kind too. He is one of the few horticulturalists and nursery owners who touches practically every plant himself. And it pays off. "My customers tell me, our plants are tough and that they adapt to their gardens," he says. That's because he takes the time to plant them in the ground before selling them, so the plants can adapt and become hardier.
After graduating from the University of Guelph with a degree in horticulture in 1978, he continued with the program as a professor of nine years. It was the perfect job, allowing him to build Kiwi Gardens during the spring and summer months. Since he started the company in 1985, it has grown with more than 3,000 varieties of perennials in seven greenhouses and on the property. He grows unique flowering plants, a few edibles (only lavender and rosemary) and an extensive select of succulents, his latest fascination.
Gardening wasn't a lifelong ambition, but rather something something he fell into it. What started as just a summer job, at which Loiselle could let his long hair down and roam freely outside doing yardwork to earn a little cash, eventually turned into his life's work. At the age of 15, he got a job working for an elderly bachelor with a large estate along the St. Lawrence seaway, half a mile from his family home. The man was totally dedicated to his garden and taught Loiselle to be aware of his surroundings, to do things the right way and to be in tune with nature.
He didn't realize it at the time, but this man was saving him. "I was too wild and undirected, he gave me focus and taught me so much in a gentle way," Loiselle says. "Making a living off the land is not a given. I feel very fortunate that things have worked out so well."
687 Harper Rd., Perth, Ont.