July 20th, 2024

Expert speaker to attend Horticultural Society meeting

By Samantha Johnson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on October 24, 2023.


Longtime horticultural expert Lyndon Penner will be speaking at the November meeting of the Medicine Hat and District Horticultural Society.

“It’s going to be something that encompasses plants for fragrance. There will be some tropical plants, plants you can easily grow from seed, plants that will feed pollinators and native plants,” said Penner.

Well known for the years he was the gardening columnist on CBC radio, Penner grew up interested in horticulture. Between 2007-2019, he lived in Alberta and spent some of that time employed at the Nikka Yuko Japanese garden in Lethbridge, and as a tour guide for the Wildflower Festival in Waterton Lakes National Park.

His latter years in Alberta were spent self-employed as a consultant and garden designer, along with speaking to horticulture groups.

In 2021, Penner accepted a position with Parks Canada and is currently the head gardener for Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba.

“That has worked out very well for me and I’m very much enjoying my work here and living in Manitoba.”

While self-employed, Penner was approached by a publisher and has written several gardening books.

“I wrote specifically for the prairies and for short growing seasons. We have lots of Canadian gardening authors, but if you go to a library or bookstore, a lot of our gardening books in Canada are either written for the Vancouver area or southern Ontario. It’s not particularly useful for those of us who live in 90-day growing regions. You shouldn’t have to get a horticulture degree in order to create a beautiful garden here, so I was able to do a series of books specifically for prairie gardens – about our climate, our wind, our winters.”

Climates and growing conditions in Calgary and Edmonton are vastly different, said Penner. In the southern part of the province, gardeners need to take chinooks into consideration. As a result, two editions of his first book were written, The Prairie Short Season Yard and Chinook Short Season Yard.

Medicine Hat though, is unique compared to the rest of Alberta.

“I find the climate very interesting,” said Penner. “Medicine Hat can almost be defined as northern desert in some aspects.” Dry winds and very hot summers factor into what can be grown in this region. Penner has heard many say nothing can be grown here, but he disagrees. The trick is finding plants that like this climate and thrive during the long hot sunny days. “Medicine Hat doesn’t get anywhere near the issues with fungal diseases like the Okanagan would,” said Penner. “You don’t have the humidity and we have better air circulation in southern Alberta. Those are things that could be useful in making the climate work for you and not against you.”

Once the season is over for Parks Canada, Penner said he’s a free agent of the universe for the winter months. He will be house sitting in Canmore for most of November and December where he will spend his time preparing for and then teaching classes for the University of Saskatchewan.

“I love teaching, I love talking about plants, I love coming to speak for horticulture groups. I don’t really have to do anything, plants are so exciting, interesting and wonderful,” said Penner. “It’s not me anybody cares about, which is as it should be. People join horticulture societies because they are interested in plants and gardening.”

He will be staying for a couple of days in Medicine Hat, which he describes as a fun city.

“I think it’s a well-kept secret. People drive through Medicine Hat,” said Penner. “I always think it should be a destination and not a drive-thru.”

The Horticultural Society will be holding its annual general meeting Nov. 13 at 6:45 p.m. Penner will be speaking to the group at 7:30 p.m. and said it will be an anniversary of sorts.

“They have been so gracious and so kind to me. I’ve made lovely friends there and I love speaking to this group in particular. This marks the 10th year I’ve been associated with them, and what a treat.”

For more information about the society, visit its Facebook page, or go to medhathort.ca.

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