The Roses Among Us: Creation of a column for Sask. Sustainable company


The mandate of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society is to share knowledge through information meetings, plant exchanges and garden tours.

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Thinking back to where we started both as an organization and with the column you’re reading is quite rewarding.

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In 1989, a group of passionate gardeners got together to talk about their gardens. Many were interested in perennials and enjoyed sharing their knowledge and their plants. Soon they were visiting each other’s gardens for inspiration and pleasure. Later that year, they formalized things at a meeting held at Forestry Farm Park in Saskatoon and became the Saskatchewan Perennial Society.

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The society’s mandate is to share knowledge about perennial gardening through informational meetings, plant exchanges and garden tours.

The company maintains two gardens at Forestry Farm Park. The meditation garden is named in honor of Robin Smith. He envisioned the gardens but died aged 42, before they became a reality. The Heritage Rose Garden features plant material developed by prairie plant breeders. We hold ‘Labour and Learn’ working bees in the gardens every three weeks during the gardening season, giving members and volunteers the opportunity to meet in an informal setting to work together and share their knowledge and experiences of gardening.

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In 2007, we embarked on a new adventure by offering a free column to the Sun, a weekly then associated with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Our column is also distributed free to other weeklies in Saskatchewan. The Sun has since evolved into bridges.

To print 52 articles a year requires some coordination, a task that was gracefully accepted by Sara Williams, who kept the writers organized. Initially, our regular contributors included Williams, Erl Svendsen, Brian Baldwin (who passed away in 2009, and whose wit and unique perspective we still miss) and Maureen Troesch (who still writes a regular “Ask Us” column for The Gardener magazine).

Towards the end of 2010, Svendsen took over the position of coordinator from Williams. During these years, the majority of the articles were written by the coordinators who, between writing great articles, had the task of coaxing the articles of their friends and cohorts into the horticultural field and editing them before publication.

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When Erl retired as coordinator in 2018, things became a bit more formalized, with Heather Brenneman at the helm. Meetings now take place every four to five months to schedule upcoming articles. They are usually edited by Williams or Svendsen before being submitted to the coordinator, who then forwards the articles to the weekly newspapers for publication. Brad Leibel was coordinator in 2019. Michelle Petrisor has been carrying out this task since March 2020.

Over the years, the cast of characters writing this column has changed, but the core group since 2009 has been Williams (horticulturist, author and co-author of numerous articles and books on gardening, including: Creating the Xeriscape Prairie, Best Trees and Shrubs for the Prairies, Best Ground Covers and Vines for the Prairies, and Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens); Svendsen (training in horticultural sciences and plant stress physiology); and, Jackie Bantle (greenhouse manager at the University of Saskatchewan and former vegetable specialist for all things vegetable, greenhouse and container gardening).

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Jill Thomson (retired plant disease specialist) and myself, Bernadette Vangool, an enthusiastic gardener who learned a few things along the way, are also sprinkled with a bit of wisdom.

For specialized articles on pests, we occasionally communicate with Cédric Gillott. For all things Patterson Garden and unusual trees or shrubs, we depend on Alan Weninger. Bob Bors from the University of Saskatchewan is our fruit breeding specialist. There have been many other guest writers over our 15 years of publishing, too many to mention. The Saskatchewan Perennial Society greatly appreciates and salutes all of our editors and coordinators for their continued selfless contributions to our educational efforts.

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You really are the roses among the perennials, not too many thorns in sight either.

This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society, which can be contacted by email at [email protected] Visit our website ( or Facebook page (

News seems to be flying towards us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With this in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created a Afternoon titles newsletter that can be sent to your inbox daily to ensure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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