Half a century of keeping King green

August 27, 2013   ·   0 Comments

Barb Downey and Deborah Socol help lead the Nobleton and King City Horticultural Society.

Photo by Mark Pavilons

By Mark Pavilons
“I cultivate my garden, and my garden cultivates me.” – Robert Brault
Horticultural societies are much more than collections of enthusiastic gardeners.
In the case of the Nobleton and King City Horticultural Society, it’s been part of the social fabric for more than half a century, an imbedded cultural entity with very long roots.
The Nobleton & District Horticultural Society blossomed in late 1957, formed by members of the nearby Woodbridge branch. While the Schomberg Horticultural Society was already established, it seemed given King’s large geographic expanse, another society was warranted.
By January 1958 the group had 50 members and was taking on new life in King. Made up mostly of local farm families, membership rose steadily in those early days, bringing the community together. The society held plant and bake sales and its members shared tips and advice about plants and gardens.
The society reached its peak of 181 members in 1966.
Deborah Socol is in her second term of president of the society and her persistent, roll-up-your-sleeves approach has solidified the group’s work across the Township.
The society hosted the presidents’ event in Nobleton back in 2008, an honour/duty that comes around once every 17 years. In 2008, the society also hosted the district meeting at Seneca College. The annual garden tour, which has been taking place each year since 1997, keeps visitors and participants in awe of King’s residential bounty. Socol, a native of Virginia, encourages visitors from Toronto and south of the border to take in the garden tour. The tours draw a great many from surrounding areas, particularly Bolton neighbours to the west.
Being raised on a large, self-sufficient farm in Virginia, Socol is no stranger to a solid work ethic. When she became involved in the local society, she admitted she wasn’t up to speed on horticultural intricacies, but she “buckled down and did it,” learning everything she could. Today, it’s part of her very soul. Her excitement and enthusiasm is evident when she speaks about the society’s work.
Society past-president Barb Downey said knowledgeable members really make an organization, and there’s no shortage of expertise in this society.
While gardening remains as a very popular pastime around the world, today’s families are under a great deal of time constraints and responsibilities. Downey noted the community is growing and changing and people are prioritizing just where to put their free time. With work and family commitments, gardening is not a top priority. Many people are just too tired and too busy to commit to a group like the horticultural society.
Downey observed  it’s a case where people of a certain age have more time. The empty nesters can devote more energy to gardening.
But Socol, who has her own landscaping business, said more couples are showing an interest, and want to learn how to do it themselves. Given the cost of landscaping, it comes down to practicality and once you’re bitten by the gardening bug, it becomes a love, a pursuit.
While the society is most active from March through November, members are continually planning and organizing events, tours, guest speakers, and attending meetings.
The Nobleton and King City society is known for making its appearance at the well attended Victoria Day celebration in Nobleton, where perennials are often front and centre.
Guest speakers have to be fresh and interesting and securing host properties for the garden tour is laborious. There are many hidden treasures in King that have yet to be explored.
The society is gearing up for the Sept. 7 bulb sale and competition at the Kettleby Fall Fair.
Two more guest speakers remain – Sept. 23 and Oct. 28. The group wraps up its season with its AGM and potluck dinner Nov. 25.
Growth in King is encouraging, as far as the society goes. Many newcomers will have their gardens in great shape by 2015 and the society hopes to tap into that resource.
The best horticultural experts, and the best community resources, are the members of horticultural societies. Many are also diehard volunteers and in Socol’s case, she simply loves community service.
Just as nature doesn’t rest, but merely goes through transitions, members of the society are busy maintaining, preserving, and searching for new projects.
The Nobleton and King City society currently maintains gardens at the four corners (King and Keele), Wellesley Park, King City arena, King City Seniors’ Centre, Cherry Park in Nobleton and memorial trees at Hill Farm Park. Working with King Township staff and helping to coordinate efforts, the society is helping to green parts of King.

“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.” – Hanna Rion

For more on the society, call Socol at 905-833-4375 or visit the website at



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