Kitchener’s horticultural department spreads
​beauty and cheer across the city

Tables of multi-coloured poinsettias will ship out this week from the City of Kitchener’s greenhouses to public buildings across the city. The poinsettias are grown by city staff. With this year’s crop are, from left, Interim Supervisor of Major Parks and Horticulture Dave Ridgway, and horticulturalist Sandy Baggott.
Photo by Helen Hall
by Helen Hall
Kitchener Citizen
December 1, 2018
There is one department at the City of Kitchener that makes the rest of them look good.

Throughout the year, the horticultural staff grows plants for city parks, gardens, offices, and community buildings. They help bring colour and beauty to the outside of the city, and cheer and oxygen to the inside.

This time of year, the staff are shipping out about 600 poinsettia plants to Kitchener City Hall, community centres and arenas, said Dave Ridgway, Interim Supervisor of Major Parks and Horticulture at the City of Kitchener.

Ridgway said poinsettias are “high maintenance”
​plants that have to be tended to carefully to
​prevent root rot.

​“This year has been a good year,” Ridgway said.

Horticulturalist Sandy Bag-gott took care of this year’s crop for the city, since they arrived as small plant “plugs” in August.

She said the city avoids using chemicals on its plants, and when it can, relies on “biologicals” or “good bugs that take care of the bad.”

Baggott said that even after years of growing poinsettias, they still learn new things.

“Nothing’s perfect, so you do the best that you can,” Ridgway said about working with plants.

The city has about 6,800 square feet of greenhouse space located at its operations plant on Goodrich Drive.

Once the poinsettias leave the greenhouse this week, things are are a little quiet, Ridgway said.

Tropical interior plants for city offices are propagated. Some of those plants that have already spent time in city buildings come back for “rehab.”

Drooping from months under artificial lighting, time in the greenhouse spruces them up before they are returned to the office space.

In February, the staff starts growing annuals for city parks and gardens.

They also work on potted plants to liven up indoor offices and community buildings in the spring.

Last year they did gerbera daisies and it seemed to lift the spirits of the public and staff.

“They really appreciated it after a long winter,” Baggott said.

In the spring, the staff at the greenhouse grows too.

The two horticulturalists who have been working all winter are joined by temporary workers and students who help ship out the annuals and plant them in the parks and public gardens.

Ridgway said it is then time to get to work on the chrysanthemums for Oktoberfest and Thanksgiving, and the poinsettias for the holidays.

Having its own greenhouse saves the taxpayers money, as it is less expensive for the city to grow its own plants than it would be to buy them, Ridgway said. “Our job is to make everything beautiful.”