Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

February 24, 2004

Arboretum horticulturist named one of Canada’s top gardeners

Henry Kock, the interpretive horticulturist at the University of Guelph’s Arboretum, has been named one of Canada’s most outstanding gardeners by Gardening Life magazine.

The national magazine compiled a list of the country’s top gardeners in a variety of categories. The article on “Canada’s Fab 55: A Gardening Who’s Who” appears in this month’s issue. The magazine said it set out to recognize the “diverse talents that populate Canada’s gardening world.” It consulted with a range of experts and associations from coast to coast in making its selections. Criteria included a longtime commitment to the field, national influence or accomplishment, innovation in the pursuit of gardening excellence, and recognition in the form of awards, citations or accolades.

Kock, who has worked for the university’s Arboretum since 1981, was named one of two of the country’s best naturalists. “A walk in the woods with Kock, a horticulturist and teacher at the University of Guelph for over 20 years, is an education in itself,” the article said. The magazine called Kock “one of the premier authorities on Ontario’s native woody plants” and recognized him for establishing gene banks for rare plants and initiating the province’s Elm Recovery Project.

“I am honoured and humbled to be regarded as this influential,” Kock said of the article. “I feel very fortunate to be at the Arboretum and part of the International Association of Botanic Gardens. It has allowed me to connect to and learn from so many people.”

A fourth-generation gardener, Kock said he began his “apprenticeship” in gardening when he was nine.“My father was a classic ‘tidy’ horticulturist, the whole intensive cultivation, pesticide and fertilizer brigade.” Later, after discovering their soil was “functionally dead” the family began to take a more natural approach. “The way plants fight disease naturally, how they deal with it, is just amazing,” Kock said. “At the Arboretum, I contribute to group decisions on the management of plants and grounds in an increasingly ecologically sensitive way.”

Kock also hosts interpretive walks, educational programs and slide shows, and regularly speaks at conferences and to horticulture clubs and field naturalist groups. He is a guest lecturer in courses at U of G, the University of Waterloo and York University; created a schoolyard naturalization program; and helped organize U of G’s first Organic Agriculture Conference in 1982. Currently, he is working on a manual on the ecology and propagation of trees and shrubs in the Great Lakes watershed that is scheduled to be published by Firefly Books later this year.

Kock co-founded the Forest Gene Conservation Association in Ontario in 1995, and as part of the Elm Recovery Project, is establishing an orchard of elms that are resistant to Dutch Elm Disease.

At home, he opens his garden to the public, hosting annual tours of his natural communities of more than 400 species of plants. This year’s tour will be June 12 from 1 to 5 p.m. “I am what might be thought of as a gardener by nature’s rules,” he said. “My gardens are fertilizer-and pesticide free.” His front lawn is a native plant meadow and part of his backyard is a beech-maple woodland garden, providing a home for a variety of wildlife. “I have no insect pests because I encourage predator habitat.”

Kock received a Governor General’s Award for Forest Stewardship in 1998 and a Forest Stewardship in Canada Award through the Forest Stewardship Recognition Program in 1999.

Henry Kock
U of G Arboretum
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 56443

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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