Blooming Oshawa draws provincial recognition

A photo from the Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens Peony Festival in 2018. Photo credit: Ruilong Pan

Peonies, please.

Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens (OVBG) Peony Festival has been named one of the top festivals in Ontario for the seventh year in a row by Festivals & Events Ontario.

The festival, which takes place in June every year, showcases more than 300 varieties of peonies.

Catherine Richards, the manager of culture and central recreation services in Oshawa, says the peonies came from many donations.

“The initial garden was a donation of 100 different peonies from the Walter Gilbert collection, a peony breeder who passed away and donated his collection to the Canadian Peony Society (CPS),” Richards says, “Over the years the CPS and Judi and Michael Denny donated the other 200 varieties of peonies.”

This time of year, Richards says the peonies are like any other perennial: They are dormant, waiting for sun and warm weather to come.

She says the flowers can bloom for six weeks, ranging from May until the end of June.

Richards adds the blooms can last a week.

The peony collection was the first established garden at the OVBG, Richards says, and the festival would not have been possible without the OVBG Task Force, a committee of volunteers who were planned the development of the Botanical Gardens.

The event was initially a celebration of the start of the botanical gardens but has been established as a crowd-drawing festival which also includes vendors, performances and food.

Richards is proud to receive the honour as Oshawa is the only festival to be recognized in their category, which includes York, Durham and Hills of Headwaters regions.

Throughout the year, Richards says City gardeners take care of the peonies.

“By maintaining them with mulch, water, removing weeds and removing diseased leaves and cut down the plants in the fall,” she says, adding the tree peonies are not cut down since the flowers only bloom on old wood.

This year is the 15th anniversary of the festival, which will be held June 15-16..