Guelph Wellington Master Gardeners are garden learners, resource for community, social club – all rolled into one

GUELPH – For passionate gardeners who also love learning and passing that knowledge along to others, the Guelph Wellington Master Gardeners might be for you.

Chris Hamilton joined in 2001 and is now the membership coordinator. She said she worked in a greenhouse as a teenager and became interested in gardening then.

But life happened – kids, hockey practice, work, home – and she didn’t have time to really dig in. 

When her kids got older, she had more time for the garden and her passion was rekindled.

“A neighbour was a master gardener and I went with her to a meeting. I thought it was great, so I joined,” she said.

To be a master gardener takes more commitment than just attending monthly meetings.

Master gardeners are considered subject experts. To be certified requires taking courses and passing an exam.

It also requires giving 30 hours of volunteer time a year and updating certification periodically with more courses.

“We want to stay current with the science of gardening because it changes,” she said.

Courses are offered online at the University of Guelph and at Dalhousie University.

Master gardeners in training have two years to complete the course work and write their exam.

The volunteer work comes in many forms.

The club’s raison d’etre is to inform and educate the public on gardening matters.

So some members will write articles (some of which have been published in the Advertiser), some man the advice hotline, some attend at garden tours when requested to answer questions from tour-goers, and others will work in the Roots and Shoots pollinator garden at the Arboretum.

The Guelph Wellington group holds a Day in the Garden in February – a day of speakers, vendors and lunch.

“It’s a really good day and an antidote for winter,” Hamilton said.

In May the group holds its annual plant sale, where members donate plants from their own gardens to be sold.

Because they are all seasoned gardeners, you’ll sometimes find some rare and unique plants at very reasonable prices.

The club held the sale at Riverside Park this year for the first time and it was a busy place for a few hours.

“It gets you in the gardening mode at the plant sale,” Hamilton said. “And it’s really good for new gardeners. They can get some free advice with their plant.”

The group meets at the Arboretum Centre on the University of Guelph campus on the third Thursday of the month except for July and August. Cost to join is $35 a year.

The cost to get answers to your gardening questions is zero. Hamilton said they get all kinds of questions. This year many were about pollinator gardens, native plants and invasive plants.

“This is a great group for people who want to learn more, who like to take courses and who want to share what they know,” Hamilton said. “And there’s also the social aspect of getting together with people who share the same interest.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the master gardener program can visit 

If you leave your name and contact information, “I will call or email and we’ll go from there,” she said.