The year of the garden – Stittsville’s Brian Carson receives highest award for horticulture in Ontario

(Stittsville resident, Brian Carson, poses alongside his garden trilliums proudly displaying his Ontario Horticultural Association Silver Medal Award received on May 7, 2022. Photo: Stittsville Central)

Brian Carson of Stittsville has been on a mission to discover rare plants for over twenty-five years. His first rare find was a mysterious trillium – a double trillium to be exact. In 2018, Stittsville Central shared Brian’s story of how this discovery came to be.

Brian’s interest in the trillium began around 2000 when he read an article by flower explorer Mary Henry that described a rare type of trillium, called the “double trillium”, about which she used the holy grail analogy. “Instead of having the three petals like a normal trillium does, this one has several dozen petals,” Carson said. “They’re so rare because they don’t produce seeds and can only be reproduced via splitting its rhizome in the hopes a clone will sprout.” It took him about 10 years, but he finally found the reason for his quest, the elusive double trillium, near Shawville.

(A clump of the double trillium discovered by Brian Carson in a Shawville forest. Photo: Brian Carson)

On May 7, 2022, at the Ontario Horticultural Association’s D2 Annual General Meeting, Brian Carson was awarded the Silver Medal, the Association’s highest horticultural award, given for outstanding work in the advancement of horticulture. The Ontario Horticultural Society is comprised of 270 societies from across the province.

Maxine Whelan, President of the Manotick Horticultural Society was pleased along with her members to nominate Brian for his accomplishments. Maxine told Stittsville Central, “Brian is a marvel. He is so enthusiastic about horticulture and his love of plant hunting. Brian has many passions, but one in particular, is to share his knowledge about the Burnt Lands, an alvar located between Almonte and Ottawa and known for its distinctive plants including the Cooper’s Milk Vetch and Ram’s-Head Ladyslipper. He has led many Horticultural Societies and other nature groups on tours of the alvar, educating their members about this globally significant habitat”.

Brian has been a member of the Manotick Horticultural Society for over 40 years where he has served as President, established the library, ran plant sales and helped run their Beautification Program watering all the community gardens with his well-equipped truck. He received the District 2 Service Award in 2006, and became a Life Member of Manotick Horticultural Society in 2017 and for all of this we were honoured to nominate him with support from his fellow members at the Stittsville Goulbourn Horticultural Society and the Ottawa Valley Rock Garden & Horticultural Society – all groups he is a member of.”

(While visiting his garden, Brian shows us his Eastern Redbud Tree (Cercis canadensis) just coming into bloom. The blooms on this tree appear to emerge right from the bark of twigs and branches and even on parts of the trunk, adorning the entire tree with miniature clusters of flowers. Photo: Stittsville Central)

Brian is a world renowned wildflower geek. Botanical gardens in North America and overseas have contacted him about the rare plants that he has discovered on his rambles in the Ottawa Valley. He was the first to report finding the holy grail of North American wildflowers, the cherished but elusive double trillium, right here in the Ottawa Valley and just recently the second double Hepatica for North America, a hop, skip and a jump from Stittsville. On his spring quests over the last twenty-five years, he has found and reported more double trilliums than anyone in North America. As a Florida snowbird he discovered a large colony of terrestrial orchids that was new to North America. On his quest for the double trilliums he stumbled on hundreds of colour variants of the “red” Trillium and many marvelous mutations. He has propagated them using various methods and grown them in his Stittsville garden. As a result of this, avid collectors from around the globe have visited his garden here in Stittsville. He has generously shared his prize plants, including growing 200 double bloodroots for attendees of the OHA Centennial Convention held in Manotick.

(This is an unusual red trillium mutation found by Brian in a Shawville forest. Photo: Brian Carson)

Brian is a sought after speaker among horticultural societies and field naturalist groups, is a published garden writer, and has been featured in magazines such as Ontario Nature, Spring 2020. He is an excellent educator, writer, plant hunter, trillium and wildflower expert, eco-tour guide, and great photographer.

The award nominators estimate that he has educated several thousand wildlife enthusiasts on this rare ecosystem, a marvelous contribution to conservation. While still working and exploring, he somehow found time to run the library, plant sales, hypertufa workshops and lead plant excursions for several local horticultural and naturalist societies.

He continues to research and propagate many beautiful challenging, rare plants, several species of lovely Lady’s slippers, unusual Trilliums and the cherished double bloodroot.

Brian is a key member of the 2023 OHA Convention Planning Committee. This convention will be held at the Brookstreet Hotel next summer. Brian will provide a rare plant as the Convention attendee gift. He is on the Fundraising Committee and will also conduct a tour of the Burnt Lands Provincial Park, pointing out the rare and diverse plant and animal species in this exceptional alvar.

With his gentle nature, quirky sense of humour, generous heart, knowledge and enthusiasm for nature and horticulture, Brian is a most deserving recipient of the Ontario Horticultural Association’s highest award, the Silver Medal Award.

(Brian Carson received the Ontario Horticultural Association’s Silver Medal Award on May 7, 2022. Photo: Stittsville Central)

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2 thoughts on “The year of the garden – Stittsville’s Brian Carson receives highest award for horticulture in Ontario”

    1. Hi Mary – the Silver Medal Award is the Ontario Horticultural Association’s highest horticultural award and is awarded for outstanding work in the advancement of horticulture. Brian is amazing and we are so fortunate that he resides in Stittsville.

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