Ten destination gardens across Canada are working together to increase their visibility and engagement in local communities in order to increase garden visits. Funded by the federal government, the initiative is called Growing Our Markets and involves local and regional networks of people who have an affiliation or interest in gardening. Until now, most garden destinations operated without any regular contact with local gardening groups and did not have a way to share best practices about marketing with other gardens.
“The purpose of the network is to do what we already do well, but do it better by working collaboratively together. There’s strength in numbers,” says Harry Jongeden, executive director of Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG), one of the lead gardens in the project.
Growing Our Markets
The Canadian Garden Council is implementing the Growing Our Markets project in collaboration with the TBG and other lead gardens. The project is intended to be a catalyst to create networks in each region of people involved in leading gardens, garden experiences, garden-related organizations, industry associations, tourism and related business entities.
For the public, the most visible aspect of the initiative is a series of new websites. In April, the council began the roll-out of a new national website, gardenscanada.ca, as a hub that will link all the Growing Our Markets garden networks with regional destination hubs. The regional hub for Ottawa gardens is the first to be completed and it includes more than 100 gardens in the Ottawa area. It can be searched by name or type of garden with maps and directions as well as more details about a listed garden. Hubs for the other regional networks are in the process of being populated with listings and images.
For local gardening groups such as Master Gardeners, the project potentially could improve local communications and co-operation.
For the Growing Our Markets gardens and partners, simply put, the project’s ambition is to increase visits and to improve the effectiveness of marketing efforts.
“The end result will be a more strategic marketing approach to broaden the scope for gardens to more effectively and efficiently communicate to their existing followers and to reach new customers, visitors and participants,” says Michel Gauthier, executive director of the Canadian Garden Council, which also manages Garden Days, the Garden Tourism Awards, the North American Garden Tourism Conference, Canada’s Garden Route, The Garden Promenade (Ottawa & Gatineau’s newest garden attraction). In 2017, the council recognized 150 garden experiences as part of the Canada 150 celebrations.
The Growing Our Markets project objectives are to:
- Grow the relevance, awareness and profile of the gardens and garden organizations within the community and neighbourhoods;
- Grow garden leadership, participation and engagement within the community;
- Grow by creating and strengthening linkages between gardens and garden organizations in pursuit of common marketing strategies;
- Grow garden visitation and garden destinations;
- Grow by integrating gardens to the community’s tourism experience offering as a destination;
- Grow by aligning regional initiatives with national marketing programs.
This project involves 10 lead gardens that create networks with gardens, garden experiences, garden organizations and related interested partners such as industry groups, tourism associations and other groups. These “Destination Garden Networks” each have a name that reflects their region, such as the Gardens Ottawa or Gardens Vancouver Island or Gardens Newfoundland and Labrador.
The lead gardens (west to east) are:
- The Butchart Gardens – Victoria, BC.
- Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden – Vancouver, BC
- University of Alberta Botanic Garden – Edmonton, Alberta
- Assiniboine Park Conservancy – Winnipeg, Manitoba
- Toronto Botanical Garden – Toronto, Ontario
- Niagara Parks Botanical Garden – Niagara Falls, Ontario
- Canadensis Botanical Garden Society, Ottawa, Ontario
- Les Jardins de Métis – Grand-Métis, Québec
- Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens – Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia
- MUN Botanical Garden – St. John’s, Newfoundland Labrador
This fall, in each region there will be workshops focused on tourism readiness. The plan is to develop and share templates and communication tools to share across the regional networks of gardens.
Some of the objectives are to:
- Encourage residents, businesses, associations, organizations and government to recognize the value and potential that gardens, garden events and gardening provide for each community, peoples’ physical and mental health and the environment;
- Facilitate communication between all groups and organizations that are committed to the development, growth and beautification of the community via gardens and gardening;
- Be a voice for the garden and gardening community with such entities as the municipal government, other groups and organizations, the private sector and residents;
- Create a network to provide assistance to groups and projects which support and promote the creation, care and enjoyment of gardens and gardening within the community;
- Facilitate communication between garden leaders and the garden and landscape industry;
- Develop a “destination garden marketing synergy plan”;
- Manage the destination garden web sites;
- Integrate local gardens and garden experiences with Canada’s Garden Route;
- Plan, implement and promote Garden Days at the local/regional level;
- Work toward the integration of gardens and garden experiences to the overall tourism offerings of the destination;
- Support and promote the use of garden experiences as a means of enhancing each community’s quality of life and its celebrations;
- Identify issues that warrant a policy response and bring these issues to the attention of policy-makers.
The Growing Our Markets project is made possible by Canadian Heritage’s Canada Cultural Investment Fund. It is supported by the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association and is implemented by the Canadian Garden Council in collaboration with the Toronto Botanical Garden.