“Such a Beautiful Spot”: The Scarborough College Gardening Club

As the warm April sun begins to greet us, many of us are itching to sink our hands in soil and cultivate some earthly beauty. In the early decades of UTSC, students, faculty and staff were eager to do just that – and signed up for the Garden Club hosted on campus in the valley. Hosted by Lecturer Cathy Pickett, members were welcome to plant and tend to crops on their own 15 by 35 foot garden plot. In July 2019, our team had the pleasure of sitting down with Cathy Pickett for an oral history interview, and she can still recall the picturesque beauty the garden plots provided: “[…] Such a beautiful spot…you felt like you were in the middle of green — greenery” (Pickett, 2019). More importantly, Pickett also reflected about the ways in which the Garden Club was instrumental for human connection on campus and in preserving the memory of the early history of Scarborough College. By learning to garden from fellow club members, students and staff not only mastered the various ways in which individuals of various backgrounds gardened (i.e. “raised garden beds” in England) – but also made important connections to one another. Names and stories flood her memory whenever she recalls her time hosting the Garden Club. These important connections made over watering flowers facilitated and cemented memories of Scarborough College folks – folks whose stories on campus might have otherwise been forgotten.  For example, Pickett could quickly recall those who had participated in her club: “[…] That was the lovely person…he died at 60, but they had a garden –and this person they moved somewhere else, but they had a garden” (Pickett, 2019). What would you have grown in your own 15 by 35 foot garden plot? Let us know by leaving some comments below!

Sources: 

Ainsworth, Amelia, Edward Dunsworth, and Nancy Lee. Interview with Catharine Pickett. Oral history conducted by Amelia Ainsworth, Edward Dunsworth, and Nancy Lee, Scarborough Oral History Project, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, 2019. 

“Plotting the Garden.” Scarborough College Spectrum (newsletter). 24 February 1982. Collection of newsletters held by the History of UTSC Project. Also available at the University of Toronto Scarborough Library, Archives & Special Collections through the UTSC Archives Legacy Collection, File 002-B-12-9-4. https://discoverarchives.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/spectrum-volume-ii

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