Mayor Marvin Junkin, Willowbrook Nurseries’ John Langendoen, and Pelham Interim CAO Teresa Quinlin meet in Fenwick. JOHN CHICK PHOTO

Poor choices made with original plantings have left village centre looking more beast than beauty

Special to the VOICE

When the previous Pelham Town Council gave the go-ahead for the beautification of downtown Fenwick a few years back, John Langendoen was involved in the process. As founder of Willowbrook Nurseries, he knows a thing or two about plants, trees and what can grow where. However, his suggestions seemed to fall on deaf ears as planners insisted on using certain native plantings in the beautification.

“No, I fought with them,” Langendoen said with a laugh last week, in Fenwick, as he met with Pelham Mayor Marvin Junkin and Interim CAO Teresa Quinlin regarding his Victoria Avenue nursery’s plans to replace many of the plantings along Canboro Road in the village centre.

“They said, ‘It has got to be native, that’s the trend,’” Langendoen recalls. “That’s fine, I get that, and I do encourage that where it’s appropriate. But this is not a native site. This is an urban area, so you have to use plants that will fit the urban site.”

The result, four years after the ribbon was cut on the beautification, is that some of the plants and trees are either dying off or being improperly managed.

“A plant over here, called aronia,” Langendoen said, pointing. “It’s not conducive to this environment. It pooched out. Over here on this gingko tree behind my truck, the top is missing on it. And that gets to be a massive, massive tree.”

It’s a similar story with the London planetrees that were placed in the concrete and iron planters on the roadside. In this climate, winter salt will erode the roots, causing the trees to slowly die. Langendoen said there are other options, given the side effects of our harsh winters, such as more salt-tolerant ornamental grass.

Willowbrook Nurseries will provide the new plantings to Pelham free of charge, with Town workers doing the removal of the old and installation of the new.

Langendoen and Willowbrook have a long history of donating back to the community, including a donation to the new community centre.

Junkin and Quinlin both said the goal is ideally to have the work done by the middle of July.

That timing works for Langendoen.

“The best time to plant a tree is 40 years ago,” he joked. “The second best time is today.”

Junkin said Willowbrook would have carte blanche on which plantings will be used, based on the brickwork-rich location.

“You can go in and you can lay it out and say this is what we’re going to do plant-wise,” the Mayor told Langendoen. “If you just supply the plants, we’ll go from there.”

The plan will also include replacing the plants around the Fenwick flagpole, which sits in the middle of the intersection of Canboro and Maple. The pole is considered a heritage structure, and a ceremonial plaque exists for it. For whatever reason though, the Town has never affixed the plaque to the pole. Junkin said that will change once the new plantings are complete.