Aldona at Large: Swan Song

“Start spreading the news…”

My dear cherubs,

Some of you will have already received a letter announcing my retirement as Executive Director of the Toronto Botanical Garden. Here are some excerpts:

“After three wonderful years as Executive Director of Toronto Botanical Garden, I have decided that it’s time for me to…live a freer, less structured life. My tenure at the TBG has been extremely interesting and rewarding, and I am very proud of what I have been able to contribute. But this job is also an intense one, demanding long hours. I want to go out at the top of my game while I am still filled with energy and ideas… I leave behind me a strong team, a revitalized organization, a proactive Board of Trustees, and somewhat more stable finances (as ever, there is still more work to be done in this area).”

“Please be assured that this is not an abrupt departure but a longish goodbye. I have offered to stay at least until the Annual General Meeting on April 4 to allow time for a decent search for a new Executive Director; after that, it will be up to the TBG Board to decide if it needs my continued assistance and in what capacity…This is a very special place, and I feel privileged to have been part of it.”

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

Happily, my notion of retirement will never include the concept of retiring from writing. Nope, that’s in my DNA. I will continue with this blog for the foreseeable future (the title is, after all, Aldona at Large, and now I’ll be more “at large” than ever), but if the new E.D. feels I am treading on his or her toes or what I write about becomes irrelevant to the TBG, I will move my blog to its own site and revamp it, and you can link to it if you like.

What else do I have in mind? I hope to do a lot more of this:

Devote real time to my dear family and friends. They’ve been neglected. Many are scattered in various parts of the world and I see them far too seldom. Like me, they’re getting older too. And my granddaughter is growing up so fast.

And this:

Reading! Learning about new things! These have been the joys of my life since childhood.

And this:

Visiting (and writing about) classic gardens like this one near Lucca in Tuscany, or

Modern ones like the Highline in New York, which is a city worth spending more time in all by itself.

Perhaps I’ll study acting again, which I enjoyed so much at school.

There’s a program at Ryerson University called Act II that sounds intriguing.

Or maybe I’ll finally learn how to properly ride a bike. As a child, I wasn’t allowed to own one because my mother thought they were too dangerous, so I’m a real wobbler. It would be great fun to have enough confidence to cycle around Amsterdam.

And for sure I want to do a plenty more of this:

Gather my rosebuds while I may. Properly sort out my garden and my house. Thin out my possessions and give the excess “stuff” away. Pick flowers from the garden, like this bouquet gathered a few years ago in the garden of the farmhouse in Italy I rented for six weeks. Cook for family and friends. Entertain more. And yes, travel, travel, travel, and write about it, too. Maybe lead the odd tour to exotic places.

Sadie and Willow are taken with the notion of spending part of the winters somewhere warm. They are little, and the snow is difficult for them to navigate. I am big, and it’s difficult for me to navigate, too. (BTW, get yourself some of those yak trax or similar that slip easily on and off the soles of your boots. They look like black flexible rubber webs with studded grips, and are absolute godsends in the icy weather we’ve had in the last few weeks. I can now go walkies with impunity, even on black ice. I’ve seen them for sale at Mountain Equipment Coop, Costco and even the occasional Shoppers Drug Mart.)

Lolling in an outdoor hot tub in wintry Quebec on a “Girlfriend Getaway” with fellow journalists

So there you have it, my dears. That’s it for openers. I have so much to be grateful for. And so much to look forward to. Grand adventures await! See you back here in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, this Saturday, February 23, I’ll be speaking at Get the Jump on Spring, and hope you’ll be there, too. You can find out more about the day’s horticultural happenings by clicking here.

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  • Hi Aldona,

    I’m not a member of the botanical gardens yet – but as soon as my son is out of diapers I’ll be signing us our family, and all because of you. I subscribed to the garden newsletter and never expected to be so lured into reading about your wonderful adventures and passion for what you do. You are a blossom yourself Aldona, and I feel better for having been part of the experiences you write about.

    Congratulations on a job well done. It’s just so refreshing – and infectious – to see someone do their work with such joy and passion. Thank you for your gift of writing. And if I get a vote on what you do next – start a blog and write a book! See you at the book signing 😉

    With Gratitude and Respect,
    Emily McInnes

  • Aldona

    Emily! What a lovely note–thank you for your very kind words. I’m glad you’ll be joining the TBG–it’s such a wonderful place and has brought me a great deal of happiness and pleasure not just in the past three years, but since the 1980s. (And BTW, you’re no slouch in the writing department yourself.)

  • Diane Ronan


    We just want to wish you all the best with the next chapter of your life and look forward to following your blog.

    Diane & Peter Ronan

    • Aldona

      Thanks so much, Diane and Peter. And Diane, congrats on your lovely work in the TBG Art Gallery show in the Weston Family Library.

  • Ruth Chernia

    Aldona, It ‘s been wonderful reading your posts and learning so much while you have too. Please keep up the blog, if you can. And enjoy the next phase of your life.

    • Aldona

      Ruth! It’s so nice to hear from you. I hope you’re keeping well. And thanks for the good wishes.

  • Heidi

    Like the John Mayer song asks, “Are you living it right?” Good for you for making sure you do! Congratulations! ~ heidi

    • Aldona

      Thanks, Heidi. As a friend of mine said, “someday” is today.

  • Lisa Dedels

    Aldona, I have so enjoyed reading your blogs; they make me smile and laugh and just feel good. It is a pleasure to be able to share your enthusiasm in gardening and life. I wish you and your precious pets much luck as you embark on this new stage in life.

    • Aldona

      Hi Lisa. Thanks so much for the compliments. I love writing and taking photos, and will definitely carry on doing both.

  • Claudie Graner

    Took a while to sink in and while every beginning is exciting – so I am excited for you – endings are a little sad and I am a little sad for me! i always enjoyed your writings and never NOT opened the TBG newsletter as I might other newsletter…..Thank you for your intelligence, humour, knowledge and caring about the TBG. Best Wishes, Claudie.

    • Aldona

      Dear Claudie–thank you very much. The TBG will continue to be part of my life, just as it has been for more than 30 years. And once a writer, always a writer…

  • Farzana

    Just was thinking of you today, Aldona, and happened upon your post! You always make me think, make me smile, and I miss you. We’d love you to see our little garden eden in Vancouver if you are coming out this way! Please get in touch!