Growing a tribute to the fallen at Vimy Ridge

Many people consider Canada’s victory at Vimy Ridge to be our country’s defining moment. In 2017, we’ll commemorate the battle’s 100th anniversary. With the help of a West Flamborough nursery, a lasting tribute is being planned, or in this case, ‘grown’ to demonstrate our gratitude for all who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

While on a trip to Vimy Ridge in 2004, Monty McDonald immediately noticed something most people wouldn’t “there were no oak trees on that ridge.”

While growing up in Scarborough, Monty worked with a World War One vet and fruit farmer named Leslie Miller who fought at Vimy Ridge and mailed English oak acorns to his family in case he never came back.
“He sent them home and told his family to plant them and if he never showed…there’s a memorial to him.”

No memorial was needed. Miller did return home and raised his ‘Vimy’ oaks for the rest of his life. After his trip, Monty thought that the trees could still be used as memorials, for Miller and the 10-thousand plus Canadians who died that April in 1917.

The plan is to “repatriot acorns from the woodlot that Leslie Miller had and on the 100th anniversary, get them planted at Vimy Ridge.”

Normally, English oaks sprout from acorns, but due to the really cold winter we had two years ago the original Vimy oaks brought in by Leslie Miller didn’t produce many acorns. So the folks at NVK nurseries were forced to get creative.

Andrew Barbour from NVK Nurseries explains. “They took the sign wood from the canopy of the trees. We’ve taken that and grafted it onto English oak understock. You make an incision in the seedling and make a wedge out of the sign wood and the plant naturally wants to heal. And now you have the Vimy oak growing on a proper English oak understock.”

120 oaks representing 120 regiments will make their way to Vimy for its 100th anniversary, a moment that’s filled everyone with pride.

“Being a part of this project is a great honour” says Mr. Barbour.

“And there’s something that’s going to be enduring, a woodlot that my great grandchildren can visit and say my grandpa was part of making this happen” says Monty McDonald.


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