On Friday, November 3, 2023, I attended the presentation of the Larry-Hodgson Award to horticulturist and biologist Albert Mondor at Expo Québec Vert. I was there to say a few words about my father, Larry Hodgson, and the award that bears his name. Instead, I met a man who was passionate about nature, gardens and people, and who possessed many of the qualities that have made Larry one of the leading figures in horticulture in Quebec and Canada.
Friends, colleagues and family spoke of the curious, engaging and tireless Albert Mondor, and painted a portrait of a man who was not only an exceptional communicator, but also a great human being.
Albert Mondor in a nutshell
Albert has been a horticulturist, garden designer and horticultural communicator for 30 years, with a diploma in ornamental horticulture and a bachelor’s degree in biology. Since 1999, he has written a column for the Journal de Montréal and a dozen books on horticulture. He is also known for his Jardinier branché capsules on Météomédia, as well as for his numerous television and radio appearances.
The Larry-Hodgson Award
Created last year to commemorate Larry Hodgson’s legacy, the Larry Hodgson Award for Communications in Ornamental, Environmental and Food Horticulture is presented annually to a horticultural communicator who helps the general public develop their knowledge, skills and appreciation of the health and environmental benefits of gardening.
In preparing for the award presentation, I asked myself what qualities my father possessed that made him a trailblazer as a horticultural communicator, in an attempt to understand what the Larry-Hodgson Award is and should be. Although you can’t reduce a life and career to a few words, there are three ideas that represent my father: passion, generosity and knowledge.
Larry was passionate about plants from an early age, often accompanying my grandfather on weekend gardening contracts in addition to his work in a factory near Toronto. Although his brother and sisters all had a more or less developed interest in gardening, my father was, even as a child, on another level. In A Great Hybridizer… in My Dreams Only, Larry describes his first unsuccessful experiments with petunia hybridization. He was only 10 when he came across an encyclopedia describing how to make a plant hybrid, and decided to give it a try.
Albert, too, has been interested in horticulture from an early age. By the age of 10, he was already spending summers with his aunt and uncle at Les Jardins de vos rêves. There, he not only learned the horticultural trade, but also made his debut as a broadcaster. I learned that he read up on nature in encyclopedias found around the house, and then taught his two little cousins in the garden.
In both Albert’s and Larry’s case, this passion, which began in childhood, lasted a lifetime.
Larry was so passionate about plants and gardening that he couldn’t help sharing his passion with anyone who would listen. He was very close to his audience. Every spring, he would travel the roads of Quebec to give dozens of talks, usually staying a few hours after each one to discuss and answer questions.
Whether by e-mail or via his blog, he insisted on answering almost all his readers’ questions. In fact, for several years, he hosted a volunteer show on CKIA-FM, where he answered questions from the public.
Albert is also a dedicated communicator. In addition to his work as a horticulturist and columnist for the Journal de Montréal, he lends his time and his name to countless events, from seed festivals and horticultural shows to industry committees and juries.
He even masterfully led a political debate for Québec Vert on climate change, green infrastructure and greening.
Albert was also awarded the Prix Henry-Teuscher in 2014 for his exceptional contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the field of horticulture in Quebec.
My father believed that education was the foundation of everything. For him, it was the solution to all humanity’s ills: poverty, disease, war, climate change. He was an optimist: he believed that with knowledge, all these problems could be overcome.
But he was also a skeptic: he doubted everything! It was with this skepticism that he debunked countless horticultural myths and helped make gardening simpler. 30 years ago, gardening was much more difficult, involving a lot of planting of annuals, lawn care, pruning, application of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In short, a lot of work! Larry has helped change this approach by suggesting low-maintenance perennials, trees and shrubs instead, and showing us how nature is the best gardener, if only we let her.
Albert is equally dedicated to sharing knowledge, and is constantly trying to take gardening and horticulture to the extreme. Known as the “Trendy Gardener” for his innovative approach to horticulture, Albert tackles hot topics such as vegetated structures, urban agriculture, climate change and garden wildlife. Through his writings, lectures and television appearances, he inspires us to garden where we never thought possible, and to change the world one plant at a time.
Congratulations, Albert, on the award, but above all thank you for all you do to make the world a greener place!
Long live plants!