Horticultural judge steps down after decades

After 40 years of judging, one horticultural expert is laying down her clipboard and letting the next generation step up.

After 40 years of judging horticultural shows Mary Burrows is retiring as one of Rimbey and District Horticultural Group’s judges.

After 40 years of judging, one horticultural expert is laying down her clipboard and letting the next generation step up.

“I’m getting too old, I’m 84,” said Mary Burrows, a past chair and now retired judge of the Rimbey and District Horticultural Group.

In the late 1960s Burrows attended training sessions for judging at Olds College. One of the training instructors travelled to Drayton Valley, where Burrows was living at the time, looking for new judges and she jumped at the opportunity.

“I used to write a column for the paper in Drayton Valley called Green Thumbs,” said Burrows.

Burrows grew up in England where she picked up her love of gardening from her father. “I love it. I breathe, eat and drink it.”

When Burrows moved to Canada she found it difficult to get a garden started here because of the short growing season. In England she farmed year-round.

Throughout her career Burrows has judged in more than 25 different places, including Kalispell, Mont., where she helped judge the Pacific Western Dahlia National show.

“They invited some judges from Alberta to go down and help,” said Burrows. “It was quite an adventure.”

Burrows was one of two Albertan judges to be invited to Montana; Iantha Goodfellow was the other.

Burrows and Goodfellow are currently the only two horticultural judges in Alberta who have all their specialties.

Montana isn’t the only adventure Burrows has had in her lifetime. In 1964 she joined the Drayton Valley Flying Club and was a pilot for 28 years.

Burrows started taking a navigation course with the club but everything in the navigation course was also in the pilot course so she decided to take the pilot course instead.

Burrows’ husband was also a pilot. “We just did it for our business and for recreation,” said Burrows.

Burrows is also involved in the third printing of a rhubarb recipe book called Treasures of the Rhubarb Patch. “We printed a lot of books in ’97 and we’ve had to print two times since then.”

Along with the recipe book the Rimbey and District Horticultural Group holds a Rhubarb Days fundraiser once a year that Burrows has actively been a part of.

Although she’s not longer judging Burrows isn’t leaving the group altogether and she isn’t leaving them without other judges.

Burrows has trained many apprentices in her years, including the group’s president, Gail Hood. “I kind of apprenticed under her. She’s a good teacher,” said Hood.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s Burrows was the president of the group for four years and on the executive board for six, so she knows what information Hood would need, and according to Burrows there’s so much of it Hood still calls her for tips sometimes.