Letters – Our Readers Write: Summer 2024

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June 14, 2024 | | Letters, Our Readers Write

Magnificent trees

Gary Haslett in front of his favourite beech, a 20­-year-old Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’. Photography by Rosemary Hasner.

I thoroughly enjoyed Don Scallen’s fine piece on the arboreal wonders of the Haslett hilltop in Caledon [“A Magnificent Obsession” spring ’24]. I recall visiting some years back with Caledon’s heritage committee to inspect the fine work that Gary and his contractor were doing restoring their Georgian gem of a house. Their work resulted in not only a heritage designation from the town, but also that year’s award for heritage conservation excellence for him and Mary. 

I chatted with Gary about his trees which even then were special. They are an exotic forest delight all too rare in our northern latitudes. While current enthusiasm for native plant gardening is key to restoring insect biodiversity, making room for artful exotic plants where they can thrive must still have a place in our yards. 

Last summer’s sun and warmth gave me for the very first time a fabulous multitude of flowers and pods on a wisteria here high in the Albion hills after too many years of hoping. Our yard also boasts a fine dwarf European beech whose dry leaves add interest to the view on dull winter days.

— Ian Keith Anderson, Caledon

I thoroughly enjoyed “A Magnificent Obsession” about Gary and Mary Haslett’s arboretum of amazing trees from around the world atop the hill in northwest Caledon surrounding their beautiful heritage-designated home.

Paul Aird, my late husband, and I visited Gary and Mary a few years ago to have a look at the heritage windows that they had built for them to replace the original windows. We were looking for ideas for replacing the front windows in our own heritage-designated home. Gary and Mary kindly gave us their time and told us of their experience with their window project. While Paul and I took a different approach in the end – what we had no knowledge of was the amazing arboretum outside the windows! Perhaps we hadn’t mentioned to Gary and Mary that Paul was a retired professor of forestry.

My only concern is the Hasletts’ use of peat as one of the soil amendments in parts of their arboretum. Canada is losing its peat bogs at an alarming rate. They are being mined for the benefit of gardeners and others who seek the water-holding capacity of peat. Peat bogs are a vitally important carbon sink. We need to leave our peat bogs alone for the benefit of our climate. If you go to any garden centre in these hills, you will find that almost all bagged, composted manure contains peat. Last year, I bought manure made from worm castings because it was all I could find that did not contain peat.

I do hope that the Hasletts are successful in their proposal to have the Town of Caledon include their arboretum in the heritage designation of their property.

— Linda Pim, Inglewood

We are delighted with Don Scallen’s article about our arboretum, otherwise known as Gary’s “Magnificent Obsession.”

In his article, Don has captured the essential spirit of the tree collection as it has grown over 30 years. He went above and beyond by researching more information about the plants, and photographer Rosemary Hasner reflected the grandeur of the trees in her photographs.

We sincerely hope that, with more awareness about plants that can grow in the hills, more residents will benefit our environment and their own well-being by planting trees and shrubs.

— Gary and Mary Haslett, Caledon

Cursive writing

I must confess that for the first time over many issues, I did not turn first to the Editor’s Desk [“Little Things” spring ’24]. Better late than never, for your reflections are intriguing, but it’s what you had to say about cursive writing that moved me.

During my special education days I fought a losing battle in favour of cursive, especially – and this is what cranked up the loudest protests – for “challenged” students. 

Among the several arguments promoting the style, such as its speed and smoothness over laborious printing, is the fact that cursive requires three basic movements. Print needs at least nine, more if you attempt to duplicate professional fonts. It is a more difficult task by any measure.

Students identified as dyslexic or learning disabled, I would argue, benefit from the simplicity of cursive, notwithstanding the standard argument that when one prints, the outcome more closely resembles published text and thus makes both comprehension and production easier. In my long special ed experience, it doesn’t. 

I take comfort in the news that cursive is being restored to the curriculum, in Ontario at least. Hope it isn’t too late. There may not be enough geezers like me left to teach it.

Ken Weber, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, Caledon

A Reader Reflects

Re “Alison and Jim” spring ’24: As a young lad growing up in Etobicoke, I recalled a delightful painting hung by my parents in our house. Later on in my life I learned from David Silcox’s book on the Group of Seven that the painting was called Mist Fantasy by none other than Mr. J.E.H. MacDonald of that same group of accomplished artists.

This being said, I was quite pleased when I read the article written by Anthony Jenkins concerning art conservator Alison Douglas. It provided some fascinating insight regarding her work as it relates to the Group of Seven. I too have grown to appreciate that group’s artwork.

Oh, and they say confession is good for the soul – so I must confess I do not live within the boundaries of In The Hills territory. I recently retired from Canada Post as a clerk. It was in Brampton North’s station that I was introduced to your extraordinary magazine. Several skids of your publication would arrive every season to be delivered to households in Caledon and Bolton by our letter carriers. There would always be a copy or two passed around for our own perusal, and I thank you for that.

But since retiring and knowing I would no longer be acquainting myself with In The Hills, I contacted deputy editor Tralee Pearce last autumn and she informed me that she had just dropped a bunch of your magazines in Inglewood. Upon learning of this I jumped in my car and drove up there from Brampton. At Inglewood’s Coywolf Café I purchased a coffee and pastry and snagged a copy of In The Hills and left a “happy camper”!

I also enjoy checking out your “Artist in Residence” page. It was here where I discovered an artist named Lynden Cowan and I was able to purchase one of her printings. So thank you for that. And thanks go to all your employees for continuing the success of such a wonderful magazine.

— Jeff Simmons, Brampton


Sharp-eyed readers have drawn our attention to the following errors in the spring 2024 issue. We thank them for the attentiveness.

“William Algie” by Nancy Early: Reader Gaille Musgrove pointed out – correctly – that Maureen Jennings’ novels, which feature fictional detective William Murdoch, inspired the popular TV series Murdoch Mysteries. The series was not inspired by John Goddard’s true-crime book The Man with the Black Valise, as our story said, though the exploits of real-life detective John Wilson Murray inspired both Jennings and Goddard. This error crept in during the editing process and was not included in Nancy’s manuscript.

“A Guide for Loopy Hikers” by Nicola Ross (an excerpt from her new book): Reader David Moule pointed out that the stone used to build Toronto landmarks such as Old City Hall is not limestone, but whirlpool sandstone quarried at the Forks of the Credit. David also noted that the Mississaugas of the Credit did not have a 10,000-year relationship with the Forks area. Until the 17th century, the Mississaugas’ traditional territory was north of Lake Huron. They migrated to southern Ontario only after the Haudenosaunee drove out the Wendat. The Mississaugas are now based near Hagersville, Ontario.

About the Author More by Our Readers

Related Stories

A Magnificent Obsession

Mar 16, 2024 | Don Scallen | Environment

Collecting and nurturing remarkable trees has been a 30-year passion for Caledon’s Gary Haslett.

Cursive writing

Little Things

Mar 16, 2024 | Signe Ball | Editor’s Desk

When it comes to young people, is it always ‘out with the old, in with the new’? Not always, finds editor Signe Ball.

group of 7 art

Alison and Jim

Mar 16, 2024 | Anthony Jenkins | Arts

Although her life is separated from artist J.E.H. MacDonald by nearly a century, Alison Douglas has come to know the painter with microscopic intimacy.

Lynden Cowan

Nov 20, 2022 | Tralee Pearce | Artist in Residence

Lynden Cowan’s highly detailed hyper realistic paintings require “triple-zero brushes by the boxload” to achieve.

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