The Renegade Scientist

Diana Beresford-Kroeger, Merrickville, Ontario

Summary: Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a gardener who likes to combine her medical training with her love of botany. Having studied classical botany, medical biochemistry, organic and radio nuclear chemistry, and experimental surgery, Diana believes that the cures for cancer and other ailments can be found in her garden located in Merrickville, Ontario. Among Diana’s prized plants are 150 year-old morello sour cherries, chocolate smelling peonies and rare breeds of trees and plants long thought lost to deforestation.
Garden Contact Information:
The Garden: "Take an acorn and a shovel and plant a tree," says Diana Beresford-Kroeger."When you replant the forest, you mend the planet."

One hour from Ottawa in Merrickville, Ontario, is Diana Beresford-Kroeger and her husband’s 160 acre property. Over eight acres of the property have been carefully designed to provide a background for her substantial botanical research. Within this garden, Diana has trialed over 6000 species and varieties of flowers, shrubs and trees including varieties she has bred to withstand the rigours of a changing northern climate.

The garden compasses a number of diverse habitats including a water garden, a small vineyard, a North American medicine walk, a potager, a formal mixed orchard and an extensive perennial flower garden. Incorporated into all this is a collection of North American nut bearing trees, the "anti-famine’ trees of the past.

According to Diana, "These trees kept aboriginal communities alive during times of famine. Hickory nuts and others are very high in fat, carbohydrates, and protein and they would sustain a people when the animals disappeared".

Diana is passionate about the preservation of rare and near-extinct plants and the medicines they contain. Throughout her gardens are what she would name her "holy grails", trees and plants nearly lost from the earth. Some of these rare and beautiful specimens have been discovered during her travels into the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes forests. Others have come from places as far away as Japan, Siberia, and the Balkans. A strong believer in sustainability and diversity, she often collects the seeds from her varieties of rare trees and plants and protects them for future use through distribution to research institutions as well as members of the public.

Within the garden can also be found old varieties of table gooseberries, cherries from Siberia, exotic chocolate-smelling black peonies, crandalberries and many other varieties of domesticated heritage species.

The garden has taken over 30 years to build. For a long time, regular tours were offered, inspiring visitors to take action and begin their own "bioplan", a term Diana uses to define a balanced garden which is used to improve both the condition of a person’s life and that of the earth. Diana’s entire garden is designed to create balance, harmony, and health. It is as useful as a place of meditation, healing and appreciation of beauty as it is for research and propagation. More importantly though, her garden is a tribute to what can be done in the world to undo the damage that years of pollution, destruction and neglect have caused. Diana believes that, "Through our gardens all of us can, together, heal our planet... our home."

More information about the work of Diana Beresford-Kroeger can be found in her books.

A Garden for Life ISBN 0-472-03012-4
Aboreteum America ISBN 0-472-06851-2
Available from the University of Michigan Press or 1-800-343-4499

Diana has also written an amusing collection of short stories. Time Will Tell ISBN 1-55082-343-4, Quarry Heritage Books available from LOGIN CANADA or 1-800-665-1148

Soon to be published:
Arboretum Borealis about the circumpolar Boreal forests of the world;
The Global Forests an ecclectic collection of essays on many different aspects of forests and trees;
Sun Dogs a collection of stories from the garden.

The Gardeners' Story: Diana Beresford-Kroeger was raised in Ireland and now lives outside the city of Ottawa. She has studied classical botany, medical biochemistry, organic and radionuclear chemistry, and experimental surgery in Ireland, the USA and Canada. Her scientific publications appear in journals such as, "The American Heart Journal", "The Canadian Heart Journal", "The Journal of Microscopy", etc. She has lectured at University College Cork (Ireland) and at Carleton University and received a fellowship at the University of Connecticut, and worked as a research scientist at the Canadian Department of Agriculture and the University of Ottawa School of Medicine, as well as the aforementioned institutions.

In the area of popular media she has regularly contributed to, written for, or hosted programs on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio, National Public Radio (USA) and Canadian Television (CTV). In 2005, the CBC’s flagship program, “Ideas” aired “The Ideas of Diana Beresford-Kroeger.” She has been a regular columnist for the Canadian magazines, Nature Canada, The Canadian Organic Grower, and a community newspaper, The Merrickville Phoenix. Her articles also appear in Europe and the U.S.A. in journals such as those of the Irish Garden Plant Society, The Wiltshire Gardens Trust, The American Horticultural Society and others. A documentary film on her life and her garden, completed in 2007, will be aired in March of 2008 in North America and Europe.

Her charitable work included raising considerable funds for the 1999 Nobel Prize winning group, Medecins sans Frontiers, The Shepherds of Good Hope Shelter, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, St. Mary’s Home and many horticultural societies, arboreta, and libraries.

She is the author of several books including “A Garden for Life” (2004) (originally published as “Bioplanning a North Temperate Garden, 1999), “Arboretum America: A Philosophy of the Forest” (2003) and a collection of short stories, “Time Will Tell” (2004). Her current works include “Arboretum Borealis” - the sister book to “Arboretum America” about the great northern forests and their importance in the global ecosystem, “The Global Forest” - forty essays, and “Sun Dogs” - a collection of nature stories from her garden. She has also written a number of other works of fiction including a novel - “The Terrace”, three mysteries and over two hundred short works, some of which have been aired on radio and have been performed live for the public. Her book, “Arboretum America” has won the American National Arbour Day Foundation Media Award in 2005, for an exemplary educational work on trees and forests.

She continues to write and conduct research in her extensive private gardens at Merrickville.

Behind the Scenes: Executive Producer: Merit Jensen Carr
Producer: Merit Jensen Carr
Creative/Line Producer: Donna Gall
Executive Producer, VisionTV: Joan Jenkinson
Director: Cam Bennett
Writer: Cam Bennett
Researcher: Cam Bennett
Narration Writer: Cam Bennett
Editor: Bruce Little
Director of Photography: James Aquila, CSC
Narrator: Bonnie Dickie
Music: Shawn Pierce

Date: 2008

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