Author: Merle Cole, Past President of the OGC

History of the Parkwood Estate: This was the home of Colonel R. S. McLaughlin, the founder of General Motors of Canada and was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1989. Sam and Adelaide McLaughlin appreciated beautiful gardens and their plans for their new home in 1917 was influenced by ideas collected from gardens around the world. In 1917 they hired landscape architects Harries and Hall, followed by Lorrie Dunington, Howard Grubb (founders of Sheridan Nurseries) in the 1920’s, and John Lyle in 1935.

Partnerships: In the spring of 2019, Oshawa Garden Club joined a 5-year partnership venture with Parkwood and the Durham Master Gardeners to restore and refurbish the historic Tennis Court Border Gardens. Historical records were researched, design plans made, and volunteers started removing goutweed! The OGC and DMG are contributing $500 per year and Parkwood $1,000 per year to the costs. Annual Parkwood Plant Sales of culled plants also raises funds for this $10K project. While Covid-19 has presented challenges, safety measures were soon put in place to keep all of our volunteers safe. Students from the Durham College Horticultural Program also benefit from hands-on learning experiences through the project.

Tennis Court Border Gardens: These gardens were designed in 1928 but by the late 1940’s, the tennis court was grassed over to form a croquet lawn. Most recently this area has been used for special events and receptions. Our first job was to remove shrubs and overgrown perennials, and add compost to amend the soil. Our volunteers could then add plants in keeping with the original design. A grand project like this is only successful because of many volunteer hours and our OGC volunteers logged 468 hours last year alone. 

Left to Right: Robin Burns, Nancy Lawrence, Ingrid Janssen, and Merle Cole

For a full history of the grounds and gardens, their design and attributes, as well as videos of them in use at the time, visit the Parkwood National Historic Site online –

Visit the Parkwood Estate Gardens’ History

See a video of our Volunteers in Action