Spring at its Finest: VanHoucke’s Country Garden Nursery

Nestled back on a quiet lot on Ostrander Road, VanHoucke’s Country Garden Nursery is just the right size for Anne VanHoucke and her husband Roger.  For those who have never visited before, keep your eyes peeled for the signs on Highway 19 and Ostrander Road that direct you to the site or you just might miss it.  Trust us, you don’t want to!


VanHoucke’s Country Garden Nursery had modest beginnings but has grown into a successful and fulfilling business.  Anne was raised on a farm and always loved country living.  When she and her husband began to raise their own family in the country they planted trees to shelter their lot.  Before they knew it, people were coming to their door to ask if the trees were for sale.  The VanHoucke’s saw an opportunity and opened a small nursery that allowed Anne to stay home with her kids while exploring something she loved to do.  Since then, it has grown considerably but Anne and Roger try to remain true to the nursery’s country roots. VanHoucke’s specializes in a wide variety of plants, trees, flowers and shrubs that are sure to please the pickiest of homeowners.


Not sure what you want?  Fear not!  Co-owner Anne VanHoucke is more than happy to assist you in picking out what type of tree and landscaping is right for your yard.  She will sit down with you and sketch out a plan tailored to your needs. The nursery and its surrounding gardens reflect  the beauty of Oxford County.  On a typical spring day, one can walk through the lot and see a plethora of birds including oriels and humming birds. Stroll by the pond (currently under construction due to a pesky muskrat which Anne tells us is “cute as a button”) or snap a few photographs of the site.  What could be better than basking in the sunshine and going home with a few new additions for your yard? What’s next?  Anne is hoping that in the spring or fall, the nursery will start teaching horticultural and landscaping seminars once more.  This includes on site instructions about growing and maintaining one’s landscape.  The site is a testament to how valuable these courses will be! If you’re looking to spruce up your yard this spring, why not plan a visit to VanHoucke’s Country Garden Nursery?  You won’t be disappointed!

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Some Like it Hot: Van Dyk’s Greenhouses’ Hot Peppers

Some like it hot.  At Van Dyk’s Greenhouses, they like it scorching!  As a family-owned and operated business, Van Dyk’s Greenhouses has provided Oxford County with fresh vegetables, perennials, annuals and shrubs grown on site since 1980.  Owners Di and Jim invest time in growing a wide variety of hot peppers- and we aren’t talking your average jalapeños! Sweet peppers like chili, Hungarian and cayenne have been a staple at Van Dyk’s for years but the hot, new trend (emphasis on hot) is, you guessed it- heat!    Just a few years back, Van Dyk’s began growing their own ghost peppers, an interspecific hybrid pepper from India that boasts heat more than two thousand times that of a jalapeño.  After huge success growing ghost peppers, Van Dyk’s decided to add Trinidad scorpion peppers to the mix this season.  If you love heat, these scorpion peppers have twice the spice of a ghost pepper. But act fast!  Quantities are limited.  They have only seven pots of the scorpion peppers available and a few pots of equally hot varieties. IMG_4227 Then there is the mother of all heat-holders.  It is a hybrid between the ghost pepper and a red habanero pepper.  It is also the world’s hottest pepper according to the Guinness Book of World Records.  The Carolina Reaper lives up to its fiery name and Van Dyk’s is at the ready to supply.  According to their blog, the Carolina Reaper should be grown in large pots with light potting mix.  Fertilizer should be avoided once peppers have begun to grow.  Grow your own or head on over to Van Dyk’s Greenhouses to try them if you dare… imagescarolina-reaper-2

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Ingersoll Cheesey Playground on Giver

Rolling in cheese, squishing your way through a whole of brie – the dream of every mouse, right?  That and every child, too. cheese parkThis dream is a reality now in Ingersoll where children’s TV show Giver and local volunteers just completed a new Cheesy Playground.   Children can crawl through the holes in giant slices of cheese, take a spin on the blue cheese wheel, play in the giant sand box or rest in the shade on a cheesy bench. You can even take a “cheesy portrait” using the giant picture frame by the park.  Naturally, this playground is ideally located in Oxford County right beside the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum.  For families coming to explore the Oxford County Cheese Trail this makes a wonderful stop for a picnic after exploring the museum. GiverP1050191 (Sinking Ship Productions) travels to local communities and builds safe, fun playgrounds working with local children and community groups.  Local children helped build this playground from the creative process to painting.  For this project children also had an opportunity to to learn about the history of cheese and its relationship to Ingersoll.  Giver worked in conjunction with PlayRight Playgrounds a local group that builds playgrounds in Ingersoll. They are also known for their annual family new years celebration FUNomenon and outdoor movie night. Giver’s cheesy playground episode will air on TVO May 11, 2015 at 6:30 pm. Be sure to tune in to see the kids visit to the Ingersoll Cheese Museum and Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese and to watch the local volunteers who made this park possible.

Stop by today and check out Ingersoll’s Cheesey Playground.  Remember to pick up some curds and local cheeses at the museum or along the cheese trail for your picnic.

Where to see it:  The Ingersoll Cheese Park Episode 305 on TVO May 11 at 6:30.  Episodes run first on Mondays at 6:30 pm, with repeats on Saturday at 1:30 pm and Sunday at 11:00 am. All episodes can be watched online a week after they first air.  Join PlayRight for a premier party on Monday May 11 at the Fusion Youth Center (121 Thames St N Ingersoll). Doors will open at 5 and the show begin at 6:30.  BBQ and drinks will be available for purchase.

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Van Dyk’s Greenhouses – Exceptional in Products and Service

For over 30 years Van Dyk’s Greenhouses has been supplying Oxford County residences with amazing arrangements, hanging baskets, planters and annuals/perennials.  From the heart of Oxford County, they create beautiful and unique arrangements out in time for Mother’s Day each year.


Healthy and homegrown is the name of the game.  From plants to a wide variety of herbs such as sage and rosemary, Van Dyk’s starts with the seed and nurtures plants into maturity for buyers.  The results are beautiful.  You can contact them online or better yet, visit the greenhouse where they grow! Here, owners Diane and Jim are happy to answer questions and give advice.  They are incredibly knowledgeable on the subjects of plants, flowers, vegetables and herbs.  No question is too tough- just ask!  Not only can you learn about the growth cycle, you can also learn about adding various flavours to recipes.


All in all Van Dyk’s Greenhouse is the place to go for all your flower and plant needs.  You won’t be disappointed!

Contact Information:

Van Dyk’s Greenhouses

1311 Dundas St., Woodstock, ON N4S 7V9


Posted By:  Debbie Solta, Cultural Events Coordinator

Tourism Oxford


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Tastings: Oxford’s Local Cocktail Party

dOn Friday May 8th spring forward to a new season of delicious local flavours at the 27th Annual Tastings event hosted by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Woodstock & District Association. The community comes together for this culinary event with over 25 participating local restaurants, caterers, food producers, wineries, breweries and distilleries. Stroll through one of three pavilions to satisfy your inner foodie.  Sample local wines, brews, food and flavour.

Tastings 2014

Tastings 2014

Does home cooking that reminds you of childhood make your tummy rumble? The Comfort Food pavilion will feature a potato bar, Chiba Sushi, BBQ pulled chicken tacos, shepherd’s pie from Ody’s Restaurant, chocolates from Habitual Chocolate and desserts from Dee-Lights Bakery.  It is the place to be as you indulge in food that makes you feel warm and satisfied.

Tastings is also proud to feature two 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix award winners at the Cheese Makers Pavilion.  Enjoy sampling cheeses from award winning Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese and Mountainoak Cheese. Celebrate our heritage while eating local.

Like Heat? The Hot Night Out pavilion features food with a kick!   There will be a salsa bar and specialty Caesars made with Silver Lake Premium Vodka and homemade clamato juice. The Woodstock Fire Department will also be serving up spicy jambalaya for five –alarm fun. Local chef and TV personality Jed Lau will be serving up gluten-free samosas and Panino’s has whipped up Spicy Thai wraps just to name a few of the great dishes being served at this event.

A selection of wines and beer from around the region will complete your gastronomic journey:

Along with fabulous food, Tastings will have live entertainment as well as an Auction & Penny Sale. The Auction is available now online. Items up for grabs are an autographed hockey stick from local hockey star and Stanley Cup-winning, Jake Muzzin along with amazing prizes from local businesses. Tickets for this year’s event are $40 in advance or $50 at the door.  Tickets are available at Quality Inn Hotel & Suites or online at snapdwoodstock.com. More info.

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Trillium Walks

What is better than taking a refreshing, energizing walk in the spring? Taking a walk amongst thousands of trilliums in full bloom!

The trillium is a perennial herb that grows from rhizomes and is native to both North America and Asia.  Colours can vary between pink, red, yellow, purple, green and of course, the iconic white of Ontario’s official flower.  Trillium seeds are dispersed by ants but are also eaten by beetles and white tail deer (which has led to endangerment of the trillium in many areas).


To see trilliums, Oxford County offers two great hikes you must take this spring.

Trillium Woods Provincial Park:

Bring the whole family to Trillium Woods Provincial Park. These well-maintained trails are spacious for walking hand-in-hand, looping through a mature maple sugar bush. This trail is also family-friendly as it is a 1km loop with a sweet treat at the end! Just across the road is nationally-renowned Jakeman’s Maple Farm. How sweet is that? Jakeman’s sells dozens of locally produced delicacies from maple syrup to popcorn, candies and even maple sugar for your coffee. The sweets are sold out of a quaint shop that also features walls adorned with antiques that are sure to generate some discussion!

Location: Trillium Line between Curry & Sweaburg Roads (View Map)


Jakemans in the mist

Lawson Nature Reserve:

The other must-take Trillium walk this spring is south of Ingersoll at the Lawson Nature Reserve. These trails are well maintained and nurtured by the Ingersoll Nature Club, and many say you will see more Trilliums at this location.   The 2km trail winds its way through a forest alongside creeks and ponds and is a great setting for viewing a variety of trilliums in white, pink and red. The reserve is protected with plenty of biological diversity. That means, if you’re a birder, this is a great spot. Keep your eyes and ears open for Pileated Woodpeckers that call the Lawson Nature Reserve home.

trilliumred (1)

The Ingersoll District Nature Club is offering several activities at the reserve during the month of May including: Birding Photography Lessons (Sat, May 9th, 9-2) and Guided Family Trillium Walks (May 23, 9-12). View their event calendar for more details

Darwin Ken Photography: Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker, photograph by Darwin Kent.

Make an afternoon of it and pack a lunch or snack. The site includes a picnic area and benches for a break or tranquil spot to have a bite.  Also call Rombouts Pottery to set a time to visit their shop on McBeth Road.  Ineke Rombouts’ shop is bursting with colour from her pottery and floral arrangements.  Ineke will also be holding a Garden Party Fair on June 6, 2015 (9-4).

Location: McBeth Road, East of Culloden Line (View Map)

You may also be interested in:

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Southside Park

When spring is in full bloom, Woodstock’s historic Southside Park is a sight to behold.

Charming walkways with new decorative lighting fixtures meander through the manicured grounds of Southside.  Stop to admire the gorgeous flowering magnolias, cherry and crabapple trees during the first three weeks of May.


In June, over 33,000 tulips will spring to life, creating amazing colourful accents throughout the park. The highlight is the Southside Park Gazebo, enveloped with 10,500 tulips, a simply stunning display of peaceful pastels and plum pudding.


If you want to bring some of those decorative touches back home with you, make sure to plan a trip to the park on May 9th. Nearby Southgate Centre will be hosting their Garden Extravaganza. Bedding plants, colourful planters and garden décor will be on sale by members of South Gate.

Bring you kids or grandchildren to enjoy the expansive play area and swing sets for children of all ages and abilities. There’s so much equipment, they won’t get bored until they’ve spent their energy.

During the spring and summer evenings Southside is always buzzing with activity.  Local baseball teams call Southside home.  This includes the Woodstock Jr. Rangers and Wranglers who play on the newly refurbished Tip O’Neill field, named after Woodstock’s own Hall of Famer from the 1800s.

Bonus, watch for cricket matches on the weekend at the Woodstock Cricket Club next to Tip O’Neill Field.

Here’s a tip: before you go, stop in Downtown Woodstock at Dee-Lights Bakery or Dairy Capital Cheese Shop to pack a delicious lunch that you can enjoy pond side on the benches. This is the best viewing area to catch the resident swans; Richard and Betty, parade their ducklings along the banks of Southside Pond. It’s seriously the cutest sight ever!

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10 fun maple-y shopping finds!

March is the month of maple and don’t let syrup be the only thing on your shopping list. The rich, sweetness that our fabulous Canadian maple products are known for have crept its way into all sorts of fun, quirky and unique items. We’ve picked our 10 favourite finds just for you and hope you give them a try.

CoylesCandianBeaverDroppingsPortrait1.  Canadian Beaver Droppings – it doesn’t really get more Canadian than maple beaver droppings. These maple peanuts are not only fun to share, but are deliciously flavoured with pure maple syrup. There is a whole aisle maple syrup items at  Coyle’s Country Store, Tillsonburg.

photo 12.  Maple Apple Topping for cheese, maple mustard and maple balsamic vinaigrette are just a few of the maple inspired items available at The Olde Bakery Café in Ingersoll. While there stay and enjoy a meal from their maple menu – they make their own maple apple butter!

Chocolatea3.  Jakemans and local chocolatier, Cindy Walker, have partnered to create a delicious maple chocolate. The chocolates are available at Jakeman’s or Cindy’s shop Chocolatea

jakemanpopcorn4.  Visit Jakeman’s for their caramel inspired Maple Popcorn made with their delicious maple syrup. Order online or visit the historic shop in Sweaburg. Jakemans Maple Store

Coyles MaplePepper5.  Savoury Favourites Maple Pepper. This gluten free kosher seasoning is basically three ingredients: Canadian maple sugar, pepper and salt. We hear it is delicious on grilled salmon or even bacon.  Coyle’s Country Store, Tillsonburg.

PatinasMaple6.  Patina’s Maple Cream Candle. Light this and your whole house will smell sweetly Canadian. Patina’s is located Ingersoll and more information can be found on their Facebook page. Also check out their assortment of Canadian Pottery – a decadent way to serve maple syrup at brunch.

7.  Maple Sausage: McCully’s Hill Farm is known for their special recipe maple pork sausages using their maple syrup and whole pork hog. While there also try their maple butter tarts.

JanetBBQ8.  Or if you’re looking for a little more kick to your maple visit Janet’s Gift Shop. Start the spring BBQ season with Maple Whiskey BBQ Sauce or dress up your breakfast sandwich with Maple Bacon Aioli.

Sundown Farms Maple9.  Shop everything local at Sundown Farms Country Market, including Howard’s Maple Syrup. This local farm market is located at the corner of Cranberry Line & Airport Road.

woodwick10.  Last but not least: Check out Country Moment Candles, in Ingersoll, for their Sugar Shack – Maple soy candle. Part of their Truly Canadian candle series that with fun names and wooden wicks that crackle when lit.

March 2015 Tourism Oxford has partnered with 104.7 Heart FM. Visit the Maple in March contest page for a chance to win a maple prize pack. A different contest and prize every week.  Also visit our Pinterest Board for fun activities to do this march, and throughout the year.

Meredith Maywood, Tourism Oxford

Read more maple blogs:

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A Sweet Start To Your Day

Follow up a comfy and cozy overnight stay with a hot and delicious maple infused breakfast – now that’s how you thaw out from the winter and put a spring in your step! If you are ready for a sweet experience, here are three Oxford County overnight accommodation that offer “maple on the menu.” two plates of poffertjes (mini-pancakes) with a jug of maple syrup In Thamesford, Just for You B&B is serving up a breakfast worth waking up for. It’s a meal reserved for special occasions in Holland: Dutch “poffertjes” (mini pancakes) are served with maple syrup.  The breakfast also features a selection of artisan breads, local cheese, meats and fresh fruit. Gerrard is a regular at the Thameford Farmers Market purchasing fresh produce and Embro Sugar Bush maple syrup to prepare this feast for his guests. comfortinnmapleGuests at Ingersoll’s Comfort Inn & Suites are also getting the maple treatment this March. You’ll be greeted with Jakeman’s maple candies at the front desk while you check in. Enjoy world famous Jakeman’s pure maple syrup on your freshly made waffles each morning, or add some Jakeman’s maple sugar in your coffee for a decadent treat! During March, Comfort Inn & Suites Choice Privilege members will receive a Jakeman’s maple myrup teddy bear as a special thank you to loyal guests. And last, but certainly not the least is the famed spread put on every Sunday by the Elm Hurst Inn & Spa in Ingersoll. Sip on champagne and oelmhurstrange juice while savouring made to order waffles and crepes drizzled with the aforementioned heavenly nectar: Jakeman’s Maple Syrup. There’s a reason their Sunday Brunch draws visitors from far and wide, well, actually many reasons: a large selection of breads and pastries, imported & domestic cheeses, fresh sliced fruit, fresh seafood, carved roast sirloin, omelettes, bacon, chicken pasta, and the list goes on.  Winter, spring, summer or fall you can have a great nights sleep and have a sweet taste of place to start your day in Oxford County.

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March Break is coming. Do you know how you’re going to keep your kids busy?

There are tons of activities across the County that are fit for the entire family. Movies, games, reptiles, sports and art…whatever your pleasure, there is something for every kid this March Break.

Photo of Woodstock Public Library, Woodstock Ontario

A great place to check out for some free family fun is your local Library. Libraries are hosting several activities fit for lots of different age groups. From Marshmallows of Mass where kids can build candy artillery, catapults and slingshots, to movies, mad science activities, Lego® lovers groups, games, crafts, story time and musical entertainers – the Library is the place to be this March Break. There is something happening every day libraries in Oxford County. Check out the Oxford County Library Calendar and Woodstock Public Library Calendar see what’s happening near you.

The Tillsonburg Community Centre is hosting their annual March Break Camp this year with activities like skating, swimming, theme days, movies and pizza lunches. You can choose to send your children for the whole week of events for $125.50 or for a day for $30.60. Call the Community Centre for more information or to register (519.688.9011).  While in Tillsonburg take in the Radical Reptile Show at the Tillsonburg Town Centre. It will be held Wednesday March 18th at 11 am and 2 pm. See the reptiles and visit some of the shops.

Porcupine Quills & Puppetry Thrills is happening Saturday March 21st.  Enjoy aboriginal story telling and a puppet show at St. Mary’s High School.   This is is one of many Family Literacy Events happening throughout Oxford County.

Woodstock Art Gallery, Woodstock Ontario

Woodstock Art Gallery

If you’re looking for something for your young artist in training, the Woodstock Art Gallery is also hosting some March Break fun. Me Too Tuesdays is an event for children ages 2-5 to create and explore stories, songs and art. The Art Gallery is also hosting a special art camp during March Break for children ages 5-10 where they will roll up their sleeves and create their own special pieces of art through sculpting, collaging, drawing and painting.

The Woodstock Art Gallery is also hosting two  workshops, for teenagers, during March Break to teach them some cool new techniques. On Tuesday, March 17, teens can learn about creating art with beeswax. And from Wednesday to Friday, teens can participate in a printmaking studio course to learn printmaking methods and techniques. Visit the Woodstock Art Gallery for more information about their March Break activities.

mccully - CopyThere are also lots of other family friendly activities happening throughout the County this March Break. Be sure to check out Jakeman’s Maple Sugar Farm for their special 4-H breakfast happening March 18th (and weekends), and the Maple Syrup Festival at McCully’s Hill Farm including their daily walking tours daily during march break.

Also visit our Tourism Oxford Pinterest Page for list of family fun attractions, places to shop and things to do.

Wishing you and your family a safe and fun March Break in Oxford County!

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