Flower count 2015: Saanich founder reflects on 39 years of blooms

Cadboro Bay’s Norma Fitzsimmons, 92, plans to get out the count this week

Thirty-nine years ago, Cadboro Bay’s Norma Fitzsimmons came up with an answer to the question being asked by the Victoria Visitors Bureau: how to draw winter tourists?

The 2015 Victoria Flower Count starts Thursday and runs until March 11, and it’s a safe estimate the region’s moderate winter weather of late will help put it over the top of last year’s count of 1,392,393,203.

“I was a director with the Visitors Bureau (Tourism Victoria) in the 1960s and remember a meeting when we were asking, ‘How will we ever get tourists here in the winter,’” recalled the 92-year-old, whose bloom-heavy garden backs onto Gyro Park.

“In the summer, the streets were full of cars from Canada and the U.S. as far as California,” she said. “I owned Island Florist (at the time) so I was always thinking flowers, and said, ‘Well where else in Canada would you be finding flowers blooming in the gardens in February?’”

That was the birth of the flower count.

Residents were invited to count their blossoms and the bureau planned on making a big announcement to let the world know we’re not shovelling snow, we’re counting blossoms, Fitzsimmons added.

“Eaton’s downtown store provided a corner window where four of us sat on the phone, taking calls on how many blossoms were in people’s gardens. At the end of each day we’d update a poster in the window with a total.”

Vantreights stepped up too, supplying daffodils which the bureau shipped to print, television and radio outlets across Canada with the story on the flower count.

“We said the daffodils were from our gardens but they were probably from the greenhouse for all I know,” laughed Fitzsimmons.

In 1989 Fitzsimmons sold her business and stepped away from the contest. But she’s never stopped contributing. To this day she donates and arranges flowers at Our Place, among her other community efforts.

“This year I’ll have at least a million (blossoms) I’m sure, if I include the forsythia and heather,” Fitzsimmons said.

Saanich finished third in 2014, when Colwood took the title as the Bloomingest Community. Visit flowercount.com for more information.

reporter@saanichnews.com