A concrete building with large glass windows sits built into the side of a hill. A large open lawn rests in front of the building. Some small conifer saplings are planted into the lawn at the base of the picture.

Henry Kock

Header image: Sheridan Teaching Collection of Evergreens in from of the O.A.C. Centennial Arboretum Centre, 1974

A middle-aged man stands next to a tree in an orange forest. The man has short dark hair and a long grey beard. He is wearing a white t-shirt with a forest graphic on the front and dark jeans.

Henry Kock next to dogwood tree

Henry Kock was one of the most influential employees in the history of The Arboretum. Henry was born in 1951 in Sarnia, Ontario and possessed a strong love for nature from a young age. He later moved to Guelph to pursue a degree in Horticulture at the University of Guelph. After completing his degree in 1977, Henry stayed connected to the university as an Interpretive Horticulturist at The Arboretum.

As an Interpretive Horticulturist, Henry was responsible for maintaining and developing The Arboretum’s plant collections. This meant that Henry grew plants from seeds, cared for them in the nursery for 6 to 10 years, and later planted them in The Arboretum. He also designed many of The Arboretum’s collections. The expert care and knowledge that Henry provided ensured that many plants, trees, and collections became well-established parts of The Arboretum today.

Henry’s passion for the environment and conservation spurred him to initiate the Elm Recovery Project in 1998. This project was designed to promote and aid in the recovery of the white (American) elm (Ulmus americana) population after it was decimated by Dutch elm disease. This project received a large amount of attention because of its success and use of citizen science. Henry later won the Governor General Award for Forest Stewardship (1998), the Forest Stewardship in Canada Award (1999), and the Bonnie McCallum Environmental Award (2003) for his hard work and dedication to White Elm conservation.

Alongside his work at The Arboretum, Henry co-founded Hillside Festival, an annual arts festival held in Guelph, Ontario. He was the site manager and planted many trees on the island that Hillside Festival is held, ensuring the restoration of the ecosystem and shade for future festival-goers.

After being diagnosed with brain cancer in 2004, Henry passed away in 2005 at the young age of 53. His legacy lives on in The Arboretum in a variety of ways. For instance, the Henry Kock Tree Recovery Endowment was gifted to The Arboretum to continue Henry’s work on the Elm Recovery Project. A new greenhouse was also dedicated to Henry, baring the name of the Henry Kock Propagation Centre.