{ Author Archive - Tara Nolan }

The last of my pesto stash

I had great luck with my herbs last summer. For the first time, I didn’t just use the bounty from one or two plants, I used most of them at one point or another to season summer dishes (especially my basil and parsley). Towards the end of the season, I cut back a great deal of my columnar basil, which had reached about three feet high, and whipped up a winter’s worth of pesto. I froze the whole lot into cubes and then tossed my pesto-cicles into a Ziploc bag. Sadly I used my last two cubes for dinner last night. Whenever I didn’t know what to make for lunch this winter, I’d toss together some of my favourite brown rice pasta with a pesto cube and marvel at how I’d made it myself. I can’t wait to start this year’s crop of herbs.

Inspired by an article about preserving herbs that Charmian Christie wrote for me last year, I also dried some of my herbs for the first time. My house isn’t particularly big, so I found a new use for an Ikea contraption (see below), which provided the perfect place to hang everything. I especially have enjoyed the dried tarragon. I use a lot of it for a quinoa with edamame recipe that I make rather often.

This was one of my end-of-summer hauls. I thought it looked so pretty waiting on the counter, so I snapped a pic. The lavender went into a little vase in my bathroom and the herbs were dried.

These are my herbs drying on an Ikea rack that usually has little tin cups hanging off of it.

Abundant inspiration at Canada Blooms

I’ve already been to Canada Blooms twice this week and I’ll be there again tomorrow for the Garden Writers Association annual luncheon and meeting. Am I sick of it yet? Not a chance! Tuesday night was the preview party. We were greeted at the entrance by characters from Cirque du Soleil’s new production called Totem and then allowed to walk freely around the display gardens. My date for the night, my friend and colleague Alyssa Schwartz from MSN, had a great time bumping into some familiar faces and getting a sneak peek at the lovely gardens. Wednesday morning I was up bright and early for the media breakfast where I got to hear about all the amazing ideas and hard work that went into this year’s show. My parents met me at the show mid-morning and we walked around together. They were very patient while I took pictures and chatted up some of the garden designers. I’ve started my highlight roundup and will be adding to it over the coming days. You have until Sunday, March 20 to visit. Here are a few more pics, as well!

Alyssa and I. I bought flower tights for the occasion!

The opening night party featured characters from Cirque du Soleil’s new show Totem wandering around, as well as a show on the main stage.

A wheel of hydroponic lettuce from Aden Earthworks.

A Fiat filled with blooms. Apparently my dad owned one just like this when he first met my mom!

What to bring to Canada Blooms

Tomorrow Canada Blooms, the annual gardening extravaganza, kicks off at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto. Last week I put together a little preview of what I’m excited to see though realistically I’m excited to see it all.

Tomorrow morning I will be there bright and early to take it all in. I put together a quick little list of what you should bring/wear so that you have the best possible time:

  • A notebook and pen: You will gain countless ideas and tips that you can apply to your own gardens. Best to write them down. I do!
  • A camera: Again, you’ll be brimming with ideas as you stroll through the stunning displays. You’ll want to visually capture some of that inspiration for your garden journal. Also you never know who you’ll run into! Martha Stewart took a stroll through last year’s show.
  • Comfortable walking shoes: You’ll be walking on concrete for x number of hours. I speak from experience when I say “wear sneakers.”
  • A watch: You don’t want to miss any interesting seminars or presentations.
  • Cash: The shopping is pretty irresistible. You can buy everything from exotic plants to organic seeds to rain boots to magazine subscriptions (like to Canadian Gardening, wink wink).
  • Reusable shopping bags: For your loot. Some people even bring those little bags on wheels.
  • Also, empty your purse of non-essentials. There is nothing worse than lugging around a ton of bricks for five hours.

Christmas inspiration for next year courtesy of Quebec City

I was in Quebec City for the Quebec Winter Carnival last weekend and the last thing I expected to see while exploring the snowy streets was inspiration for CanadianGardening.com. But Christmas is alive and well in this gorgeous old city – I imagine they’ve left the decorations up until the carnival ends – so I snapped a bunch of pictures to inspire next year’s holiday crafting extravaganza.

See? Christmas! Without the stress of hunting for presents.

This establishment used terra cotta pots as part of all their arrangements. Here they have painted the rims and tied them to a windowbox of sticks. They created an arbour using the same design.

Here they've tied wee terra cotta pots to a pinecone wreath. If I were to recreate this I'd take it a step further by adding something to the pots for colour.

I loved how they've perched this cute little owl atop some pine bows and birch logs. A little paint and some lights add colour and the snow looks like it was deliberately placed in just the right spots.

Terra cotta is traded for metal pots full of berries in front of Le Cochon Dingue - probably the best place I ate lunch while I was in Quebec City.

The stone facade, the colourful paint. This quaint little building looks like it belongs in a fairy tale.

A tartan Alfred Sung exclusive

Last night, I got a glimpse of spring at a special event to launch the SUNG Outdoor collection. Based on the success of last year’s inaugural Capri and Barcelona lines, Alfred Sung himself was there to present their return to the Bay, as well as some special-order pieces and a fashion-inspired collection called Blackwatch. Sung, who has always had a thing for tartan, described this hand-woven black, green and navy resin set as “sleek, sophisticated and simple.”

If you, like Sung, are partial to plaid, you will want this stylish set to greet summer guests on your patio. But—and this is a big but—you only have this weekend to get it. Created exclusively for the Interior Design Show (IDS) in Toronto and available through the Bay, it is only available this weekend (January 27 to 30). So snap it up before your neighbours do.

Snapping tropical blooms in Hawaii

I recently returned from a two-week trip to Hawaii. I spent one week on Kauai, which is known as The Garden Isle, and one week on Oahu. While I wasn’t there to work, I’m going to err on the side of cliché and say that it was hard to ignore the tropical splendour. Seriously, these islands are so incredibly beautiful, it was hard to put the camera down. The only disappointment was that I couldn’t really smell the flowers as I had a nasty cold for most of my trip. Fortunately I didn’t let a few sniffles ruin my time and I was able to explore and enjoy both islands. Long before I became a gardening editor, I have always managed to include a visit to a botanical garden on most of my trips. So of course I had to add a couple to my itinerary. Luckily my husband didn’t mind.

One thing I’ve struggled with is taking really great botanical shots. I try to crouch down and pick good angles, but my pics always seem to turn out pretty one-dimensional. Last summer, I signed up for a digital photography workshop with professional photographer Theresa Forte. I learned some great things about perspective and framing your shot. And then, while we were away, our friend Reuven encouraged us to take our camera off “auto” and play with the manual features. So we “went macro” with some fantastic results.

I’m going to post some slideshows of the amazing plants I saw at the botanical gardens, but in the meantime, here are some gorgeous, colourful hibiscus blooms.

This hibiscus was right outside the entrance to our condo in Kauai. This was one of the first blooms I tested out the macro lens on.

This gorgeous hibiscus was taken at Limahuli Botanical Garden, a gorgeous, plant-filled sanctuary on the North Shore of Kauai.

This delicate, pink beauty was taken outside of our B&B near Diamond Head in Honolulu.

Ok, this isn't a hibiscus, but I had to include it. This was the first time I've seen a Bird-of-paradise growing in a garden. A native of South Africa, this really looks like a bird's head, doesn't it?

Gardening gift of the day: Interesting pickles, jams and jellies

Yup, I said pickles. Let me explain. This past summer, I visited Reford Gardens in Grand-Métis, QC. Partway through our stroll through these amazing gardens along the St. Lawrence River, my little group met up with Alexander Reford. As he took us outside of the visitor area and started to show us some of the things he has in store for the next few years, we ran into chef Pierre-Olivier Ferry and a member of his team plucking blooms for a wedding the next day. I was able to taste some of his culinary magic at lunch in the Estevan Lodge. And as I was leaving, I ducked into the gift shop and grabbed a few jars of the specialty products Pierre-Olivier has started selling. A strawberry and lemon verbena jam was amazing on my summer toast. And this brings me to my next purchase: the pickles. Pierre-Olivier pickles daisy and daylily buds. I brought them to my parents’ house to try with our dinner one night this summer and they are quite delicious! I guess you could compare them to capers, but they’re a bit sweeter – the daylilies are pickled in honey vinegar. They make a unique addition to a salad and are delicious served with fish. Perfect for the foodie gardener on your list!

Price: Prices start at $5 a jar for some of the jellies and go up to $50 for 8 jars from the whole line.
Available at: Order online at the Reford Gardens Online Shop.

Gardening gift of the day: New annuals and perennials for Canada

From Lone Pine Publishing, New Perennials for Canada (by Don Williamson) and its companion, New Annuals for Canada (by Rob Sproule), are a fantastic, and dare I say, essential resource for the seasoned gardener’s bookshelf. Jam-packed with information and gorgeous photographs, each book features a few hundred varieties of interesting plants.

Williamson “encourages readers to push the limits of the hardiness zones in their area, exploring microclimates in their own yards to further enhance the potential plants that can be grown.”

Sproule “emphasizes the selection of healthy plants and deals with gardeners’ most common questions.”

Price: $21.95 each
Available at: Order through the Lone Pine Publishing website or from Chapters Indigo

Gardening gift of the day: Botanical art


Instead of making crackers or drying fruit to eat, artist Diane de Roo has used her dehydrator to create works of art. I first saw her work at last year’s One of a Kind Show in Toronto and fell in love. Diane captures all the intricate details of various fruits and vegetables and freezes them in time. They are then hand-painted and framed. Choose from larger frames or smaller shadow boxes. These are great gift ideas for both avid cooks and green thumbs and would look amazing hung in a kitchen.

Price: from $55
Available at: Order information is on the website, Botanical Art by Diane de Roo.

Gardening gift of the day: Botanical tea towels

These colourful botanical tea towels recently caught my eye and I made sure to add them to my list of gifts for gardeners. Based out of Vancouver, Creative Tea Towels takes the work of Canadian artists and prints it onto 100 per cent cotton tea towels. The design shown above, Shirley Poppies, was painted by botanical watercolourist and avid organic gardener Lyn Noble. There are some other lovely designs to choose from, as well.

Wrap them up for the gardener on your list or use them as eco-friendly wrapping paper to envelope a small gardening gift.

Price: $14.99 to $17.99
Available at: Online and at boutique shops across Canada. See the website (linked above) for details.

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