{ Author Archive - Tara Nolan }

A gorgeous fall container and a pumpkin covered in peanuts

Tuesday afternoon I headed to the TBG to shoot a video with director of horticulture, Paul Zammit. Paul is a natural on-camera, and had shot another video with us about two and a half years ago that still gets viewed every month. So I arranged to have him create a fall-themed pot and set a date with Carrie Shibinsky, the marketing and communications director. When I got there, Paul had chosen a very picturesque focal point outside. Our new media producer extraordinaire Ryan DaSilva, accompanied by Mark the intern from the Hockey News (talk about a change of scenery!), was there to film the unique setting and, of course, Paul’s masterpiece.

When I got there, Paul announced he wasn’t going the traditional orange and red route. I wasn’t worried, but I also wasn’t sure what to expect. Well the final result is quite stunning and unexpected. Paul chose a palette of chartreuse, yellows, greens and silvery blues. Even the pumpkins matched! Not only does Paul have a great eye, but you always learn important tips as he takes you through the steps. You’ll have to watch the video to learn more! And I’ve included a couple of behind-the-scenes shots below. If you’re in the mood to share, post your fall pots on our Facebook fan page!

Mark and Ryan setting up the right angles!

Paul always brings along lots of interesting plant material!

This is the pumpkin I mentioned in the blog title. After the video shoot, Paul took me out back to see it because it looks so interesting - like it's covered in peanuts!

Savour delicious soups and support a good cause at Soupalicious

Last week I was invited to “sip, slurp and savour” a variety of soups cooked up by a medley of Toronto chefs. The event was a preview of what the general public will taste if they attend Soupalicious next Saturday, October 9 (from 11 to 4) at Heritage Court in Exhibition Place. Over 35 restaurants, chefs and local farmers will be stirring local produce into cauldrons of soup for the crowd as well as for various charities. The proceeds from this soup festival ($10 for 10 cups of soup, $15 at the door) will go towards supporting the Plant a Row – Grow a Row program, an organization that encourages gardeners to plant an extra row of veggies so that they can share their bounty with those in need. The program is spearheaded by The Compost Council of Canada and the Garden Writers Association, and supported by local food banks. Visitors are also encouraged to bring a food donation next weekend to help support local food banks.

Here are some of the delicious soups I tasted – I would have like to try them all, but I was full after six!

  • The Annex HodgePodge Bistro & Catering: Curried Carrot & Ginger
  • Arvinda’s: Red Lentil and Carrot
  • Le Papillon: French Onion
  • Torito: The Latin Caldo de Puerco
  • The Gladstone: Cauliflower Soup with Leek Compote and a drizzle of curry-infused cold pressed soy oil
  • Room Service: Red Pea Soup with coconut cream and chicken

Frozen pesto cubes for winter pasta

Last weekend I had a tall, beautiful columnar basil plant (courtesy of President’s Choice) nestled beside my tomato plants (to help their flavour). It was almost up to my waist. Rather than let it go to seed, which hadn’t happened yet thanks to my consistent pruning, I decided to make pesto.

I found an easy pesto recipe online from Whole Foods and then did a little research to see how to preserve it. The easiest way I found was to freeze it in an ice cube tray, wrap it in saran, being sure to let out all the air, and then pop the frozen cubes into a freezer bag (again, letting out all the air). I left out the cheese from the recipe because I wasn’t sure how it would freeze.

Now throughout the winter, when I want to make a quick weeknight meal–say shrimp with brown rice pasta fettuccine–I can just grab a cube or two, let it thaw a little and then stir it in! No more jars of store-bought pesto required.

I’m feeling ambitious about my herb saving, so this weekend I intend to clip some tarragon, oregano, sage and thyme and dry it out. Charmian Christie wrote a great article for the site that I posted this week called 5 ways to preserve your herbs in 5 minutes. If I get the time, I might also try to create some herb-infused vinegars.

This weekend: Learn about ikebana

One of the things I love about my job is learning about something that inspires me to try it. This week on CanadianGardening.com, I posted an article about ikebana, the Japanese style of flower arranging by Suzanne Hartmann. I find the whole discipline so fascinating and was interested to learn that ikebana featured prominently at the recent G8 and G20 summits. Then, I got a note from Suzanne informing me about the 42nd Anniversary Floral Art Show of the Hamilton Chapter International Ikenobo Ikebana Society. It is this Sunday (September 19) from 1 to 5 at the Royal Botanical Gardens. At 2 pm there will be a demonstration by Prof. Masakazu Nakamura from Kyoto, Japan. I’m bringing my sister, who taught in Japan for three years, and look forward to learning more about this floral art form.

A new blog beginning

Even though our growing season can seem rather short, the Canadian Gardening team has gardening on the brain all year long. We are constantly writing, shooting and editing stories for both the magazine and the website that we hope will inspire you to plant and grow, whether it be a few pots of herbs on a windowsill or an ambitious perennial garden. That’s why we’ve got various editors from the magazine on board to bring you tips and advice for all abilities, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how those breathtaking pages of blooms are created.

Check here for a list of who you’ll start to see on our blog in the coming weeks!

My blog drought is over and garden beasties

I've been terribly remiss in my blogging this summer. I blog a lot in my head as I'm gardening, but that doesn't always translate to publishing my thoughts. And so, these next couple of weeks I'll be catching up on what I've wanted to say about my garden. Let's start with the interesting population of bugs. See exhibits A, B and C below.

Exhibit A: I spotted this bug hanging out in the dirt by my garage about three weeks ago. What the heck is it?

Exhibit A: I spotted this bug hanging out in the dirt by my garage about three weeks ago. What the heck is it?

Exhibit B: I nearly jumped out of my skin (ha ha!) one day when I went to pick a pepper and spied this on a leaf. Like a snake or a dragonfly, this beastie also sheds his outer layer. I've found a few throughout my garden this summer!

Exhibit B: I nearly jumped out of my skin (ha ha!) one day when I went to pick a pepper and spied this on a leaf. Like a snake or a dragonfly, this beastie also sheds his outer layer. I've found a few throughout my garden this summer!

Exhibit C: This spider took up residence between my tomato plants. Sometimes she's not there, so I feel all crawly coming inside as I imagine her hitching a ride into my house on my back.

Exhibit C: This spider took up residence between my tomato plants. Sometimes she's not there, so I feel all crawly coming inside as I imagine her hitching a ride into my house on my back.

From grass to garden: Part 1

This spring, my husband and I contemplated turning our front lawn into a garden after an ongoing battle with grubs decimated our grass for the second time. Warm spring evenings were spent wandering through neighbourhoods looking for ideas–and furtively taking the odd photo. But a busy schedule and the sheer enormity of the task–ripping up all the grass (for the second time in five years) and then finding plants to fill this bigger space gave us pause.

Then an emergency sewer pipe repair saw half our lawn being dug up leaving a pile of sand in its wake. This bigger mess overwhelmed us into inaction as we struggled to figure out what to do and where to start. We were so embarrassed by the state of our yard, we left the Roto Rooter sign up for longer than we would have so anyone walking by would take pity on our pipe repair and not judge the disaster zone.

I took a 'before' photo after the dirt was delivered. The end of the lawn is where we started to dig up. Crab grass obscures much of the sandpit that stretches from the middle of our lawn up towards the windows on the right.

I took a 'before' photo after the dirt was delivered. The end of the lawn is where we started to dig up the grass. Crab grass obscures much of the sandpit that stretches from the middle of our lawn up towards the front of the house. Two junipers were pulled out during the sewer pipe repair leaving an empty front garden.

We were tempted to hire a professional to sketch out a garden plan, but our creative side wanted to see if we could do it ourselves. And so we looked through magazines and websites, I read through Liz Primeau's fantastic new book called Front Yard Gardens: Growing More Than Grass and we finally sat down together one night to sketch out what we each envisioned.

It turns out we both had similar ideas in mind, so a plan started to take shape. We decided to cancel our long weekend plans and devote our three days off to our garden redesign. And my sweet parents–Sensei Gardener (Mom) and Sensei Landscaper (Dad)–were eager to help out.

Our first step was to order triple mix to enrich our soil and a nice dark cedar mulch. This was delivered on Friday afternoon by Arnts Topsoil: The Landscape Supplier. During the week we had started tearing up the grass and worked at finishing this Saturday. We also managed to get our hands on some fabulous big rocks left over from a neighbour's project. My husband used these to separate our side garden from the new one we were going to create. We took an afternoon break to meet my dad at Arnts and haul a load of stone back to our house. This would be used to replace a rotted wooden retaining wall and create a bigger wall that would separate our garden into two tiers. We also picked up a bag of multicoloured pebbles to experiment with a garden path.

With a house full of refreshments and our tools gathered and ready for action, we awoke on Sunday morning ready to tackle our plan. It’s not quite finished, but wait and see what we came up with!

Purslane taste test

This morning while I was out weeding, I decided I'd set aside some purslane and try it with my lunch before serving it to my unsuspecting husband as I mentioned I would do in yesterday’s post. As I washed my weeds, I chewed a couple of leaves. I detected a hint of that lemony flavour John Kallas talks about in his book Edible Wild Plants. They tasted very similar to my mesclun mix that I planted this spring.

I added the ends of the stems and their leaves, which are supposed to be the sweetest, to a mixed greens salad with cherry tomatoes and my homemade balsamic vinaigrette. With all that company, I didn't really taste the purslane, but felt good knowing I was getting an extra dose of omega-3s.

An edible weed discovery

Out of all the weeds I have to pull, I didn’t realize I was composting a nutrient-dense super food. Purslane is a succulent with a reddish root and little shiny green leaves with more omega-3s than kale and lots of antioxidants. It also happens to love my yard. Apparently purslane is very popular in the Mediterranean, but here in North America we haven’t quite gotten used to eating this weed that likes to pop up in dry places like sidewalk cracks. After reading the chapter on purslane that we’ve excerpted on the site from the book Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas, I pointed out the weed to my husband. He seemed a little dubious about eating something that doesn’t come from the boundaries of our vegetable garden, but I might sneak it into a salad this week. Shh, don’t tell!

Introducing our new blogger, April Demes

april-demesBack in the winter, CanadianGardening.com hosted a contest called So You Think You Can Garden. The winner received a prize package along with an opportunity to blog on the site. After receving an overwhelming amount of entries, we finally chose April Demes to be our winner. April was scheduled to start blogging for us in May, but we’ve been waiting for our developers to launch a shiny new blog format for us. Since we’re still waiting and it’s July, I thought I could publish April’s posts for the time being under my blog. I will clearly mark these entries so you can follow April’s adventures in her own garden until we can publish her posts separately.

Here’s a link to April’s winning entry.

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