{ Archive for the ‘garden travel’ Category }

Celebrate Garden Days

Looking for something fun to do with the gardening enthusiast in your life? How about celebrating Garden Days!

Organized by the Canadian Garden Council, Garden Days is a three-day event in celebration of National Garden Day. From June 13 to 15, green-thumbs of all ages can enjoy a variety of activities hosted by local gardens, garden centres, horticultural organizations and garden-related businesses in their city.
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Walking through and flying over Floriade

Unfortunately, I’ve been without wireless for the last few days, so I was unable to post. But I’m back! Last Friday was all about Floriade. One full, magnificent day that took my mom and I through hectares of gardening innovations and design. A quick shuttle bus ride from the Venlo train station took us right to the gates. There are five distinct areas to see: Environment, World Show Stage, Education & Innovation, Relax & Heal and Green Engine. We plotted an efficient route, using the cable car with its amazing 360-degree views of the whole expo to take us from one side to the other. (Warning: Whatever you pack, be sure to include comfortable shoes! You will be doing a lot of walking.) Each zone provided fresh inspiration, some of which we hope to bring to our own gardens. We also saw some amazing plants that we’ve never encountered in our Canadian nurseries.

What’s crazy about this gardening village with its multiple restaurants, buildings and gardens is that much of it will be dismantled at the end of the year when Floriade is over. The cable car has been sold to a ski resort in Austria and the land, apparently, will be used as a business park.

The exposition runs until October, so there is still plenty of time to book a plane ticket to Holland. We were lucky to be there to see a rainbow of bulbs and spring-flowering trees. But each month will bring new blooms and a lot of the plants that were teeny tiny in some of the gardens will have filled in nicely by the summer.

Our last stop of the day was the nursery and garden store. It was hard to resist some of the amazing bulbs that were for sale! My mom and I aren’t the smuggling types, so we resisted. I’m hoping we’ll be able to track down some of the bulbs for the interesting blooms we saw from bulb companies at home.

I have included a few images here, but there is so much to share, I will be creating some slide shows over the coming weeks showcasing all the interesting sights and ideas that we saw.

Towards the end of our day, still with smiles on our faces! Some of the people we encountered in Venlo couldn't believe we came all the way from Canada just to experience Floriade! It was worth the trip.

Seriously, how amazing is this tulip?

Floriade is a feast for all five senses!

An inspiring trip to Reford Gardens

Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel around Maritime Quebec. My trip was billed as “Glaciers, Flowers and Gourmet Delicacies.” What immediately stood out to me on the itinerary was the Jardin de Métis, also known as Reford Gardens. I’d read a lot about the gardens and couldn’t wait to see them for myself. To get there, we had taken a ferry the night before from Baie-Comeau, where we had spent a day touring around, to Matane. We stayed at Hôtel-Motel Belle-Plage, so I fell asleep and awoke to the gentle waves of the St. Lawrence River. I was disappointed to wake up and discover an overcast and rainy day, however as we neared Reford Gardens, we drove into the sun.

After wandering through the unique, intellectual gardens that make up the International Garden Festival, we met up with Alexander Reford, director of Reford Gardens and great-grandson of the gardens’ founder, Elsie Reford. Alexander has been instrumental in continuing Elsie’s legacy and expanding the gardens in both size and profile. In fact, Alexander won a Canadian Garden Tourism Award for Person of the Year this past March at Canada’s Garden Tourism Conference.

Alexander took my little group of three behind the scenes showing us some future project sites and introducing us to chef Pierre-Olivier Ferry whom we encountered in the kitchen garden.

I took a ton of photos and compiled them into a photo essay, which you will find in our Garden Travel section. I thought I’d share some of the more candid ones here.

Maybe this giant gnome in Matane was lucky and brought the nice weather to Reford Gardens.

This web, part of the Dymaxion Sleep exhibit, suspends visitors over various aromatic herbs. I thought it might be a little stiffer, so I couldn't stop giggling when I fell into it.

Alexander and I at Estevan Lodge Restaurant.

What to visit in Victoria

I’m home again, but before I return to reality (three weeks can really do a number on a yard, even with the neighbors watering), I must share some of my adventures with you.

Not able to give proper credit to all the beautiful spots, both public and private, we saw, I am focusing here on our visit to Victoria, Canada’s “Garden City.”

The quintessential Victoria garden has to be Butchart, right? I know lots of people who have visited and thought it well worth the price tag. One day, I’ll get there too, but this trip, I was not equipped with the time or the pocketbook to make it happen. Besides, I thought, why not ask around for some of the lesser known spots that are worth a look?

Here’s a short list; feel free to add to it, those who know the area better than I. All of these were recommended more than once.

Hatley Castle, the administrative home of Royal Roads University, has extensive gardens set in the midst of 600-some acres of heritage trees. The pride of the grounds are the Italian, Japanese, and Rose gardens, but really, it all looks pretty impressive with the dramatic backdrop of a real, bona fide Edwardian castle. (Some of the X-Men movies were filmed here, too. I know this because I’m a geek.) There’s a restored 1914 greenhouse, too. Admission is charged; tours are available.

Hatley Park Castle

The castle, a National Historic Site, showing just a hint of the grounds.

Beacon Hill Park, right in downtown Victoria, has 200 acres to explore, so plan to spend all day. It looks great year round. There are water, rock, and alpine gardens; perennial beds and displays of annuals. There’s a petting zoo and a playgrounds for the kids, and lots of ducks, peacocks, and herons. Admission is free; horse-drawn carriage rides are available.

Tucked away on the University of Victoria campus is Finnerty Gardens, a 6.5 acre gem. Highlighted are rhododendrons and azaleas, but a full spectrum of plants are on display, many with identifying signs. We’re told it’s at it’s best in spring, but we thought it was just wonderful in August. No admission; follow the ring road around to the southwest and park at the chapel. While you’re on campus, you may want to wander down into the Mystic Vale, a protected wilderness area to the southeast, full of Big Leaf Maple, firs, and ferns. It’s breathtaking.

gardens in fall

A pond in Finnerty gardens.

The girls enjoying the hydrangeas. I wish I could post them enjoying the bamboo and everything else, but I've already put in too many pictures.

Don’t miss the Government House gardens– I almost did. I heard about them before we left, but saw something online about “tours by appointment only,” so I put it out of my mind as too much trouble for this trip. But we drove right by it while leaving the Craigdarroch Castle (also wonderful, but not much for gardens) and the gates were wide open! We were already late to get to my brother’s house, so Chris dropped me off and I did the five minute walk (gasping, groaning, and drooling as I went). It is open to the public, dawn to dusk, but tours are available, by appointment. See how I got confused? If you get the chance, please visit them properly, for me.

A quick shot of the herb garden, as I hurried by... There's a sunken rose garden right behind me...

Garden Walk Buffalo impresses

I was fortunate enough to visit Garden Walk Buffalo last weekend. With more than 350 private gardens on show, the tour is the largest in the U.S. Over two days on the last weekend in July, enthusiastic gardeners open their yards to about 50,000 walkers.

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In search of local food

So I got an email last week about a shindig going on up in Edmonton (my old stomping grounds) this Friday — the Sturgeon County Bounty local food event. Local chefs will be presenting food sown and grown in the area. Sigh. Too bad I’m not in the area anymore.

One of the drawbacks to country living — and I’ll admit, there are a few — is being far away from all the fun events like this one. And Home and Garden shows. And Canada Blooms. And Hort shows in general.

But I digress.

As I wallowed in my lack of County Bounty attendance, a pang of guilt struck my heart. I remembered that up the road a little out of my way is a market garden I have never visited. I’ve driven past the sign for Room 2 Grow lots of times; but usually on my way up to Edmonchuck so I’ve never justified a stop. Why am I worried about local food in Edmonton when I’ve got local food right here that I’m ignoring?

A cayenne pepper growing in the greenhouse. Also here are tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet and hot peppers.

So I repented and made a trip up there today (a whole 20 km, my odometer tells me) and had a visit with Heather, who runs the place with her husband Norm. They have about 2 acres of berries, vegetables, and herbs with the rest of their 1/4 section dedicated to raising bulls. It’s a laid back, unassuming place, with gardens of strawberries hiding behind tree lines and potato patches snuggled up against pastureland. They sell eggs, chicken, and beef as well. Heather (who is also an award winning artist) seems preoccupied with all the weeds she hasn’t pulled, but says she would “rather have it messy than have it full of who knows what.” She hands me a strawberry right off the plant and I taste the result of their zero chemical approach: the unbelievable flavor locals, tourists, and three local restaurants keep coming back for.

One of the ladybugs Norman released in the greenhouse to snack on the aphids. The Dodds rely on biological approaches like these to tackle any gardening problems.

I left with a bag full of strawberries, a cucumber, and several of the tastiest, most gorgeous tomatoes I’ve ever had.

Heather also reminded me that I have two different weekly farmer’s markets within a half hour’s drive of my house.

Drawbacks to country living, my eye.

So your challenge this week is to discover what kind of food opportunities are hiding close to you. I’ll bet you a sweet little strawberry they’re closer than you think.

Here’s a sampling of local food resources from across the country. Try Googling “local food” and your city or province.

Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association

Greenbelt Guide (Ontario resources)

Eat Local Manitoba

Select Nova Scotia

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?

A visit to Nikka Yuko

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This fern leaf caragana made me rethink my general disdain for caraganas.

I checked something off my bucket list this week. Chris and I were in Lethbridge for the day, sans kids, and went to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. Now that I’ve been, I can’t believe I’ve put it off for ten years! “Beautiful” seems like an obvious description, as does “relaxing” and “inspiring.” But they are all true.

It’s a relatively small garden, but incorporates many views that unfold gradually as you walk through it, leaving the impression of a much larger space. All the traditional elements of Japanese design are used. All the structures and decorations were built in Kyoto, including a huge brass bell that Chris wanted to bring home. As for me, I wanted to bring home the crew of gardeners I met there.

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Chris enjoying the dry rock garden.

I found Jeff Quinlan first, pruning a creeping juniper. A graduate of Olds College (which has a great botanical garden in its own right), Jeff seemed about as serene working there as we were visiting. He says he is grateful to have such a place to come to every day, and hopes the garden continues to get the public support it needs to stay open.

He introduced me to Al White, who has tended this garden for 20 years. We chatted for a few minutes about Scots pines and Amur maples, two of the predominant trees in the garden (actual Japanese maples aren’t hardy enough for southern Alberta). It was really interesting to get Al’s perspective, as he has been able to see the garden evolve. It got overgrown in its early years (1960`s), as the Japanese experts advised a natural state and western keepers misinterpreted that advice as “leave it alone.” Al talked about the Japanese ideal being working with nature but with good helpings of shaping. It’s all about “enhancing what the tree is already offering you,” he says.

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Me trying to convince Chris that an Amur maple can look great multi-stemmed.

We only stayed about an hour, but it was a quiet, slow hour that offered me a lot of perspective on my “get-it-done” attitude. So Chris didn’t bring home a bell and I didn’t bring home a work crew, but I did bring home a gentle reminder not to fight nature, and to be patient and let my garden evolve. Pretty Zen, huh?

Knowing me, I’ll need another reminder in a few weeks. Guess I’ll just have to go back to Nikka Yuko and see the fall colors.