Gardening Blog

Giving a little back to the kids

This has been a strange week for me. Not once, but twice, I’ve been asked to help teach about gardening and plants.

Me.

Who has managed to kill all the tomato seedlings I planted this year by leaving them in the chilly porch overnight. Who knows the terms pinnate and palmate, but couldn’t define them accurately to save my life. Who seeds her garden beds in such a haphazard way that surely my grandfather rolls in his grave every spring.

To be sure, the teaching invitations did not come because I’m some kind of superstar with green thumbs; I was an obvious choice by association. One was for my daughter’s grade 4-5 science class, the other the local Cub Scout troupe which just happens to be led by Dear Husband.

But despite the low-key circumstances, I was just a teeny bit nervous. Would I be able to get through my presentations without making any obvious blunders? What if someone asked a question I couldn’t answer? (If you think this is a silly thing to worry about, I’m guessing you don’t hang out with a lot of ten-year-olds.) But more than anything, I wondered and worried whether any of them would even care about anything I had to say. What if they all thought it was lame and B-O-R-I-N-G?

Turns out I worried for nothing. In both cases, the kids were fun, polite, and excited to be there. The Cubs started pumpkins in little pots and helped prepare the garden bed they will use this summer. The 4-5 class helped me dissect a just-bloomed tulip, played name-that-seed-and-why-it-looks-that-way, and got very involved in a discussion of how all life on earth is dependent on plants in one way or another. I answered questions left and right. I got my ego pampered as they admired my “talent” (no one tell them about the tomatoes, okay?).

Most of all, though, it reinforced a truth I’ve always believed in: giving something back to your community, no matter how little you might think it is, pays off for everyone. So I challenge you this week to think about how you might give a little of your garden back: Is there someone you could teach something? Did you plant trees for Earth Day? Can you plant an extra row of veggies to donate to the food bank? Volunteer in a community garden?

While you work on that, I’ll concentrate on keeping the Cub’s pumpkins alive…

 

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!

Touchdown in Venlo, ready for Floriade

This afternoon, my mom and I arrived in the town of Venlo. We’re here because we decided on a whim a few months back that we really wanted to see Floriade together. So we planned a trip around it. Despite being a bit weary and jet-legged, we spent the afternoon exploring the town. There are lots of signs and planters (like the one below) welcoming people to Venlo and the once-a-decade horticulture event! There is lots of shopping in the downtown area (including some cute home and garden stores), as well as quaint little bars and cafes. Despite the chill to the air, we enjoyed a cup of tea in the sunny town square, watching the world go by. Resting up now since tomorrow is going to be a big day. Stay tuned!

There are signs all over Venlo--even on the planters--welcoming people to Floriade.

Venlo has some cute home and garden stores. This is some inspiration for a future project. They were displayed outside of Fiore a Voi

Inspiration for a future project!

We sipped tea in the square in front of the town hall (on the left).

Are you a garden geek? Come on, admit it

By all current social measures, I can safely be placed in the category of “geek.”

I’m a librarian.

In junior high and high school, I was a “drama freak.”

I have won Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and have been known to wear a Princess Leia T-shirt.

I can fix your average computer.

I have played D&D and Magic, and read the entire Dune series.

And yes, I know what a tribble is.

In college I would still get sucked into heated discussions debating the finer points of cataloguing books. Then I’d mentally step back for a moment, listen to myself and my classmates, and think, “This conversation would make no sense and hold absolutely zero interest to anyone outside the library community. What a bunch of geeks we are!”

Since then, my geekdom has been laying somewhat dormant, only showing itself amongst trusted friends and family. I thought I had mainly gotten past it. I might never be “cool,” but maybe I could be “normal.”

I lost all hope, however, this last weekend at the Calgary Horticultural Society Garden Show. I was choosing some wildflower seeds from one of the booths and found myself gushing over the discovery of prairie crocus and shooting star seeds. I mentally observed myself spouting Latin with my fellow attendees, and imagined the eye-rolling that would occur if my brother were present. “That’s it. I thought. I am truly a geek.”

But then I had an “ah-ha” moment: we’re all geeks about something. We’re just used to using the term only about certain “somethings.” Think about it for a minute. Do you know someone who gets teary-eyed looking over the shiny chrome of a souped up car or motorcycle, and roll your eyes when they start listing off details of its construction and styling? Do you know someone who can rattle off baseball or hockey stats faster than his own Social Insurance Number? Would you call them geeks? Or someone so deeply versed in rock music they can identify a song, with artist, by it’s first riff? Do you dare use the label on them?

Simon Pegg, a guy who knows a little something about being called a “geek,” had this to say:

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”

Hmmm. What’s that you say, Simon? I have a license?? Why thank you, I believe I’ll use it. I’ll spout Latin, and babble to my baby seedlings. I’ll drool over new tools and ask for compost for Christmas. I will embrace my inner geek, and, I’ll wager, be the happier for it.

Besides, normal is a setting on a washing machine.

Live long, and prosper.

Geeking out about fruit trees with the lovely Bylands Nursery people at the Calgary Hort Show.

Geeking out with Gord Koch of Olds College over green roofs, or vegetative roofs, as us geeks are calling them now…

Even if you're not a garden geek, cauliflower and olive sheep are pretty cute. "Bahay Kubo Farm," by Laura Chomyn, an entry in the "Edible Container" competition.

 

 

 

Countdown to the Calgary Hort Show

Five sleeps until I slap down a measly ten bucks (twelve at the door) and enter my first-ever, real-deal, not-just-a-trade-show, horticultural fair! Out East, everyone’s done with Canada Blooms already, and out West you’ve been enjoying the dirt for weeks now, but here on the Prairies, we’re just getting started.

A shot of last year's exhibition hall.

Looking over the lineup for the weekend, I’m thinking I could spend all day just sitting at the speaker stages: so many good professionals, and so many topics I’m interested in. That might be for the best if it keeps me from spending too much time (and hence, money!) with the many vendors, although I will make time to go see the children’s activities. I want to see the beehives from the Chinook Honey Farm in action, and find out what a seed bomb is. And I can’t miss the competition gardens. Hmmm…. I’m going to be very tired on Sunday.

I know it's geared for kids, but I wanna see too!

 

Residual Income

They say one sure-fire way to really get ahead financially is residual income: get something done that will continue to earn you money even when you have moved on to the next project. Like writing a bestselling novel or Top 40 hit and letting the royalties roll in while you focus on the next masterpiece. Or getting paid every time your movie reruns on TV, or dividends from investments, or a share of the profits from the well you let the oil guys dig in your back yard.

None of which have happened for me. Nor am I getting into network marketing: been there, done that, not going there again, thank you very much. But I did get a pretty sweet payoff this spring from some long forgotten work.

I’d been craving something fresh to eat, like not-from-the-grocery-store’s-cold-storage fresh, like peas or radishes straight out of the ground, but I knew they’d still be a few weeks away, at least. Just as a began to grumble, I remembered I had actually done something about this annual hankering: I planted parsnips last year! So out I went to the sleeping veggie patch with my dearly missed garden fork, moved aside some leaf-filled garbage bags, and dug in. Guess what? There they were!

I steamed some that very night, with just a bit of butter and nutmeg. Oh. My. Everything I’d been hoping for.

We’ve had three meals with parsnips, and there’s enough still in the ground for a couple more. Plus the spinach and lettuce planted in the cold frame one mild February day should almost be big enough to start doing their job in my kitchen.

It almost feels like cheating, getting fresh veggies out of the ground this early, but you better believe I’m doing parsnips again, and leeks this year too. I’m happy to do a little more work this spring. This kind of residual income is almost as good as money in the bank.

Almost.

A heartwarming seed booth at the One of a Kind Show in Toronto

Yesterday I toured around the spring One of a Kind Show & Sale not once, but twice. I was there in the morning for the media preview and then I returned that evening with my husband (and some money). We brought home a few goodies (edible, wearable and for the house), including a wildflower seed kit from Kluane’s Creations. I had a fantastic chat with the woman looking after the booth. She explained how these little kits are put together. Various community groups of men and women with intellectual disabilities (and their assistants) work on different aspects of the product, from the kiln-dried markers to the little seed pucks. The materials used to put the kits together is organic, biodegradable or made from recycled materials.

I love the spirit and whimsy of the product, as well as the fact that the company is providing meaningful jobs to people in its community. I can’t wait to plant my wildflowers!

The One of a Kind Show continues throughout the weekend, until Sunday at 6 p.m.

Win tickets to Canada Blooms

Last week I wrote up my annual Canada Blooms preview where I highlight what I’m excited to see. Really, I look forward to the whole shebang, so it’s always hard to narrow down what I’m going to write about. Personally, when I get a chance to stroll around the show, I’ll be looking for ideas for my new garden (I moved in October), and in the marketplace, I hope to purchase some interesting seeds and maybe a plant or two.

This year is also a little different for me because I’m speaking on two separate days about 2012 gardening trends. My first presentation is this Friday at 3 p.m. on the Unilock Celebrity Stage. The second one is next Thursday, March 22 at 11 a.m. I’ve been busy gathering all sorts of interesting and quirky ideas to share. But I thought I’d try to get a little pre-presentation audience participation.

I have two pairs of tickets to give away. They get you into both Canada Blooms and the National Home Show, which run from March 16 to March 25 at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto. To win, please leave a comment below telling me what you believe to be the best or the worst gardening trend. Two responses will be selected at random Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

Contest closes March 14, 2012 at 12 p.m. EST. Open to all residents of Canada, except those in Quebec. Not open to any Transcontinental Media employees, their families, or any other persons with whom they reside. 

Good luck!

Win tickets to the Ideal Home & Garden Show in Hamilton


‘Tis the season for spring garden shows. They always occur at the perfect time of year: those last weeks of winter that seem to drag on the longest, when you can’t wait to get outside and start digging and pruning and clearing. On the roster is the Ideal Home & Garden Show, which takes place this weekend at the Careport Centre in Hamilton. I’ve never been, so I’ll be checking it out since I’m new to the area. Apparently there are over three acres of exhibitors, as well as full-scale displays, like an old shipping container converted into a little cottage living space—I actually dream of plunking one of these in my own garden someday. There is also a lineup of speakers, including Jane Lockhart from W Network’s Colour Confidential, and Lynn Crawford, host of the Food Network’s Pitchin’ In and author of a book by the same name that was published in January.

If you live in Hamilton or the surrounding area, I have two sets of two tickets to give away for the opening night’s Charity Night this Thursday (March 1) from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. There will be live music, a charity auction to raise funds for various community organizations, a stage segment by Reena Nerbas and Boo from Boo’s Bistro, one-on-one advice and a huge door prize. You also will get the opportunity to return to the show over the weekend.

To enter, simply leave a comment below, telling us what gardening inspiration you hope to see at the show. Two responses will be selected at random Wednesday, February 29, 2012.

Contest closes February 29, 2011 at 12pm EST. Open to all residents of Canada, except those in Quebec. Not open to any Transcontinental Media employees, their families, or any other persons with whom they reside.

Good luck!

Three quirky gardening ideas that start with the letter P

I’ve been gathering trends and quirky gardening ideas for a presentation I’m giving at Canada Blooms March 16 and 22 (full schedule is here). This afternoon I realized I had three on the go that start with the letter P and a blog entry was born.

Pallets
One thing I loved about the Toronto Island Garden Tour last summer was how the residents reused so many old objects in their gardens—from bathtubs to chunks of concrete. This brings me to my first P. What better way to use an old pallet, than to turn it into a garden? I saw this idea on Fern Richardson’s Life on the Balcony blog where she provides step-by-step instructions on how to put it all together. I hope to try this in my own garden if I can find an old pallet somewhere!

Potholes
Today, the Calgary Horticultural Society posted a fabulous link on the Canadian Gardening Facebook fan page to pothole garden pictures, like this one. The freshome site profiled Steve Wheen, who has been planting these little gems around East London. Steve writes on his blog, The Pothole Gardener, that the project stemmed from a university course, meant to be part art project and part mission to show how bad the roads are, among others.

Pink tractors
This pink John Deere tractor, posted by Ethel Gloves on Facebook earlier today, isn’t really a trend, but it made me smile. And completed my trio of Ps.

Have a good weekend!

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