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!
I woke up at 3 am this morning to a baby fussing. I rolled over, and thought, “Just a few more hours, little girl, it’s not time yet. If you wake up now, we’ll both be miserable for the rest of the day.”
She settled down on her own, and slept until 7:30, but I found myself repeating similiar words as I looked out my window at breakfast.
“Just a few more weeks, little tree, it’s not time yet. If you wake up now we’ll both be miserable, and you’ll end up dead.” The object of my mother-naturely concern: the European mountain ash I planted in my front garden last year.
The poor dear is so confused. Between the chinooks warming everything up and blowing away his nice chilly blanket of snow, he’s convinced it’s spring. We had a warm spell a few weeks back, and I had to bring snow from the drifts around the yard over to his base. I covered his toes while mumbling (yes, out loud), “Go back to sleep, you silly thing. It’s February.” No matter what the ground-hog may guarantee, I’m an Alberta girl. I’ve seen one too many April snowstorms. Around here, you don’t plant anything tender before the May long weekend any more than you’d give chewing gum to an infant. I’m not that worried about the big old poplars; they’ve seen more winters than I have and will hardly wilt at a late frost. A young tree budding in early March is doomed.
Or is it? Driving around on the highways today, the Canada geese are everywhere and the gophers are running around getting themselves run over. There was frost on the windshield this morning, but my tulips (and the shepherd’s purse) are showing growth. Maybe it is spring, and I’m being overprotective. Maybe I need to let my baby tree out on its own — sink or swim — just like a toddler learning to walk is going to get a few bruises. But I can’t help wanting to coddle him just a little this first year. I know spring and its fickle nature can have too many casualties.
On the top of my priority list for this year: start a shelterbelt to protect my little mountain ash and all his friends (as well as eliminating the snow drifts across the driveway. Hopefully.)
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.
Hi, my name is April, and I’m a seedoholic.
I came to face the brutal reality of my situation after a trip into town last week.
We are in the middle of a bathroom renovation, and I put “vent for bath fan” on my shopping list, not realizing the danger I was putting myself in. I walked innocently into the hardware store and instantly the paint/grout fog of recent weeks melted away and the proverbial sunshine shone down upon me: the seed displays were up. Even more, soil mix and peat pots were on sale. My heart quickened. Before I knew what I was doing I had detoured from “heating and ventilation” and had a mitt-full of little bounty-promising packets.
A sane voice somewhere inside reminded me not to try too many new things all in the same season. It mentioned the catalogues waiting patiently at home for careful, measured appraisal. The voice pointed out the total lack of sunny counter space to place the mini-greenhouse I was carrying to the checkout.
The voice was right! I had stacks of cell packs in the shed and an already bulging box of seeds tucked away. Was I medicating my cabin fever? The drawn-out-reno blues? Was I simply willing February to hurry on up?
Whatever the reason, I still came home with three bags of assorted growing medium, the aforementioned greenhouse, a pack of peat pots, and, ahem… several seed packets.
On the way home, I mentally constructed a make shift shelf on which to put all my potential babies. I resolved to organize those seeds and have a proper look at my catalogues.
I also realized I’d have to come back into town sometime and pick up that fan vent.
Some of the less common seed companies I like (when I can avoid the impulse buys and choose carefully):
Richter’s – best for herbs according to most people I know who know. Seeds, plugs, extracts. Other plants as well.
Prairie Seeds – out of Saskatchewan. Heirloom and open-pollinated varieties, stuff that actually lives on the prairies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.