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.
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.
I really wish I knew about Gayla Trail’s first book, You Grow Girl: The Groundbreaking Guide to Gardening, when I first bought my house. Gayla has a way of making gardening sound so fun and easy and attainable. Her fantastic follow-up, Grow Great Grub, inspires readers to grow their own fruits, veggies, herbs and edible flowers. Teeny tiny yards and balconies are no obstacle, you just have to work with what you have. That might mean growing tomatoes upside down or raising kumquats in your living room. Delicious, interesting recipes make full use of your harvest and a helpful section shows you how to preserve your bounty so that nothing goes to waste. Gayla’s DIY ethos and conversational tone make you want to reach for your gardening gloves and start planting, salvage containers for plants and grow something you haven’t tried before—like potatoes in a metal garbage can!
This little gem caught my eye at the One of a Kind Show (if you’re in Toronto before Sunday, it’s at booth P4). It’s an art nest that can serve double duty as a suet feeder and as a building supply shop for the birds – the wool is enticing for nest building. According to Tracey Martin, half of Martin House Garden Art with her husband Derek, it’s always been a best seller and by the end of day 3, they had almost run out. Derek apparently made more last weekend. I believe it was Derek I spoke to at the booth and he said they would ship the nest if you call or email to place an order.
Available at: Martin House Art in Barrie, Ont. or by special order.
When I first moved into my house, a couple of neighbours would point out certain plants, tell me their name, give me tips on how to care for them. While I managed to retain most of the information, sometimes I wish I had written it all down. Keeping a garden journal is a great way to chronicle your successes and failures, ideas and advice, all in one place.
This journal by seasoned gardener Mimi Luebbermann allows you to record all the nitty gritty, inspirational details about your garden throughout the four seasons. Quick tips serve as gentle reminders of what needs to be done, instructive how-tos help you do everything from choosing the right tool to picking the right plant, and handy checklists ensure no essential tasks are missed. There is also plenty of room to include sketches and ideas, and an expandable envelope at the back will hold plant tags and other loose bits of paper nicely.