Gardening Blog

A garden tour of The Beach

I've seen half numbers in addresses before–usually on a house subdivided into apartments. But as I approach 44 ½ Victoria Park, I'm greeted by a gate of sorts framing a path, right between two homes. The path takes me past both houses and their backyards, and leads me to this amazing, magical lot, perched on a ravine. I want to move there. This house is the first on a preview of Toronto Botanical Garden`s annual Through the Garden Gate garden tour. This year, for the first time, the tour takes place in the Beach neighbourhood of Toronto. June 19 and 20, visitors will be allowed to take in 26 private gardens like this one, which you would never know even existed. Apparently it used to be a cottage with its own little road that was eliminated over time–hence the half-numbered address. The other homes we preview each boast their own unique attributes, including a couple with spectacular lakefront views, one with over 50 Japanese maples, and another with a contemporary water feature in a cosy backyard. I will definitely be going back next weekend to take in the other 21 homes on the tour–or at least most of them!

Scroll below the event details for a few preview pics!

Here are the details:
When: The tour takes place Saturday June 19 and Sunday June 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tour headquarters: Neil McNeil High School at 127 Victoria Park Ave.
Ticket includes: Comprehensive Garden Guide, access to the 26 gardens with experts in each garden and complimentary shuttle service.

Tickets can be purchased online at the Toronto Botanical Garden website (prices are listed there, as well) and at the following outlets:

  • Shop TBG, 777 Lawrence Ave. E
  • Blossoms Rosedal, 1 Rowanwood Ave.
  • Bill's Garden Centre, 903 Pape Ave.
  • Plant World, 4,000 Eglinton Ave. W
  • Sheridan Nurseries, 2827 Yonge St.
  • Sheridan Nurseries, 784 Sheppard Ave. E
Enter this gate at 44 1/2 Victoria Park and you'll never want to leave!

Enter this gate at 44 1/2 Victoria Park and you'll never want to leave!

This is my favourite garden, so I'm showing another photo. By the way there are two other ponds as well as a swimming pool. This lot is an anomaly in the city. What I love about it is the owner and her family all contributed.

This is my favourite garden, so I'm showing another photo. This is the one with over 50 Japanese maples. The lot is over an acre, an anomaly in the city. What I love about the gardens is the fact that the whole family has contributed. And the owner has such an eye for flow and colour and texture.

This water feature at 51 Northern Dancer Blvd. (and the garden) were designed by Kim Price Landscape. It cleverly hides the garage that is mere steps from the back door of the house.

This water feature at 51 Northern Dancer Blvd. (and the garden) were designed by Kim Price Landscape. It cleverly hides the garage that is mere steps from the back door of the house.

Looking forward to chocolate mint tea

Recently I posted an article by writer Charmian Christie about interesting herbal teas you can grow in the garden. Curious about the chocolate mint that `tastes like a Peppermint Pattie`, I bought a plant last weekend at the market in St. Jacob`s. My plain old mint, which I had planted in a pot, didn't come back this spring, so I dug out the roots, amended the soil and plunked in my chocolate plant. I can't wait to taste it!

Cool things to plant from PC

This past weekend marked the official launch of the President's Choice Insider's Report (Lawn & Garden edition). And as we head into the long weekend, you may want to check it out and make a list of all the great new flowers, trees, bushes, herbs, fruits and veggies that will be stocked at a Loblaw-owned store near you.

I had a bit of a sneak preview a couple of weeks ago at the annual President's Choice Lawn & Garden event. This year's plant preview took place in Beamsville where we had the opportunity to tour the greenhouses at the family-run Linwell Gardens and Freeman Herbs.

At Freeman Herbs: This particular greenhouse was All basil! I'm sure you can imagine how wonderful it smelled!

At Freeman Herbs: This particular greenhouse was All basil! I'm sure you can imagine how wonderful it smelled!

Here are some of the plants and products that I took an interest in for my own garden or that were too cool not to mention:

Sunpatiens
Impatiens no longer have to be confined to those shady areas of your garden. There's a new hybrid in town that does well in full sun.

Tumbler tomatoes
I had a nice chat at Freeman Herbs with Bob Martin from Martin Farms. I met Bob last year at a Stokes Best and President's Choice tasting event. He was excited about their tumbler tomatoes, tomatoes that were bred for hanging baskets–genius! I remember them being quite delicious. It's really neat to see something go from the test garden to the store. Another tomato that made it into this year's product lineup was red candy. It was one of my favourites from last year and I recently took one home after our magazine editor Erin did a veggie presentation. Also worth trying, the Kapelo peppers.

Starburst surprise petunias
I'm not partial to any one colour in the garden, but my favourite colour in everyday life is pink–pale or fuchsia, it doesn't matter. So I fell in love with these gorgeous, two-toned petunias and was lucky enough to take one of the luxuriant hanging baskets home. Last night as I was buying soil, I grabbed a couple more individual plants to go in my front garden along with some pale yellow beauties.

A pink Starburst surprise!

A pink Starburst surprise!

Starbright Mock Orange
We have a second story going up on the bungalow behind us, which has killed our privacy. My fingers are crossed the owners build a fence, but in the meantime, I'm going to build a living fence. Currently we have cedars (not including the ones I planted last year that died) and a mulberry tree (which is pretty, but messy). This mock orange will fill one of the vacant spots beautifully–the Insider's Report says it will grow to be about 10 feet tall–here's hoping!

They don’t look plastic!
Rather than sell their pots in something generic that you'll have to hide in one of your own pretty pots, PC has these fantastic, decorative planters that you can just plunk right in front of your house without shame.

Can you believe this is only $30!

Can you believe this is only $30!

Check out the PC Garden blog, written by City Gardening writer Lorraine Flanigan. It will give you even more ideas on what to plant from President’s Choice.

p.s. Many apologies for the delay between posts! I've been under the weather for the last two weeks. On the mend!

Weeds 1, Budding Gardener 0

And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

My royal (tulip) shame

The day after I left for Amsterdam, my tulips decided to bloom. My husband took some photos for me and we had a good chuckle over the disparity between my sparse, evenly spaced tulips (I was just following the package directions!) and the beautiful clusters that abounded in the gardens of Holland. I've included examples below. This fall, rules be damned, I'm digging a giant hole and pouring a bag of bulbs in it!

My `Purple Princes` and `Pink Emperors`

My `Purple Princes` and `Pink Emperors`

Orange Princes at the Museum Van Loon, part of Amsterdam Tulip Days, a garden tour where 10 canal houses opened their private gardens to the public April 24 and 25.

Orange Princes at the Museum Van Loon, part of Amsterdam Tulip Days, a garden tour where 10 canal houses opened their private gardens to the public April 24 and 25.

One of the many stunning gardens full of tulips at the Keukenhof.

One of the many stunning gardens full of tulips at the Keukenhof.

I want to learn to carve these flower garnishes for summer dishes!

Before I left for Amsterdam, I learned that my tourism board contacts wanted me to appear in one of a series of videos they’re creating for internal use. One of our shoots was at Puri Mas, an Indonesian restaurant not far from my hotel in the museum district. They wanted to record me being overwhelmed by all the dishes you receive upon ordering their traditional Rijsttafel. In English, Rijsttafel means ‘rice table’ and is an assortment of meat and vegetable dishes in different sauces accompanied by a couple of different kinds of rice. All the hot ones are placed on a type of tray that is heated underneath by candles. And not that anything needed extra flavour, but there were also several edible garnishes, like toasted coconut, spicy potato sticks and a hot sauce called sambel. I slowly ate my way through through each delicious dish, savouring the unique flavours. For dessert, I tried my first jackfruit, the national fruit of Bangladesh. It reminded me a bit of lychees. And while I didn’t necessarily feel overwhelmed by all the food, I was definitely glad for the walk back to the hotel after eating so much! What I wanted to show here was how flowers and gardening were truly the central theme of my trip. My dishes were garnished by flowers carved out of onions and tomatoes!

The actual food shown here was for filming purposes only. Luckily I got to try the real, hot version after!

The actual food shown here was for filming purposes only. Luckily I got to try the real, hot version after!

I'm sure the other restaurant patrons were wondering what was going on!

I'm sure the other restaurant patrons were wondering what was going on!

How do you like your tulips? Freshly picked, or wild and withered?

This morning I headed to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam’s museum district. I wasn’t only interested in the Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings (though they were definitely a highlight), I was curious to see the tulip exhibit featuring rare tulip books from the 1600s. Apparently such books are quite rare as it became common at one point to remove the pages and sell them separately. There are currently two on display. In the one volume, artist Jacob Marrel captured 170 tulips in watercolour. The other book belonged to a rich widow by the name of Agneta Block who often made notes in the margins about the exorbitant prices she paid for her bulbs. Back in the day, tulips were a hot commodity until over-speculation caused the tulip “market” to crash. Along with other colourful tulip images, there are more Marrel pieces on display as well as exquisite ink drawings. What I found interesting was how some of the pieces featured tulips long past their prime. You know how the blooms get when their petals go all wild and crazy before falling off? Apparently artists found the blooms in this state to be much more interesting to paint. Wouldn’t those make for interesting bouquets in the flower market!

The exhibit runs until June 1.

Two tulips a butterfly and a shell (1637-1645) by Jacob Marrel. Photo courtesy of the Rijksmuseum.

Two tulips a butterfly and a shell (1637-1645) by Jacob Marrel. Photo courtesy of the Rijksmuseum.

A floating flower market in Amsterdam

I left two ‘Pink Emperor’ tulips that had just bloomed behind at home to come to the Netherlands, the birthplace of the Western world’s obsession with these spring bloomers. My day started with Van Gogh’s botanically inspired paintings and ended at the famous Bloemenmarkt with a wonderful guide by the name of Paulina. This ‘floating’ flower market on Amsterdam’s Singel canal dates back to 1862 when shipments would arrive by boat. Nowadays the stalls are more permanently secured with endless varieties of bulbs and blooms for sale. Paulina picked up some blue tulip bulbs, which she had never seen before, to plant in her garden. I hope she sends me a photo when they bloom! Here are a few photos I took of the market. Wish I could bring home 50 tulips for six euros!

A view of the Bloemenmarkt from the canal.

A view of the Bloemenmarkt from the canal.

50 tulips were 10 euros at the other end!

50 tulips were 10 euros at the other end!

You could even by dead flowers at the market!

You could even by dead flowers at the market!

The Scugog Spring Garden Show

Yesterday morning, I got up bright and early to drive to my hometown of Port Perry to visit the Scugog Spring Garden Show with my mom and dad. This was my first time attending the show and it was a pleasure to visit all the local vendors and run into some familiar faces, like my Grade 8 math teacher, Mr. Philip, who works at the Greenbank Garden Centre. Speakers at this year’s event included Marjorie Mason of Mason House Gardens, Charlie Dobbin and Breakfast Television Toronto’s Frankie Flowers.

I actually purchased more at this show than I did at Canada Blooms! I came home with asparagus and rhubarb to grow along the fence by my garage. Vendor “Perennial John” from John’s Garden in Uxbridge, Ont., was very helpful explaining to this budding gardener when and how to plant them. I also bought a beautiful plant cage from Branching Out, a new floral boutique that opened in November on Water Street in Port Perry. Visitors were lining up to purchase their cheerful bouquets of candy-coloured flowers. My mom bought a gorgeous stone table imprinted with maple leaves from Evergreen Cast Stone. Designer Deb Webster uses the leaves from her garden to create bird baths, wall hangings and tables. I’ve included a photo below as well as some others from the show.

Branching Out's booth was filled with fresh floral arrangements and gorgeous garden accessories.

Branching Out's booth was filled with fresh floral arrangements and gorgeous garden accessories.

My mom's new table from Evergreen Cast Stone.

My mom's new table from Evergreen Cast Stone.

Bell's Flowers Garden Boutique in Cannington is one of my mom's favourite garden stores.

Bell's Flowers Garden Boutique in Cannington is one of my mom's favourite garden stores.

My champion collard greens

Yesterday I started at one end of my backyard and worked my way toward the vegetable patch weeding (the dandelions are taking over!) and clearing along the way. When I got to my vegetable garden, I intended to pull out the collard greens that I had left behind in the fall. But much to my surprise, there were fresh leaves! I sat there for a few moments munching the tender greens marvelling that I was eating something out of my garden so soon.

I know collard greens are cold-tolerant, but to survive an entire winter? I went back to The Cottage Gardener site where my sister and I ordered our seeds this year and last and the name said it all: Champion Collards. Champions indeed!

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