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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
Saturday I went mountain biking for a few hours. The course was full of rolling hills, so I expected a bit of stiffness yesterday after a couple of steep climbs. I woke up feeling absolutely great and headed into the garden for the day. After several hours of bending and pulling and clearing and pruning, this morning I can barely move! It just goes to show how good of a workout gardening can be.
This morning, I heard my husband inquire from the kitchen whether I had put a pile of dirt in the backyard. Huh? “Noooo,” I replied as I leapt up to take a look. There in the middle of my backyard, all the grass had been dug up in one place and was sitting in a pile. Damn! Everything was looking so lovely and green. From what I’ve read, I'm guessing this was the work of one or more raccoons looking for grubs… how do I stop future destruction?
I was in my yard every day this weekend, but my forsythia waited until Monday to explode with its yellow blossoms. No matter, I will still have time to enjoy it for another week or so!
The unseasonably warm temperatures worked their magic in my garden last week. They made things happen that usually take a little longer. The best surprise was discovering perennials (or biennials) coming up that I thought were annuals. I didn't realize that my parsley, sage (no rosemary) and thyme would come back, but there they were, tiny little fragrant leaves poking through the soil. I was also pleasantly surprised to see my strawberry plant bursting forth.
Shop, look and learn. That about sums up my to-do list,because I’ll be taking it all in this week at Canada Blooms. Noticed how I put ‘shop’ first? Sigh, it’s a huge problem. But I find any market of interesting finds simply irresistible. Last year I wrote a blog post in anticipation of my first visit ever. This year, I had too much to say for a blog, so I put it in an article: What I’m excited to see at Canada Blooms 2010. Are you attending this week? What are your favourite parts of Canada Blooms?