Early spring is my favourite time of year. Gardeners across Canada are so starved for petals, that it’s always a thrill to see the first flowers emerging in our gardens. Most of us had to wait three or four weeks longer than usual this year, but the insulating snow cover protected our most precocious bloomers, who cheerfully thrust their flowers up through the cold soil the moment the snow had melted.
If you’re a gardening newbie and haven’t a clue where to start, pick up Nancy J. Ondra’s Five Plant Gardens: 52 Ways to Grow a Perennial Garden with Just Five Plants. Gardening expert Ondra provides 52 easy-to-execute garden plans, each using five well-considered plants that grow nicely together.
Celebrate spring in the city with the Gardiner Museum‘s Spring Awakening: Gardiner in Bloom exhibition.
Featuring a collection of large-scale floral installations by six Toronto designers, the exhibit combines the beauty of spring blooms and the museum’s permanent collections. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited for a behind-the-scenes look at the exhibit. While designers hung branches, positioned flowers and placed moss I managed to snap a few pictures of these one-of-a-kind creations.
On a much sunnier afternoon, I happily attended a flower arranging workshop hosted by flower shop owner Alison Westlake of Coriander Girl and urban flower farmer Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard. I’d like to share a few tricks of the trade for creating your own garden-inspired flower arrangements at home.
The Calgary Horticultural Society Garden Show is this Saturday and Sunday at Spruce Meadows! It’s always a great event, with lots of great speakers and displays included in the entry fee ($15 at the door, $10 for Society members). I’m particularly looking forward to the talks on budget gardening and planting a food forest.
I’m on the speaker roster again this year, talking about weeds, my area of greatest expertise, having grown so many of them. If you can make it, please come introduce yourself!
I’m kind of excited about this little surprise I’ve got ready for my sister’s birthday next week, and I thought I’d show it off as maybe you would like to do something similar. Although that pretty much means the end of the surprise. Happy Birthday, Jenni!
Step one: choose a pretty bowl or vase. I found one with a cable-knit design, because Jenni’s an extraordinary knitter. If you’re thinking Easter, a cute flower bowl such as one of these might do nicely.
Step two: fill it with goodies! I know what you’re thinking: chocolate! But we are gardeners, and of course, we are not swayed by such mundane things as chocolate. Goodies equals seeds!
Be sure to match your seed choices with the right person. Not everyone wants to baby a finicky flower; a seasoned veteran might welcome the challenge. I’ve got a bunch of seed that’s been harvested by myself or friends which I wanted to share with my sister, but you could just as easily use packets of commercial seed. Bonus for that route: instructions included! I’m not worried about Jenni having instructions; a landscape design/arbourculture degree, her, and Google make a pretty good team.
But instructions or no, go for making things pretty. Find some cool paper (keep it lightweight for easy folding),scissors, and some ribbon, stickers, decorative tape, or twine. Fancy pens optional.
I’m recycling my paper from an old printer’s sample book and a desk calendar. If you are packaging saved seed, make sure to fold each side over a few times to keep the seeds from escaping. If you feel like getting right into it, try making decorative envelopes like these – just be sure all edges are sealed. If you’re using prepackaged, all they need is a pretty wrapper.
Then tuck all your little packets of goodness into the bowl, with a couple of other little trinkets that suit the season or the recipient: pussy willows, a notebook…
Oh, all right, you might as well throw some really good chocolate in there while you’re at it. If you must.
Apparently it is still winter.
Bring on the books.
A lovely little volume that I stumbled across several years ago, comprised of garden and gardeners profiles, has continued to be dear to me. The Garden That You Are (Sono Nis Press, 2007) looks at eight different gardens and the people who tend them. It explores how a gardener’s life is intertwined with the land, how our history and relationships play into the daily experiences of the garden. All the gardeners spotlighted in the book have different approaches, different focuses, different ages, different backgrounds — but they all live within a square mile of each other in British Columbia’s beautiful Slocan Valley.
There is much practical knowledge to be taken from these pages: advice, recipes, plant lists. But the reason I keep going back to it is for the inspiration. I don’t mean ideas, necessarily, but that this book gets you thinking about why you yourself garden, what drives your experience.
It is a step back from the ‘to-do’ list and the ‘must-have’ mentality. A thoroughly colourful and enjoyable one.