Ontario - Going mad
by Andrew Vowles
If you're going stir-crazy at the prospect of another long, cold Ontario winter, join the club—as in the Mad Gardener Society, run by Waterloo-based garden writer and speaker David Hobson.
Established in 1998, the no-fee cyber club has about 1,000 members worldwide, who "meet" electronically at Hobson's Garden Humour Web site to share information and a few laughs, in equal measure. The site Garden Humour includes links to his books (Diary of a Mad Gardener and Soiled Reputations), his gardening columns from local newspapers, garden stories, contests and irreverent garden news collected from all over.
How does he define a Mad Gardener (not to be confused with a Master Gardener, although the two need not be mutually exclusive)? "Passionate, committed, a little obsessed," says Hobson. "Mad Gardeners drool at the sight of compost and can be spotted on their knees in the garden in February, looking for the first snowdrop."
His prescription for gardeners already suffering from cabin fever? Forget about the garden. "Do something entirely different.... That way, when spring returns, the sweet rush of madness will overwhelm you more powerfully than ever."
Niagara under glass discovery centre
Check out the farm of the future at the Niagara Under Glass Discovery Centre in Vineland, developed this past summer by commercial greenhouse grower John Albers.
Built alongside Niagara Under Glass's existing greenhouse operations, exhibits in the new 1,350-square-metre facility show visitors how plants help purify air and water, and how herbs and vegetables are grown hydroponically. Visitors can see how a "living wall" of tropical plants functions as part of the Discovery Centre's hydronic cooling system: water flowing through the wall not only brings moisture to the plant roots but creates a cool surface that removes humidity from the air. (Hydronics usually involves circulating water or vapour through pipes.) You can also learn how a biofilter—a combination of green plants and beneficial microbes—cleans air by removing contaminants responsible for sick building syndrome.
On an elevated walkway through the adjoining 20,000-square-metre, high-tech greenhouse, visitors get a bird's-eye view of how Niagara Under Glass uses robots and computerized environmental controls to produce calla lilies, miniature roses and chrysanthemums for sale through distributors to Canadian and U.S. markets.
For information call (866) 562-4411.
Starved for summer colour? Visit Cambridge, Ontario's Wings of Paradise, a 2,250-square-metre complex that includes a 900-square-metre butterfly conservatory.
The conservatory, housing more than 75 species of tropical plants, lets visitors walk directly among some 2,000 butterflies, representing approximately 40 species from around the world. There's also a separate hatchery visible through a display window. Here, chrysalises arrive weekly from tropical butterfly farms in Costa Rica and Malaysia, so you can watch butterflies emerge throughout the year.
The facility also houses two exhibits of mounted insects. Flying Jewels (the John G. Powers collection) is one of Canada's largest insect collections, with more than 700 lepidopterans. The Incredible World of Bugs displays common and exotic insects such as the rhinoceros beetle.
For information call (519) 653-1234.