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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Beach garden tour is back, June 19, 2016

Welcome to the Beach Garden Society garden tour, June 19, 2016, from 1 to 5 pm
Usually, when we write up the Gardens of the Beach garden tour it's after the event. This year, in fact last night, we had a sneak preview. So I'm glad to tell you there's still time to go see the gardens. And, more importantly, there's time to talk to the gardeners in their own space. That's one of the perks of taking a garden tour – a perk that shy garden tour-goers don't take advantage of often enough.

Get your tickets at the Trinity Gallery on Kingston Road, at East of Eliza on Gerrard East, at Pippins on Queen Street East – $12 now – or for $15 on Sunday at 23 Swanwick and 18 Glenfern. Then put aside your reticence and ask lots of questions. Gardeners love to talk about their gardens!

If you talk to the gardener, you might find out how he gets such good results with the wonderful variegated kiwi vine (Actinidia kolomikta).
You might also ask the gardener how he manages to keep up his lush, springy lawn in a part-shade garden. He can also tell you his secret for growing such healthy rhodos and azaleas, of which he has many. There's a trick. Go Sunday and find out!
And, you could ask the Master Gardener about her lovely crevice herb garden – and how she conditions her garden soil to ensure it's sustainable design. She'll have something to show you that anyone can do. Go on Sunday with questions.
She's also a plant collector. Be sure to ask about the interesting specimens you see. Plants you see on a local garden tour are plants that you'll likely be able to grow. Ask what cultivar they are (they might be dwarf, for instance) and how long ago they were planted. That'll help you determine if there'll be room for one in your garden.
The gardens on the Beach garden tour have something for everyone. As you look at the cool details, keep a few general questions in your back pocket. For example, ask what the gardener's biggest surprise was when creating their garden. That kind of query can open up an unexpected conversational door that goes beyond, "what is this, and how did you do that?"
If you grow veggies, you'll see several ways to squeeze high yields into small spaces. This gardener, for example, has plenty to tell you about growing in raised beds, or even hydroponically. He'll be there on Sunday, if you want to chat.
If your style is a wild woodland garden, there's one for you, too. Talk to the gardener about some of the unusual plants he grows – or, if he's busy, check out them out yourself. Many of us east-enders garden under trees. Lots of ideas for you here.
I close with floral fireworks for the return of our local garden tour. Local tours let you see what gardeners with gardens like yours can accomplish with similar raw materials (such as space and soil conditions). Plus, a fun afternoon out, with plenty of time to give Dad his breakfast in bed first.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Why I'm going to the Minneapolis Fling 2016

For months, the Minneapolis Fling committee has been scouting out gardens far and wide for you, just like our Toronto team did. Some sites, the GBFling15 had to let go – like this formal spot in the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden. It's heartbreaking for a committee to prune out great gardens, when we want to share the best of everything with our long-distance visitors.
I know what the organizers for the Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling have been going through for the past year. Because, exactly one year ago today, it was the first day of #GBFling15 in Toronto – and I was one of the organizers. When you've been on an organizing committee for a Fling, you know only too well all the work that has been done on the behalf of the attendees. All volunteer time!

That's why the Garden Bloggers Fling is the best garden travel deal in the world. In. The. World! If you love garden travel, and you're a garden blogger, you must, must, must, must take advantage of it.

Planning a Fling is like planning a huge party, over many days. Where will you go? And when? What will you do? What will you eat (and can you meet attendees' restrictions)? Is there enough to do? Too much to do? These were just some of the details we juggled planning our visit to gardens like the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto. Check out the preview of the Minneapolis itinerary. We know without asking that lots of planning, thinking, and worrying has gone into it. Just for us!
Scheduling the buses is a job in itself. Especially on that first day in Toronto, exactly one year ago, when we had three buses and three gardens to juggle in one morning. [Update: I almost forgot! Timing drive times and planning routes for the drivers. For three Fling days, plus one more for our optional day. Sigh.] In Toronto, that job was masterfully handled by Lorraine Flanigan. Masterfully! My heart goes out to whomever is tackling that job in Minneapolis. You have my deepest respect.
Of course, there's obsessing about the weather, especially as the day approaches. I'll be doing a rain dance for Minneapolis (and, next year, for #GBFling17 in the Capital Region – 2017 organizer Tammy Schmitt is in the centre, above.)
And wondering how you'll fit all those bloggers into one tiny garden. (Somehow, it works out.)
And finding that group rate on a suitable hotel, like our Fairmont Royal York or Minneapolis' Loew's. One with room to load buses, and breakfasts and dinners nearby. Oh, and how do you get there from the airport? Inquiring minds will want to know.
And crossing your fingers that the plants you want to show off will actually be in bloom.
And scouting out good places to eat – a top question on everyone's list. Plus, question number two: What else is there to do in Toronto? As a Fling organizer, you have to be a salesperson for your city. But, I've heard from reliable sources that Minneapolis is a best-kept secret – and a great place to visit.
Who can forget the sponsors! Besides the volunteers, it's our sponsors who not only make each Fling more affordable, they provide samples for us to take home and try. The Toronto Fling sponsors were extremely generous (Veronica Sliva was our own mistress of bounty) , and it looks like the Minneapolis Fling sponsors will be, too. Then there was the small task of stuffing the bags (which fell to me) and, not to be discounted, delivering all these bags to the hotel (spouses will do their bit in Minneapolis, too). As attendees, we tend to take these things for granted. If you're an organizer, you never will again.
Menus are a big part of Fling planning – ordering lunches, finding a banquet venue (the Toronto Botanical Garden, for us), planning a feast to please everyone, with money or sponsorship for a glass of wine or two. I'll bet the Minneapolis planners went through their share of stresses before landing on the Minneapolis Landscape Arboretum as their perfect location.
When you invite the world to your city, you need to coordinate with dozens of people and organizations to help show your city off to best effect. In Toronto, we owed thanks to so many others (including Paul Zammit and everyone at the TBG) who volunteered a part of their day to give our Flingers a unique taste of Toronto. You can bet the Minneapolis team is dealing with a flurry of emails, phone calls, meetings, delivery trucks, and thank you notes right now. All on top of their day jobs.
Did I mention obsessing about the weather?
Our very best thanks in advance to #GBFling16 organizer Amy Andrychowicz (left) and her team. Amy's shown here on the Toronto Islands with one of her Savvy Gardening gals, Tara Nolan. I can't wait to see what you've created for us.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Through the Garden Gate in The Kingsway, June 11 & 12, 2016

Go Through the Garden Gate in The Kingsway with the Toronto Botanical Garden in 2016
When The Kingsway was first developed, around the time of the first world war, the developer Robert Home Smith had a vision of creating "A bit of England, far from England."

As the Etobicoke Historical Society explains, by contract, he required all homes (on large lots, many overlooking the Humber Valley) to be designed by an architect and approved by Home Smith – who favoured English vernacular styles and only allowed stucco, stone or brick exteriors. Trees also had to be preserved. It gave this neighbourhood a particular character – both quaint and grand.
All homes had to be of a certain size and be architect-designed, with the plans approved by one of Home Smith’s architects, who had a definite preference for Tudor or English styles.  In addition, trees could not be removed without permission; there were to be no semi-detached or multiple dwellings; only stone, stucco or brick could be used on exterior walls; and no home-based businesses except doctors and dentists were permitted. - See more at: http://www.etobicokehistorical.com/the-kingsway.html#sthash.q85GjcI3.dpuf
Each lot purchaser was required to sign a covenant that remained attached to the property for 30 years, thereby ensuring that Home Smith’s high standards were met and maintained.  All homes had to be of a certain size and be architect-designed, with the plans approved by one of Home Smith’s architects, who had a definite preference for Tudor or English styles.  In addition, trees could not be removed without permission; there were to be no semi-detached or multiple dwellings; only stone, stucco or brick could be used on exterior walls; and no home-based businesses except doctors and dentists were permitted. - See more at: http://www.etobicokehistorical.com/the-kingsway.html#sthash.q85GjcI3.dpuf

Each lot purchaser was required to sign a covenant that remained attached to the property for 30 years, thereby ensuring that Home Smith’s high standards were met and maintained.  All homes had to be of a certain size and be architect-designed, with the plans approved by one of Home Smith’s architects, who had a definite preference for Tudor or English styles.  In addition, trees could not be removed without permission; there were to be no semi-detached or multiple dwellings; only stone, stucco or brick could be used on exterior walls; and no home-based businesses except doctors and dentists were permitted. - See more at: http://www.etobicokehistorical.com/the-kingsway.html#sthash.q85GjcI3.dpuf
Each lot purchaser was required to sign a covenant that remained attached to the property for 30 years, thereby ensuring that Home Smith’s high standards were met and maintained.  All homes had to be of a certain size and be architect-designed, with the plans approved by one of Home Smith’s architects, who had a definite preference for Tudor or English styles.  In addition, trees could not be removed without permission; there were to be no semi-detached or multiple dwellings; only stone, stucco or brick could be used on exterior walls; and no home-based businesses except doctors and dentists were permitted. - See more at: http://www.etobicokehistorical.com/the-kingsway.html#sthash.q85GjcI3.dpuf
This time next week, you could be strolling through its gardens at the 29th Through the Garden Gate. It's a great event, leading up to the big 30th anniversary next year, and every year the Toronto Botanical Garden just seems to improve their biggest fundraising event.

You'll be able to grab lunch at the headquarters or snacks en route, cool refreshments at different spots along the way (I highly recommend the Augie's Cucumber, Lime & Chili ice pops), or you can do the tour by bike with Pedals & Petals. Plus, hang onto your wristband ticket, and this year's sponsor Plant World will give you a discount. Here's a peek at what you'll see.

Tucked behind the garden in our first photo, a shady hillside retreat, with beautiful stonework.
One of two firepits on the property, looking out across the valley.
Now this is what you can do with a slope – pool at the top, treehouse-style gazebo at the bottom to gaze back at it.
Some of the gardeners are devoted plantspersons. This species peony (Paeonia japonica) was growing and blooming in shade! I always come away with plant ideas – or at least ideas to research for possibilities.
Don't be so overwhelmed by the spaces that you miss seeing the cute details.
In one garden, you'll see what is possible in the shade of giant silver and Norway maples. Great insight for many Toronto gardeners (expecially this maple-cursed Toronto Gardens gardener).
This relatively small garden featured two outdoor living spaces. Although many photographers at the preview were captivated by the outdoor dining room in the converted garage, I was drawn to this practical idea – a screened pergola.
The screening is simply a curtain that can be hung from a track and drawn to exclude the bugs.
The pergola roof featured bamboo slats to create a dappled shade – and, if you look closely at the gap near the left corner, you can see they've also included a layer of screening here. That's an idea you can use.
Furniture as garden art! Fun and functional.
Here's another plant to put on your list – the small green leaves of the plants between the stepping stones are actually a euonymus (Euonymus kewensii). The golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea') gives you a sense of scale.
And while it's never polite to peer into the owners' windows (and never take photos of their interiors – never!), some great ideas can be seen right from the street. Everyone I spoke to on the preview loved the massed lights in the bow window.
There's still time to buy tickets. Go for the two-day version – it's always the best deal. Just a bit more cash outlay, more time to explore the gardens, and great support for our tiny perfect botanical garden.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Twelve views of tulips

A bouquet of tulips from my garden, in light from my window
Call this post: I'm going to show you pictures of these tulips until you beg me to stop. Tulips are amazing in a vase. They continue to grow and change for days. One day, the morning light caught the bouquet I'd picked last week, and suddenly my camera was in my hands. And I couldn't stop looking.

Petals
Feathers
Tears
Frills
Profusion
Petticoats
Quills
Ruffles
Crinolines
Yearning
Still life. Still living.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The best way to grow tulips

Tulipa 'Parrot King' is a kingly parrot tulip
Yes, I've had problems with squirrels and tulips. Who hasn't? It almost put me off ever planting tulips again. But I've learned that the best way to foil squirrels when growing tulips is to grow more tulips. Like the British way of making tea: Plant "one for me, and one for thee (you nasty little squirrel), and one for the pot." (They can't snap off every flower head when you plant lots.) Then, after you plant, cover the planting hole with Acti-Sol hen manure pellets. Four years running, I haven't lost a bulb yet.

After we emigrated to Canada, our mother kept up an almost weekly correspondence with her mum back in Wales. Each fall, Gran would write about how she'd planted hundreds of bulbs. She loved parrot tulips, and they always remind me of her. So the best way to grow tulips is to grow tulips that you love.
Lily-flowered tulips are elegance on a stick, and 'Ballerina' is one of my favourites. I'm very happy with her tutu of vernal sweet pea (Lathyrus verna) here and think I need more. So the best way to grow tulips is to grow them behind another plant – in a combo that brings out the best in each other.
Before the rains, there was a veil of serviceberry (Amelanchier). So the best way to grow tulips… is to use see-through plants that frame the tulips and create a sense of surprise.
Early-flowering Tulipa 'Verona' is a pale yellow, peony-flowered tulip that fades to cream. So the best way to grow tulips…is to select tulips that bloom from early, to mid and late spring, embracing in their many, many shapes.
Tulips can also be fragrant, too. This one might (or might not) be the scented Tulipa 'Sanson' which I planted two years ago. So the best way to grow tulips is to grow them close to a spot where you can bend down to enjoy their perfume.
The best way to grow tulips... is to plant tulips. Like the gal who just ordered too many bulbs from FlowerBulbsRUs.com – she is her grandmother's granddaughter – which will arrive by mail at planting time.
And a May day that rained, sleeted and hailed (twice) might just be the best day to be glad you grow tulips.
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