Monday, April 14, 2014

Dry Shade Gardening at Beach Garden Society, April 15, 2014

My own dry shade garden gets featured tomorrow
East end gardeners, especially those who garden in dry shade, I hope you'll join me tomorrow evening, Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at the Beach Garden Society, when I'll be the guest speaker talking all about dry-shade gardening. The meeting starts at 7:30 pm, and I'll be talking as fast as I can to give tips and tricks about a subject that has obsessed me – of necessity – for more than 25 years.

Hope to see you there, asking lots of questions!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Vertical gardens grow up

It seems that you can order these Sage Living Walls as kits, plants and all. Plant unit pops out of the frame, and a cartridge inside retains the water. Strangely, a tropical version like this one doesn't appear on their website.
While our poor blog lies fallow, I'm busily putting the finishing touches on a Dry Shade Gardening presentation to deliver on April 15, 2014 at the Beach Garden Society. In the meantime, have a look at these interesting vertical garden contraptions seen this year at Canada Blooms.

This isn't meant to endorse, but to share info on things we find intriguing. Some are brand new on the market. But, if you've tried any of these, let us know what you think. We love to hear from readers!

Sorry, not the most flattering photo. However, the modular MiniGarden system does come in colours other than industrial grey, including an attractive terracotta and basic black. The website currently lists no local sources, but I was told that Sheridan might be one. The relatively large root zone and non-porous material will help prevent drying – a challenge for vertical gardens. A feature for balconies with load restrictions: these can be wall-mounted, indoors or out.
You can buy this all-cedar Gronomics system assembled or ready-to-assemble. An irrigation unit is available separately. All three of the above systems were on display in the new products area at Canada Blooms 2014.
These beautiful succulent frames were in a few locations, including Floral Dimensions – although the link to the succulent frames on their site is incomplete. (A little sleuthing suggests the designer might be Debra Toonk.) Yep, beautiful.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring is nigh. Behold, a lone snowdrop!

In a sheltered position, close to the house, one tiny snowdrop defies Winter 2013-4
A little bit of spring has finally emerged from the Polar Voldemortex that was Winter 2013-4 – in the shape of this tiny snowdrop. This is a full ten days later than the latest snowdrop sighting we recorded back in 2008, and more than a month later than usual. As if you needed telling how cold it has been.

To compare, have a look at this lusty showing, almost a year ago to the day, from Spring 2013.

Never fear, folks, spring will come. It thinks it can, it things it can, it thinks it can…

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Review: Taming Wildflowers by Miriam Goldberger

Taming Wildflowers is Miriam Goldberger's just-launched book from St. Lynn's Press
Between the front cover's exuberant coneflowers and the back cover's Piet Oudolf blurb, Miriam Goldberger's work of passion Taming Wildflowers is the little book that could. Although it appears skinny, this is a highly concentrated primer on knowing, growing and using wildflowers.

Toronto-area folk might know Miriam as the co-founder, with husband Paul Jenkins, of Wildflower Farm, also developers of Eco-Lawn. If you are around my vintage, you might also recall Preggae Woman, which Miriam created to help women stay fit before, during and after their pregnancy.

Energy, she has aplenty. I'm glad Miriam focused it on the writing of this book, which covers wildfloweriness from botany to bouquets. She gives how-tos on seed-starting, some planting ideas, and low-downs on 60 of her favourite wildflowers, by growing season. Most of all, she stresses that wildflowers are flowers to be picked and enjoyed – not in the wild, but in your own back yard.

I've known Miriam Goldberger for years, and when I congratulated her at Canada Blooms, she told me that this was a book she felt she had to write. Happily, St. Lynn's Press gave her free rein to create the book she wanted it to be.
Is this the definitive book on wildflowers? Yes and no. For example, my old copy of Lorraine Johnson's The New Ontario Naturalized Garden delves into a wider array of plants. However, Taming Wildflowers is accessible and well-organized. And hardly a page goes by without one of the unstudied photos that match the wild subject matter. I only wish more of the photos were larger.

Besides, Miriam's enthusiastic, experienced voice and easy-to-follow instructions make it all seem so possible. I, for example, who cannot be trusted with a seedling over winter, was delighted to see her start seeds that need cold, moist stratification (Doesn't that sound scary?) by simply sowing them in pots and leaving them outdoors in winter (Oh! Not scary at all.). Good, basic reference material.

An example of the quick-reference info on plant pages, including photos of the primary and secondary leaves – so you can differentiate wildflower seedlings from weeds. Light, soil and moisture preferences help you choose plants that work best for your growing conditions. Native states/provinces are given, if prefer to use only local natives. Also listed are the birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife attracted by each species.
Full disclosure: In my review copy, were were tickled to read our names in the acknowledgements, and near the top (it can be handy having a name that starts with the letter B). Nevertheless, I believe my review is honest and fair. But I hope you'll judge for yourself. Let us know what you think.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wild tabletops at Canada Blooms 2014

Wild enough to eat? A buffet table of cake-shaped arrangements by floral designer Albert Graves of Bloemen Decor.
You can have your cake, but you might not want to eat it, too. Not if it's one of the tasty designs above by Albert Graves at 2014's Canada Blooms. What a cool centrepiece that might make for a special table. Some of the hand-made touches I noted were buttons threaded on wires and, out of the frame, what looked like disentangled copper pot scrubbers. Oh, the ideas you can get if you look!

With only one more day left of the show, you still have a chance to look for yourself. These are just a few bits of inspiration I took home with me. More to come later.

Despite its small size, Garfield Thompson's exhibit was a big hit. The rivulet running along the sandstone tabletop provoked many oohs and ahhs and a few OMGs. But look at the sheet moss placemats! Nifty and doable, even for us plebes.
For many reasons, Parklane's garden was my favourite this year. Here's one reason why. You might pish-tosh it as theatrical, but think of those Echeverias in cups. A great "party favour," right? Love the candles made of Sansevieria cylindrica, too.
Speaking of succulents, this lacy strip of them ran down the centre of a table in the Floral Dimensions booth. I know, you've probably seen it done before. However, this was done exceptionally well.
Glad to see the Garden Club of Toronto's tabletop displays – always one of my favourite design classes – return to Canada Blooms. These designs are both beautiful and practical, and the designers really threw themselves into the Wild! theme, particularly with colour. Here is a Day 1 multiple award-winner by the Club's Carolyn Whiteside.
Sometimes it's the small details that take it to another level, like these Saturn rings of wire threaded with beads.
Lest we forget the humble vegetable, the Toronto Botanical Garden shows how decorative veggies can be in their Edible Gardens Go Global display. (See Sara Katz's take on Canada Blooms on behalf of the TBG here.)
And how about this Wildy Weird arrangement? It's a red-ribbon-winning stroke of brilliance from Joan Bostock of the Garden Club of Toronto (with help from Mother Nature). See what you can see when you really see? Wild!