Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Get thee to Buffalo for Garden Walk

The Locke-Irey garden alone (seen here with a hint of Buffalo's many charming streetscapes), will have as many as 4000 visitors over the Garden Walk weekend.
If you'd told us five years ago that we would eagerly visit Buffalo, Buffalo!, as a garden destination, we might have looked at you sideways.

That was before, through Twitter and other social media, we met amazing, hard-core gardeners who are actual Buffalonians. In 2010, the lid was blown off our outdated notions (Fire in North Tonawanda!) by visiting Buffalo on a Fling – a big annual meet-up of garden bloggers – as a preview of their annual Garden Walk, always on the last weekend in July. We immediately fell in love.

A few of the hundreds of Buffalo gardeners who invite you to Garden Walk. Clockwise, from large shot: Jennifer; Claire (showing Sarah the plan for her part-garden/part-art installation); Mike (centre, chatting with Helen and Visit Buffalo Niagara veep Ed Healy); Gordon and Brian; Annabelle and Jim; Dom and Arlan. All graciously gave us a pre-Walk preview.
In 2014, the 20th annual Garden Walk features nearly 400 open gardens. Four hundred! And they're all free to visit on the last weekend in July – this year, July 26 and 27. After visiting just a handful and chatting at length with the gardeners, we once again find ourselves more than happy to live so close to such a stellar gardening city. People in Buffalo are garden crazy. Toronto has a lot to learn from our neighbours to the ever-so-slightly south.

Oh, just another house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Buffalo backdrop is really sensational, with its wide streets and planted boulevards, Olmsted-designed park system (he of Central Park fame), clusters of unique neighbourhoods, delightfully idiosyncratic architecture with brightly painted wood houses, and a Frank Lloyd Wright house or few thrown into the mix. Once upon a time, Buffalo was the wealthiest city in the United States, and it still bears that patrician bone structure.

Arlan has opened his garden to the public for 19 of Garden Walk's 20 years, and his miniature moss village is only one of the surprises there. We're also ready to steal his idea for a greenhouse, which we'll share later.
In the gardens, we saw many ingenious solutions for common problems – like Arlan's greenhouse, whose outer wall flips up like an awning to become a roof for sheltered deck seating. Great space-saving idea. Or the ways Jennifer used paint to turn inexpensive plastic pots into something special.

Buffalo isn't perfect by any means. However, it really is more than Toronto thinks it is, and Garden Walk, with the month-long garden festival leading up to it, has helped make it so. You owe it to yourself to think outside of the discount malls and get yourself downtown. Do it during Garden Walk, and you'll want to return. Guaranteed. We certainly do!

Where else would one buy a house, tear it down, and replace it with a garden, accented with art and open to the public – as Mike did? Buffalo, you're our kind of gardening city. P.S. That isn't an eagle, it's an osprey.
These are folk who relax in their gardens, and make them work hard, too. We love Gordon and Brian's tiki bar. But just around the corner by the garage is a whole passel of home-made grow boxes full of peppers and tomatoes.
Jennifer wanted an umbrella stand independent of a dining table. So she drilled a suitable hole in a planter, added a sleeve of tubing to protect the wooden umbrella pole and threaded the sleeve, pot and base together. VoilĂ ! Made for the shade. By the way, she laid every one of those bricks herself. And there are many. Yes, she did.
Over two decades of Garden Walk, Buffalo has developed a culture of gardening and its own style of garden – it's great to see, and you should. So, get thee hence, and let's bring some of that big garden spirit back to Toronto!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Beach Garden Tour, my favourite garden

The tour program describes this Williamson Road garden as a "plantswoman's paradise." No wonder I loved it.
Sunday's Beach Garden Society garden tour had many highlights – and we'll write about others, later. But, by accident, Sarah and I saved the best till last, the subject of today's post. It showed how even a plant collector's addiction to onesiness could produce great things in the right hands. Paradise, indeed.

The Williamson street front was lush, lovely and, even better, labelled. Come tour with us.

Beach gardeners have to deal with slopes aplenty. Here, raised beds deal with a change in level and put clove-scented pinks within easy sniffing distance. The black-painted pergola cum archway perfectly accents and counterpoints all that colour.
Variegated aralia (Eleutherococcus sieboldianus 'Variegatus'), which I'm guessing this is, would be a great candidate for a Twitter hashtag I started a while back: #botanicalnamesfuntosay. Or even #botanicalnamesfuntospell
Well-placed plant labels are built-in captions for the garden photographer. Thank you, plantswoman, thank you! (Although, sometimes with plant labels you do need to know the plant to know which label belongs to it.)
It's usually the flower and foliage of Kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa) that gets talked about. But isn't that bark terrific? At its feet, a few of the countless (not counted by me, at least, but lots, trust us!) hostas on display.
Isn't the white rattan headboard an excellent decorative partner to this giant goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus)?
Clever. That's how I feel about gardening, especially after a winter like 2013-14.
Sculpture by Marilyn Walsh was featured in numerous gardens. And many displayed cut flowers, for instant spot colour.
Just as we were leaving, I was thrilled to spot the label for this variegated plant, whose name had been maddeningly eluding me since I saw one on Through the Garden Gate. Thank you, planstwoman, thank you!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Coneflowers in Waterlogue

Coneflowers, photographed outside East of Eliza and filtered through the Waterlogue photo app.
It's almost shameful what technology can do – like turning a photo into a "watercolour," as I've written before. To try this yourself, compose your shot well first. Enjoy my field of coneflowers!


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Leaside and Beach garden tours this weekend

This way to the gardens! We know you'll be inspired.
Have you ever wished you could be cloned? I have. Then you and I could be everywhere at once – especially every garden tour at once. This weekend, two local tours at least have the decency to be on different days. Saturday, it's Leaside. Sunday, it's the Beach. Here are links to the deets, including where you can snag tickets, just $10 a tour:

The Magical Gardens of Leaside, Saturday, June 21, 2014, 11 am to 4 pm

The Gardens of the Beach, Sunday, June 22, 2014, 2 to 5 pm

I've yet to experience the Leaside tour, and drat! I have a conflict again this year (see "clone" above). But as an eastender, the Beach garden tour is a, forgive me, perennial favourite. Click this link, to see some of our Beach highlights from the past.

Think I'll stroll down to East of Eliza and get our tickets today.

[Update: I meant to add the Leslieville Tree Festival from noon till 4 pm on Saturday, too. A fun, free family event for those who prefer their "tours" a little more stationary.]

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Celebrate Canada's Garden Days (often and early)

The amazing green roof of the Hugh Garner (fingers keep trying to type "Gardener" – whose wouldn't?) Housing Co-op.
You now have official excuse reason to spend the Friday before Father's Day in the garden. Toronto has proclaimed it Garden Day. Yay! Thank you, Toronto. What's more, it'll be part of an annual three-day garden celebration, Canadawide – look at 2014's Garden Days activities. We wrote about one, this weekend's Through the Garden Gate, a couple of days ago.

As I rarely need an excuse reason, I began celebrating last Sunday at the Hidden Gardens of Cabbagetown, a wonderful garden tour that always seems to sell out quickly. Here are some photos from the tour gardens, more than we usually show in a single post. But that's because they fit so well with the words of Toronto's Garden Day proclamation, which highlight "the importance of public and private gardens, the value of home gardening, the health, well-being and aesthetic benefits of gardens and the promotion of environmental stewardship." A two-fer, for you!

The Hugh Garner green roof was an unexpected tour highlight. The garden was not only wow, it was loaded with environmental-friendliness – and look at that view!
Most of the Cabbagetown gardens illustrated (gorgeously) just how much can be done with "small…"
…even in the shade of a giant, 250-year-old chestnut tree (looming over the garden in the previous picture) – the whole space perfumed with the flowers of a black locust tree. Mmmmmmmmm. Health and well-being benefits, certainly.
I spent the morning volunteering in the charming garden of Ronica Sajnani, and learned the true meaning of divan, which Ronica explained is like a Hindu salon, where good food (her own) and good discussion (her guests' and speakers') come together. Love her pond and tiny tea house, which sometimes feature in Ronica's divan evenings.
Cabbagetown interior designers Kendall & Co. brought the indoors out in this colourful garden space for living.
Apparently, everyone asked about the solar lanterns in the Kendall & Co. garden. No, I didn't ask where they got them. Sigh.
Bowering the arbor in another tiny, perfect garden, one of my favourite Clematis – 'Guernsey Cream'
In the back garden of the same home, a glorious example of fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus
Gardens not included on this year's tour were also gape-worthy. Clearly, Cabbagetowners keep up with the Joneses.
Sharp-eyed Toronto Gardensers occasionally spot seldom-seen perennials over the garden fence, like this dittany or gas plant, Dictamnus. Pretty, fragrant flowers, sturdy stems, great foliage, interesting seed pods; it should be planted more often.
This could be a tranquil corner of China or Japan, couldn't it? Only the Victorian townhouses over the hedge give it away.
Just because it's a carriagehouse tucked into a back lane doesn't mean it can't have a very cool, contemporary container.
Take a close look at that succulent ball. See the twig framework?
And why can't garden art installation have a sense of humour. This is Cabbagetown, after all.
How important are gardens? When someone needed to cover up an entryway on Bleecker Street, they added this trompe l'oeil panel. You might almost step through the gate like Alice in Gardenland, where perhaps every day is…Garden Day.