Moth Orchids – oh so easy!

Pink Phalaeonopsis

Moth Orchid (Phalaeonopsis) – pretty in pink

Growing orchids used to be a horticultural mystery for many indoor gardeners, something to be feared and left to the experts and keen hobbyists. It is true that among the 20,000 species and some 100,000 artificial hybrids there are some types that are very fussy about their environment and not for beginners. But, it’s a myth that orchids are difficult to grow. And, thanks to tissue culture (a modern method of propagation where thousands of plantlets can be grown from a small piece of a parent plant) many new cultivars have been bred specifically for the indoor conditions of our homes. Nowadays, most grocery and big box stores offer Phalaenopsis or moth (because of their moth-like shape) orchids for under $20.00. What a bargain! It’s no wonder that this type of orchid is now probably the most popular houseplant in North America.

Phalaenopsis Centennial Conservatory

Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis) growing at Centennial Conservatory in Toronto

Native to Indonesia and Java, these orchids are one of the easiest orchids to grow and make ideal houseplants.  The plants have broad green leaves that spread outward. They display their flowers on arched sprays and may produce several branches. Although they look delicate, they are in fact very sturdy. One stem can carry as many as nine or more large, waxy, flat flowers that bloom for a 3 months or even more. Often a second flowering occurs within the year.

In the wild, most orchids do not grow in soil at ground level. Most orchids in the wild are not rooted in the ground. Known as epiphytes, they lodge themselves in the debris found in the crooks of trees, sending out aerial roots that absorb nutrients and moisture from the rain.

Blue Orchids?

Blue Orchids

Blue Orchids

The flowers come in a wide range of sizes and colours, from stunning pure whites through pastel and deep pinks to yellows and peachy shades. You may have even noticed some in colours that are  rather unnatural looking, such as a deep royal blue. This colour does not occur in nature. Growers are always trying to do things that nature can’t manage and manipulating colours is one of them.  Though not every one’s cup of tea, these “designer” colours appeal to those who want something different. The colours fade to a softer pastel tone as the orchid matures. But, don’t expect them to re-bloom in the same colour—the second time around, its back to basic white.

Watering: Most orchids die from too much love and attention, commonly called over watering. There are several schools of thought on the “right” way to water an orchid. About once a week I take mine to the sink and aim a gentle spray of tepid water on the plants for a few minutes. The water drains right through. A friend of mine fills the sink with water and lets the pot sit in the water for half an hour and then drains them. That’s a tad too risky for me. I could easily forget about them and too much water eventually means root rot. I’d end up with a dead orchid. Lately I have read that putting a few ice cubes on the top of the pot and letting it melt into the roots is another easy watering method. However, these are tropical plants and I can’t imagine that the frigid temperature of melting ice can be good for them. The truth is, on occasion I have totally neglected my orchids for weeks at a time and they do just fine.

Light : Moth orchids like moderate to bright light, never in blazing sun. You can tell by the plant’s leaves if it is getting the right amount of light. Rather than very dark green foliage, you want leaves that are a light to medium green. Too much direct light causes the leaves to sunburn, turn black and then they die.

Humidity: Moth orchids enjoy moist air. A humidity level of 55-75% is ideal. Placing your plant on a tray with pebbles increases the humidity around the plant. Be sure that the pot does not sit directly in the water. Gently misting plants early in the morning also helps.

Fertilizing : Orchids do not require a lot of fertilizer. In spring and summer feed once a month with a balanced houseplant fertilizer (20-20-20) mixed at half strength. In the fall and winter fertilize every 3 weeks at 1/4 strength.

Re-blooming: It’s about the temperature
Moth orchids enjoy much the same temperature as we do. Minimum temperatures at night are about 18° C (65° F), with warmer temperatures during the daytime. After flowering, cut the stem back to just above a node leaving around 20 cm (8 in) of the stem. Often a secondary spike or flower is produced from this node.  In winter providing a couple of weeks of cooler temperatures 13° C (55° F) will encourage flowering. An easy way to do this is to place your orchids close to a window where the temperature drops at night.

Re-potting: Orchids rarely need re-potting. You will notice over time that the roots will just trail over the pot. That’s ok.

Propagation: Sometimes you’ll notice small plantlets (called keikis) on the flowering stalk. After the plantlets have three leaves and 7.5 cm (3 in) of roots they can be cut away and potted up.

OrchidGarden

The Orchid Garden at Centennial Conservatory, Toronto

Take a Road Trip to See Orchids: You may not be able to see orchids growing in the wild, but you can visit a conservatory nearby to see how they grow. Besides orchids these glass houses have beautiful indoor gardens with lots of greenery and colour to help chase away winter blues.

In Toronto, Ontario, Canada visit: Centennial Park Conservatory, 151 Elmcrest Rd, Toronto  or Allan Gardens Conservatory, 19 Horticultural Avenue, 416-392-7288

The Tuileries dressed in pink - fabulous asters in bloom.

Paris in Autumn…when everything is pretty in pink

Eiffel Tower in Autumn

Eiffel Tower in Autumn

How many times have you heard people swooning over visiting Paris in the spring? I swoon too. But this year, rather than in spring, I spent a glorious few days in Paris in late autumn and I have changed my tune. There is much to be said about visiting the “City of Light” towards the end of the year. The crowds are gone and tourists do not dominate the attractions. Real Parisians are out and about and as long as I didn’t wear bright white running shoes the locals couldn’t tell I was from somewhere else, that is until I opened my mouth, and even then they seemed to have more patience with my fumbling French.

The Louvre

The Louvre

I’m not very good at standing in line for anything and on previous trips have avoided visiting the Louvre because the crowds were too much for me. This time it was different. There were no line ups!

The Venus de Milo. No one blocking my view!

The Venus de Milo. No one blocking my view!

Once inside this massive art depository I was amazed that the Venus de Milo and I were within touching distance. Of course, I didn’t dare try and touch but I did get a clear photo of her without anyone’s head in the way.

A lone gardener sweeps leaves in the tuileries garden.

A lone gardener sweeps leaves in the tuileries garden.

Looking out one of the Louvre windows, I could see the Tuileries Gardens (Jardin des Tuileries) in the distance where a solitary gardener was sweeping fallen leaves. I noticed the gardens still had lots of colour, but it was mainly pink. How could that be? Autumn colours should be gold, yellow and burgundy…shouldn’t they?

The Tuileries dressed in pink - fabulous asters in bloom.

The Tuileries dressed in pink – fabulous asters in bloom.

After having a look at the Mona Lisa I headed outside to investigate those flashes of pink. They turned out to be asters (variety unknown). The absence of the so-called autumn palette of colours was a little jarring. Could pink be the new colour for fall gardens? I wondered and set off to roam the streets of Paris to find out if I’d somehow missed a garden trend.

Award winning art exhibition for breast cancer awareness.

Award winning art exhibition for breast cancer awareness.

At the magnificent Hotel Sully, a restored 17th century former mansion in the Marais district, the colour pink was also featured. A series of images of women’s’ torsos and breasts were hung on the exterior walls and in the garden tree-like wire sculptures were festooned with pink ribbons.  The photos, by visual artist Kaliko, won the Estee Lauder Pink Ribbon Photo Award for breast cancer awareness. The exhibition was named the Jardins d’Espoir (Garden of Hope).

Located close to the Gare de Lyon , the Cremieux Street is a pedestrian street paved since 1993,

Located close to the Gare de Lyon , the Cremieux Street is a pedestrian-only  street known for its colourful houses.

The streets of Paris never fail to enchant me. Rue Crémieux, near my hotel, is a narrow street stretching 144 metres from rue de Bercy to rue de Lyon. It is most notable for its  colourfully painted houses (of which only one is pink). The entire street is lined with plants growing in containers (no pink here). Who says you need a patch of earth to have a garden?

Temptation at a flower shope.

Temptation at a flower shop.

The weather was cool enough that most florists had samples of their wares out on the sidewalks – like this one, a staging of buckets of roses in many shades of pink.

Jardin du Luxembourg in autumn.

Jardin du Luxembourg in autumn.

Next stop was the Luxembourg Gardens in the 6th arrondissement. The gardens, created in 1612 , surround the palace built by Marie de Medici. Covering almost 60 acres, the grounds are laid out with trees and shrubs, flower beds and fountains. I found that pink was very much a feature in these gardens too.

I’m still not sure if pink is the new autumn gold (I’d need more time in Paris to investigate) but Parisian gardeners gardens seem to be playfully messing with tradition!

Chihuly – Better in a Garden than a Gallery

To be honest, normally I don’t skulk around art galleries. So how is it that I found myself in a long lineup at the Museum of Fine Art in Montreal?  Not that I don’t appreciate art, I do. But, I would rather spend time in a botanical garden any day than in an art gallery. However, here I was on a sunny afternoon lined up with others far more cultured than I waiting far too long to see a Dale Chihuly exhibit.

Outside the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Outside the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Who is Dale Chihuly you may wonder? Chihuly is to glass art what Christian Dior is to fashion. He’s huge – a glass sculptor who is known for his glass art pieces that are recognizable due to their grand scale and vibrant colours.  His work is exhibited around the world in museums, historic sites and gardens.

At the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona

At the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona

I first saw Chihuly’s work at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. They seemed out of place to me…at first.  Tucked in among the cacti in the dry, drab desert landscape, the glass sculptures seemed to overwhelm the plants (and I came to see the plants!). But as I made my way through the beds and borders, I conceded that the massive pieces of brightly coloured glass brought the place alive. The searing Arizona sunshine danced on and through the glass, reflecting colour onto the plants and giving them a whole new look. By the time I got to the boat filled with glass balls I was convinced that there was a place for glass art among the greenery. And at dusk artistic lighting illuminated the installations. The effect was magical with the plants and the sculptures taking on an otherworldly aura. I was taken in and mesmerized. Chihuly had a new fan.

The desert comes alive with Chihuly's glass.

The desert comes alive with Chihuly’s glass.

The next time I saw Chihuly’s glass art was in Jerusalem, not in a garden, but at the Tower of David Museum. Though the actual exhibition was long over by then (1999), Chihuly often leaves behind a remembrance piece of artwork after an exhibition.  I came upon a modernistic butter-yellow sunburst hanging from an ancient stone ceiling in the tower and was taken aback.  I felt unsettled, perhaps because the modern sculpture seemed to collide with the historic significance of the place. But then art is supposed to evoke an emotional response isn’t it?  Upon reflection the sculpture’s presence in the room likely made me more aware of the age and importance of the sacred space. Instead of breezing through yet another “old” room I reckon I stayed a little longer because of the art than I would have otherwise.

At the Tower of David in Jerusalem

At the Tower of David in Jerusalem

So, fast forward to Montreal, and here I am jostling for a prime position to see “Utterly Breathtaking” (as the exhibit is named) . Surprisingly, seeing Chihuly’s sculptures in a gallery setting left me cold. Though any Chihuly work of art is spectacular, I did not find this exhibition utterly breathtaking as advertised.  Many of the sculptures are similar to those I have seen in outdoor settings elsewhere – the sunbursts, the spikey things, the hanging chandelier-like structures, even the rowboat full of balls – it was all there.

The RowBoat filled with Glass Balls

The RowBoat filled with Glass Balls

But, it was dark. There were no other objects (such as plants) in the galleries for the light to bounce off. The colours were vibrant for sure, but they struck me as garish without anything else to tone down the hot hues.

Lighted Ceiling Installation

Lighted Ceiling Installation

Everything seemed flat…except for the lighted glass ceiling in one of the display rooms. It was was filled with multi-hued glass balls and sea shapes and drew lots of attention.  Big lounging pillows on the floor allowed visitors to lie down and gaze upward to view the display.

Persian Pear

Persian Pear

I was in and out of there in a half hour and soon found myself in the gift shop in front of a stand of small Chihuly pieces for sale. Most were seashell-shaped like the one above.  All beautiful, but priced at an average of  $7500.00 each they were not moving quickly.

I still look forward to seeing more of Chihuly’s amazing glass sculptures, but for me installing them in a garden is the only way to appreciate them properly. It seems Dale Chihuly realizes this too. He says on his website, “I want my work to appear as though it came from nature so if someone found it… they might think it belonged there.” At Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle there are gardens featuring paths lined with trees, plants and flowers, all intended to make a rich backdrop for Dale Chihuly’s art.  I am hoping one day to visit that garden to appreciate his special kind of garden art. http://www.chihulygardenandglass.com/garden

 

Chelsea – The Greatest Gardening Show on Earth – 100 Years of Inspiration

The Chelsea Flower Show 2013

The Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Without a doubt, the hottest ticket in London, England at the end of May is entry to the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show with garden lovers from all over the world filling every available hotel room in London, all of them anxious to check out the latest garden trends and to covet the newest plant introductions. This year Chelsea celebrated its Centenary and organizers pulled out all the stops to make it a special event. It did not disappoint. Here are some highlights:

 

Gnome Fever?

Sir Elton John by Sir Elton John

Sir Elton John by Sir Elton John

Let’s get the fuss about garden gnomes out of the way first. Described as “colourful mythical creatures”, gnomes are those little elf-like statues that some gardeners adore and others find tacky.  Either you like ‘em or you don’t. For the past 99 years gnomes were not deemed appropriate at Chelsea and were unequivocally banned. However, it seems for a good cause almost anything becomes tasteful. For 2013 only the little creatures have been allowed to settle among Chelsea’s greenery. In fact, gnomes have were granted special status with celebrities including the likes of Sir Elton John and Dame Maggie Smith painting gnomes of their own to be displayed front and centre at the RHS stand. The celebrity gnomes are being auctioned off on eBay with the proceeds going to the RHS Campaign for School Gardening. Is this the start of a new worldwide gardening trend?  Only time will tell.

 

Reflecting the Mood of the Moment

Royal Bank of Canada’s Blue Water Roof Garden

Royal Bank of Canada’s Blue Water Roof Garden

RBC Garden Living Wall

RBC Garden Living Wall

Trends in the design world come and go and garden fashions are no different. In the early days of Chelsea massive rock gardens were in style. There is nary a one in sight these days. And bedding plants (rows of in-your-face colourful annuals) have fallen out of favour too. Instead, the show gardens of recent years feature naturalistic plantings with dreamy drifts of perennials and annuals in pale palettes of blue, pink and white. Though always cutting edge and thought provoking, the garden designs are the messengers of the mood of the moment. The current mood is mindfulness about the environment. Worldwide there is plenty of attention being paid to conserving resources and saving the environment from further destruction. And, Chelsea’s top designers are no exception. Almost every show garden had a message for viewers. One of the strongest messages came from the , an urban rooftop garden with innovative biodiversity and habitat features. The roof is planted purposefully to attract birds and bees. A low tech living wall made of clay weeping tiles with drought tolerant plants tucked into it illustrate that ordinary materials can be used with dramatic results. The contemporary looking wall art turns out to be an intended magnet for pollinating insects. A central wetland captures rainwater run-off. Every little detail speaks to sustainability in a very stylish way.

Prince Harry’s Garden

Prince Harry sponsored The B&Q Sentebale Forget-Me-Not Garden

Prince Harry sponsored The B&Q Sentebale Forget-Me-Not Garden

Prince Charles, the most horticulturally inclined of all the royals, is well known for his interest in gardening and the environment. It seems that his youngest son, HRH Prince Harry, is taking an interest in gardens too. The B&Q Sentebale Forget-Me-Not Garden, designed by Jinny Blom, was inspired by Prince Harry to support his charity that helps children infected with HIV in Lesotho in southern Africa. The garden is a contemporary representation of the tiny country’s landscape. Though the garden did not win a gold medal, Prince Harry’s involvement caused quite a stir at Chelsea and brought awareness to his cause.

The Plant of the Century

Geranium 'Rozanne'

Geranium ‘Rozanne’

The Great Pavillion is where new plants are introduced by the crème de la crème of growers. Plant lovers lust after the latest and greatest and go home with a long wish list. Each year a ‘Plant of the Year’ is chosen by a panel of plant experts, guaranteeing its growers worldwide attention. In celebration of 100 years of Chelsea a shortlist of 10 outstanding plants from the last 10 decades were chosen. The public was then called upon to vote for an overall “Plant of the Centenary”.  When all was said and done the top spot went to Geranium ‘Rozanne’, an easy-care perennial with violet-blue flowers that bloom continuously all summer long. A worthy plant, ‘Rozanne’ is very hardy in the Toronto area.

Art in the Garden

‘Libertine’ by Michelle Castles

‘Libertine’ by Michelle Castles

Though gnomes enjoyed temporary status at Chelsea as garden art this year, typically more legitimate art pieces find their way into the show gardens.  This year see-through pieces seemed to dominate.  The open texture of ‘Libertine’ by Michelle Castles, a wirework sculpture in the Arthritis Research UK Garden may reflect a coming trend. In the market place various bits of wire mesh garden art had price tags on them.

 

 

 

Chelsea will be back next year and so will the garden lovers  just as enthused and excited as this year’s attendees were. One thing is sure; there is an electric buzz about Chelsea that is indescribable. You don’t have to be a gardener to feel it. No wonder the tickets can be as rare as hens’ teeth.

 

 

 

 

New Plant Introductions (and Loblaws) Have Me Excited

Media Event with Peter Cantley

Media Event with Peter Cantley

Loblaws is a large “grocery” chain in Canada that features President’s Choice products which are usually excellent quality at a decent price. But this blog is not about groceries, it’s about plants. I generally think that box stores are the worst place to buy plants unless you happen to show up 5 minutes after the delivery truck arrives at their garden centres. Loblaws stores is the exception. Loblaws is one of my favourite go-to retailers for plants and garden stuff. Their lawn and garden division is headed up by garden guru Peter Cantley, who knows and loves plants. And, he’s a smart cookie. For more years than I dare reveal about him, he has been making sure that Loblaws brings in great  plants and garden products for Loblaws’ customers.

Full disclosure here – every spring Cantley and his team invite  garden media to a mix and mingle (at the beautiful Botanical Gardens this year) with his growers. They come out to talk to us about what is going to be offered in Loblaws garden centres. AND, we get to take home plants…as many as we can carry and fill our vehicles with. I call it the Greedy Grab Fest…but, that’s not a fair assessment (though it is the gardening media event of the season!)  The idea is that we trial these plants and report honestly to our audiences what we think of them.

Here’s what  I saw yesterday that has me excited:

 Campanula 'Get Mee'

Campanula ‘Get Mee’

Campanula – Purple Get Mee™ - It, well, it got me! A clever wall created with small pots of the Purple Get MeeCampanula was stunning (and the grower came all the way from Denmark, top hat and all). This hardy perennial acts like an annual, and is covered in rich blooms that come back throughout the summer. Loaded with velvety purple bell-shaped flowers was a magnet for me. It is supposed to be well behaved and doesn’t roam all over the garden as many campanulas tend to do.

Mighty ‘Mato™

Mighty ‘Mato™

Grafted Tomato Plants – This is really big news for veggie gardeners. And what a monster!  Mighty Mato™ delivers abundant harvests from huge plants that grow up to 6 feet tall or more.  Several tomato varieties, including the heirloom Brandywine, are grafted onto vigorous rootstock with an excellent ability to absorb nutrients from the soil and help defend against pests and disease. The large, plentiful tomatoes mature earlier than the same varieties of tomatoes without a grafted rootstock, and keep going all season.

Pixie™ grape Pinot meunier Hardy vine

Pixie™ grape
Pinot meunier Hardy vine

A Teeny Tiny Grape Vine – Pixie™  – Developed at Canada’s Vineland Research & Innovation Centre, ® Pixie™ is the cutest little grapevine imaginable.  You can even grow in a pot (if you want)! It has lots of adorable little mini clusters of grapes to eat or make wine with. It is hardy, so of course you can grow it in the garden. A great addition to a small urban property.

Hosta 'Designer Genes'

Hosta ‘Designer Genes’

Hosta ‘Designer Genes’ – This hosta got my attention right away. Lovely brilliant yellow foliage with rhubarb red stems –wonderful contrast. I have a few shady spots that need some brightening and this one will fit the bill.

Hardy Fig

Hardy Fig

What the Fig! – I can’t wait to try this one. Steven Biggs, Canada’s fig expert http://www.grow-figs.com  got me interested in growing figs and convinced me I could grow them in places where I thought I couldn’t. He was right, but until now it meant bringing the plant into the garage and protecting it over winter. HOWEVER, this new fig, is hardy and where I live in Toronto (and other Zone 5 to 6 areas) the fig plant can stay outside over the winter and it shoots back up and re-fruits year after year.

Shrimp Tree

Shrimp Tree

Shrimp “Tree” – There were only a few available “Shrimp Trees” (Justicia brandegeana) available at the media event, but I managed to snag one. This “tree” form is created by training several plants up a stake to create what looks like a tree. The plant absolutely drips with shrimp-like blooms. Fascinating!  It will summer on my deck and then come indoors in the fall in front of a sunny window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highgrove – The Garden of HRH Prince Charles

Getting to visit the garden of HRH Prince Charles requires lots of advance planning and even if you do get an appointment it might not happen. Word has it that if HRH decides (at his whim) that your scheduled day it isn’t convenient for him…too bad for you…he just cancels. So, in May while on Donna Dawson’s Chelsea Flower Show tour (www.gardeningtours.com), I spent a lot of time wondering if it was really going to happen.

The night before the anticipated visit no news was good news and by morning two dozen excited garden lovers boarded a bus and headed to Highgrove. Situated near the village of Tetbury it wasn’t easy to find…no signs…no hint of the place.  In fact, the driver passed by twice before we realized that perhaps the only high stone walls we saw for miles must be the place. We turned in and drove down a long treed lane to be met by a police officer who came on board, checked the bus inside and out, and then took our passports for scrutiny (a list of visitors is submitted ahead of time and it is rechecked at the time of the visit).  After a half hour or so, we were given the ok and off we went to a “holding room” (a very elegant one at that) to await our tour.

Documents must be checked!

Documents must be checked!

Alas, photos are not permitted, even for journalists. We were told very firmly to leave our cameras on the bus. So, the only photo I have is the one I sneaked of the cop walking away with my passport.
“No matter”, I thought, “I have a good memory for gardens” (though admittedly it’s not as good as it used to be).

The tour is a walk of about 2 miles lasting 2 hours and is led by one of His Royal Highness’s garden guides. Our guide, Linda Gunn, said in the beginning she received no pay (just the thrill of it all), but now she gets a stipend.  Linda was well prepared with a binder of photos of all the plants…just in case some smarty pants tried to stump her. We were warned not to go off the path. And yes, there are cameras in the garden (hard to spot, but eagle eye Veronica found a few and resisted the temptation to wander).

Even with all the restrictions and rules, this visit was a highlight of my garden trekking. I’ve long been a fan of Prince Charles and his love of our planet, for growing organically, and for protecting the environment. He may appear to be quirky to some, but I think he was ahead of his time and the rest of us are just catching up.

Once home I requested photos from the Prince’s public relations people, telling them that I’d be using the images for an article in the Toronto Botanical Gardens newsletter (yes, it was in there). The response was, “The Prince will want to know about this. We’ll let you know”. So, after several weeks I received these photos to share with you. I guess the Prince approved. And here they are with my comments.

The Wild Flower Meadow

The Wild Flower Meadow

Stretching from the front of the house to the back, the wildflower meadow is magnificent…my favourite area. In May it was a froth of colour filled with blue camassia, hot pink Byzantine gladiolus (corn flag) and yellow rattle (a pretty but parasitic annual that suppresses the grasses from taking over). This photo doesn’t do it justice.

The Stumpery

The Stumpery

The name says it all. The garden is filled with stumps of trees felled during the first and second World Wars and the odd hurricane. They create an environment that encourages wildlife. This shady glade is home to a National Collection of 131 large and small leaf hostas.

The Cottage Garden

The Cottage Garden

Designed by the Prince and the late Rosemary Verey, the cottage garden is a typically English border. A notable plant in the garden is a catalpa tree that was a fiftieth birthday gift to Prince Charles from Sir Elton John.

The Terrace

The Terrace

The plants in the terrace garden were chosen entirely by Prince Charles, the design was a combined effort of the Prince and Lady Salisbury. Where the open oak pavilion stands, a 200 year old cedar once lived. Sadly, it died and was removed in 2007 and replaced with the pavilion.

The Carpet Garden

The Carpet Garden

Inspired by a Turkish carpet at Highgrove House, the Prince translated its geometric shapes and colours into a living garden. But first, the design was exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2001 where the garden won a silver medal. After Chelsea the garden was transferred to Highgrove and rebuilt. It is enclosed by walls reminiscent of smaller urban gardens in the Middle East. The Eastern style is echoed in the ceramics placed among the plantings. The walls are lined with Italian cypresses, a reminder of Prince Charles painting trips to Italy.

For information on visiting Highgrove see http://www.highgrovegardens.com/garden-tours.html

Canada Blooms 2013 – A Breath of Spring

Entrance to Canada Blooms

Entrance to Canada Blooms

I love Canada Blooms (the largest Canadian Flower “festival” in the country) because in March I need a hit of spring. Especially this year. The weather has been cold for months and it’s a damp miserable cold. I’m fed up with it. But one step onto the showroom floor at Canada Blooms and the scent transports me to a field of flowers. That alone is worth the price of admission (and the exorbitant parking cost). Once I spend a few moments swooning I get down to some serious looking-about. I’m very methodical about this, not wanting to overlook a thing. I start with the display gardens, then I head for the floral design competition. Lastly I linger in the market place.

Canadian Wildlife Federation's fun "play" garden

Canadian Wildlife Federation’s fun “play” garden

The Canadian Wildlife Federation’s display garden was not really a garden in the true sense, to me at least, but rather a wooded area outfitted as a playground. The structures were all fashioned out of natural materials. The slide made out of a tree trunk was irresistible. If there had not been so many people around, I’d have had a go at it.

Trendy Dog House with a Green Roof

Trendy Dog House with a Green Roof

One of the display gardens featured a doghouse with a green roof. Wonderful idea. I could see my dogs forgetting about the doghouse and settling on the roof…so much for the plantings.

“Ode to the Humble Maple Syrup Bucket”

“Ode to the Humble Maple Syrup Bucket”

I loved the “Ode to the Humble Maple Syrup Bucket”, an art installation by Emmy Tougas for Reford Gardens…a fetching study in colour .

Yoga anyone?

Yoga anyone?

I liked the Otium garden, a space designed for those who would like to exercise outside…yoga comes to mind, but not so practical though in our Canadian climate. Great in California when you could use it year round.

Poppies...simple and beautiful.

Poppies…simple and beautiful.

A table laden with old bottles containing stems of orange poppies created a wonderful composed floral design. Anyone can do this with most garden flowers and achieve a similar look. You don’t need any floral design training. Though if you use poppies, you must sear the ends to keep the sticky, milky stuff from seeping out otherwise the stems will not stay turgid (how’s that for a word).

Contemporary Flare

Contemporary Flare

If you like a contemporary look, the Spring in a Box design is appealing. With straight lines, it is fresh and clean looking. I love the natural stone wall with the red cut outs.

Inspiring Floral Designs

Inspiring Floral Designs

The floral competition is a real magnet for me. I used to exhibit designs in these types of competitions and I know the amount of time and effort that goes into putting a design together. The creativity shown is always inspiring.

Toronto Botanical Gardens Booth

Toronto Botanical Gardens Booth

And of course the marketplace is a shopper’s paradise. The Toronto Botanical Garden set itself apart from the other marketplace vendors by having its booth close to the design gardens. What a booth! Fun and funky with great products.

My favourite garden centre,  John’s Garden Centre from Uxbridge was at the marketplace with a great selection of bulbs and tubers. And, I could not resist buying yet another primrose.

Blue Zebra Primrose

Blue Zebra Primrose

 

This one is  Blue Zebra. Aptly named it is navy blue with yellow stripes. John’s Garden Centre is unique. Set in a forest, he offers unusual plants, trees and shrubs (and more) at excellent prices and he knows his stuff.

Palm House and Rose Garden

Mainau – Germany’s Island Paradise

Mainau Entrance

Mainau Entrance

Mention an island paradise and what comes to mind? Most of us imagine a sunny beach somewhere in the tropics where palm trees sway and a pina colada is the drink of the day. Mainau Island lies just off the shores of Lake Constance in the far south-west of Germany, close to Switzerland and Austria.The climate isn’t tropical (though there are a few palm trees), there’s no beach and I couldn’t find a pina colada anywhere.

Known locally as the ‘The Flower Island’, this forty-five hectare island is one enormous garden filled with glorious blooms all year round…a true paradise for garden lovers. Plants are in bloom from March through October; snowdrops and crocus in early spring – tulips, azaleas, peonies, rhododendron and narcissus in early summer -hydrangea and roses in mid-summer, and late blooming perennials and dahlias in the fall.

August Border

August Border

When I visited in August the perennial borders were at their peak. Gorgeous groupings of tall ornamental grasses proved to be the perfect companions for the swaths of deep red heleniums and bright gold rudbeckias that spilled into the walkways.

Pink and Purple Border

Pink and Purple Border with Sheep Grazing on the Terrace Above

The typical rusty reds and golden yellow colours of autumn were beginning to dominate the landscape, but there were plenty of late summer bloomers in my favourite colour palette of pink and purple. I adore the fetching, feminine combination of purple Verbena bonariensis (an annual), bright pink coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) and dusty rose Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium). The effect was stunning and a magnet for dozens of busy butterflies that were harvesting the flowers’ nectar. Not to mention that on one of the terraces a few sheep were being put to good use as “lawn mowers!

Italian Inspired

Italian Inspired Water Feature

Perhaps the most unique feature on the island is the ‘Italian Flower and Water Staircase’.  It involves a rush of water tumbling down Italian Renaissance-inspired stairs ending in a pool far below. The water cascade is planted on either side with columnar conifers that are under planted a breathtaking carpet of multi-coloured blooms.

Arena of Fountains

Arena of Fountains

The ‘Arena of Fountains’ was the perfect spot for an unobstructed view across Lake Constance. Highlighted here is a series of fountains circling a graceful metal sculpture of stylized birds.  The surrounding terraces are planted with heat-lovers such as agapanthus, bird of paradise, bougainvilleas, banana, cypresses, palms and agaves, all adding a distinctive Mediterranean flair.

Palm House and Rose Garden

Palm House and Rose Garden

Architecturally unique, the ‘Palm House’ features an unusual 3-tiered curved roof line. It has to be one of the prettiest glass houses I have seen anywhere.  Covering 1,270 square metres, it is 17.4 metres at its highest point, making plenty of room for the 20 types of palm trees that grow there. One of its distinguished residents is a 15 metres tall Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis) that was planted in 1888.

Castle, Palm House and Rose Garden

Castle, Palm House and Rose Garden

With the beautiful castle in the background, the Italian Rose Garden creates a most romantic picture. Laid out in 1871, the symmetrical design is typical of an Italian formal garden. This exquisite garden features over 20,000 rose plants with 1200 varieties in all. June and July are the peak months for roses, but there were still plenty in bloom during my August visit.

Interior of Church

Interior of Saint Marien Church

While the castle is not open to the public, visitors are welcome inside the Baroque church of St. Marien and it is a must-see. The interior walls are adorned with beautiful sculptures by Franceso Pozzi and the ceiling frescoes are a work of art by Franz Joseph Spiiegler.

Annual Border

Annual Border

The beauty of visiting any gardens is that it changes with the seasons and beckons you to return. And so it is with Mainau Island. I saw it at its peak of beauty in late summer, but the dahlias were only in bud. And what about spring and early summer? I missed those seasons. Like so many other gardens I have visited, I yearn to go back.

For more information: http://www.mainau.de/home.html

Winter Walk in Rouge Park – Canada’s First Urban Wilderness Park – Toronto, Ontario

Rouge Park in Winter

Rouge Park in Winter

I love getting out in nature when the weather is fine. But, if the weather is frightful, well,  I am usually happy to stay inside by the fire.  This year winter is dragging on  and I’m getting antsy. My husband, Walter, is a volunteer guide for the Rouge Park (located in Toronto, it is Canada’s first urban wilderness park). This past weekend he  convinced me to come out with him on one of his guided hikes. It was just above freezing with no wind and a little light snow falling. Evidently, perfect conditions for a winter walk.

 

Winter  hikers admiring trees in the Rouge Park.

Winter hikers admiring trees in the Rouge Park.

 

Walter is an expert birder. Alas, we didn’t see or hear one bird. I’m a plant girl…so no plants to report on either…too early for greenery. But, winter is a good time to focus on trees. Without leaves they flaunt their form and shape.  One of the guys who joined our walk is a tree man…so we spent a lot of the time admiring bark.  There’s something hauntingly beautiful about a stand of bare trees silhouetted against a white snow-covered canvas.  And, I’m happy to report that I learned something new in the tree department. Have you heard of a ‘muscle tree’? It is an under-story shrub or small tree that has irregular ridges running vertically up its trunk.  When you stroke the bark it feels like a muscled arm or leg, hence the common name ‘musclewood’ or ‘muscletree’.  The botanical name is Carpinus caroliniana.

Stonefly in Rouge Park (photo credit - Mikal Lawton)

Stonefly in Rouge Park (photo credit – Mikal Lawton)

The last thing I expected to see were any insects. But, lo and behold, all over the snow-covered trails we were fascinated with dozens of little insects  crawling around. Since there were no bug experts among us, I waited until I got home to find out what Mr. Google had to say.  It turns out that these creatures are aquatic and called ‘stone flies’.  In the dead of winter the larvae or nymphs crawl up through the cracks in the snow and ice that covers the stream where they lived the previous year.  The stone flies we saw crawling on the snow were at the adult stage and they were out and about looking for mates. If you want to see stone flies, now is the time while the snow is still on the ground. If you wait until the weather is more agreeable you will have missed your chance.

This past weekend was perfect for a winter hike. Once you start moving around, and if you are dressed for winter, then it’s really enjoyable. But, no matter what time of year you visit the Rouge Park, there is something to see. It’s an amazing place…a wilderness…with all the wonders of nature there to be discovered. You don’t need a guide, but by joining a guided walk you’ll learn from both the guide and each other. The guided walks are free. To find out more about Rouge Park see http://www.rougepark.com/hike.

It’s Show Time – The 25th Annual International Home and Garden Show Comes Early to Toronto

This years International Home and Garden Show arrives one month early starting Thursday, February 21st to Sunday, February 24th, 2013 at the International Centre; a bit of a change seeing as the show took place during March break over the past 24 years.
The show features more than 400 exhibitors, and runs from Thursday February 21st through Sunday February 24th, at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Road, Mississauga.

Over 50 seminars and demonstrations are being offered. This year’s celebrity roster includes: Arthur Skolnik, John Reeves, Frank Ferragine, Nicholas Rosaci, Jackie Morra, Shawn Monteith, Mark Aytoil, Marjorie Mason, Jeff Mason, Denis Flanagan, Albert Graves, Kate Seaver, Vicky Sanderson, Lynn Spence, Mary Dobson, Kimberley Seldon and Karl Lohnes.

For those who are into floral design, the Annual Ontario Horticulture Association’s Floral Design and Plant Competition is being held. Here, talented designers and indoor gardeners compete from across the province.

Parking is free and admission is $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and children.
Children under eight years of age are free. Advance tickets are available online at a
discounted rate.

Show hours are Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10 to 8 pm & Sunday: 10 am to 6 pm. Admission is free for children 8 and under, $12 for youth (9-17) and seniors, $15 per adult or two for $25 if purchased online. Children 8 and younger are free. www.internationalhomeandgardenshow.ca.

…the magical world of gardening as seen by Veronica Sliva