The wonderful thing about Allan Gardens Conservatory is you can be satisfied and invigorated by visiting for just 15 minutes or by spending as long as 45. Take a quick walk through the entire complex to enjoy the colours, fragrance and humid air, or, leisurely stroll the meandering pathways, examining the large and sometimes tiny specimens, many of them exotics (for Ontario), all of them meticulously cared for. The city horticulturalists pack hundreds of species into the half dozen greenhouses; some seem to have been there forever and some are obviously seasonal. Here are a few of my favourites from the permanent collection and the current Spring Blooms installation.
From the spring show – lots of Muscari, Narcissus, Hyacinth and Tulips, plus the occasional surprise, like Winter Aconite.
Also in bloom is Agapanthus – I’ve heard it being called a weed in more tropical parts of the world but here, not so much! I love the blue flowers. And this variegated Brugmansia is quite spectacular.
Surprising for me was this patch of kale, left to flower – the yellow flowers are really quite beautiful when massed like this – and the lemon tree! I wonder if the staff enjoy G&T’s after closing time…
Seen in the metal roof struts; I wonder what he’s found to chomp on…
I’ll be in Toronto this weekend enjoying two annual sensory feasts – the Allan Gardens Conservatory spring flower display and Canada Blooms, Canada’s largest flower and garden show.
I try to visit Allan Gardens several times a year. It’s centrally located in the city, easy to get to by subway or streetcar, and it’s free. There’s a half dozen interconnected greenhouses that feature both permanent and seasonal displays. They’ve just opened their spring show, with thousands of hyacinth, tulips, narcissus and other spring bulbs filling the air with a heady fragrance that invites you to close your eyes and picture yourself in a blooming garden in May.
Trust me, Allan Gardens any time between November and March is the perfect antidote for the winter blahs, and the perfect size for an hour of blissful wandering.
Canada Blooms, in comparison, is HUGE and, opening tomorrow, is only around for 10 days. To be honest, I haven’t visited the show in a few years, since it moved from the downtown convention centre to the larger buildings at Exhibition Place, a few kilometres west. Easier parking there but a bit of a hassle by public transit. Still, they’re expecting more than 200,000 visitors this year!
I’m eager to tour the feature gardens – Toronto area landscape designers and builders will be showing off their skill and artistry interpreting this year’s theme: ‘Let’s Go to the Movies.’ There will be gardens inspired by movies such as The Jungle Book, Star Trek, Midnight in Paris and Alice in Wonderland. A ongoing trend in landscaping is creating outdoor rooms, and for this show, those rooms are outdoor movie spaces.
I’m also looking forward to seeing two feature gardens The first is called ‘Fusion Oasis Under the Stars’ – a garden designed to stop storm water runoff, another growing trend in landscaping. The second is called ‘… Never Forgotten.’ It’s a “living tribute to Canada’s fallen soldiers” and an homage of sorts to the Highway of Heroes, that portion of southern Ontario roads and highways that form the route of a fallen soldier’s final journey after he lands at CFB Trenton and makes his or her way to the Toronto Coronor’s building.
The Highway of Heroes is a big thing – with hundreds of people lining the sides of roads and highway overpasses to bear witness and pay tribute as a fallen soldier’s convoy passes by.
Inspirations for small gardens and balcony gardens will also be on display; these should have good ideas both for city dwellers and for those of us with larger rural properties who, like me, want to tackle the yard one small section at a time.
I’ll take lots of pictures and share next week.
It’s official – winter is nigh
Snowfall has come, dark clouds are high
Leaves are all gone leaving branches so bare
Hoping these buds bring flowers to the air
*** These photos were taken about a week ago before the first frost and fist dusting of snow; today, almost all the leaves are either gone or very very brown…
One of my favourite gardening activities isn’t actually an activity – it’s just standing (or squatting or sitting) in the midst of it all, day-dreaming about what it will look like next year. Or three years from now. I enjoy this (non) activity so much that when a neighbour had a large spruce cut down this summer and offered me pieces of the trunk I gladly accepted; not for firewood but to create perching stools.
These log chunks are now scattered around the property – waiting for me to do some sanding and sealing next year and then to be perched upon.
Although I’ve been known to stand around day-dreaming about the garden at any time of the year, October is possibly about the best time to do it. I do a lot of planting in October and standing for a spell helps relieve my aching back. Also, of course, October is bulb planting month.
As I make my way around the various garden beds, basket of bulbs and planting tools in hand, I like to stop and envision what the bed will look like next spring. How I can enhance one micro garden to complement the whole.
Along with a shovel (for digging large holes for the larger bulbs) and my trusty trowel, I have a new favourite bulb planting tool this year. It’s called a Cobrahead, (aka the aptly titled Steel Fingernail) and is marketed as a ‘weeder and cultivator.’ I’ve been using it to plant smaller bulbs – Fritillaria meleagris, Crocus, Chianodoxa – by pulling it through my rocky, clay soil to create a furrow the perfect depth for planting.
One of the micro gardens I’ve been thinking about all year is a small semi-circular area behind a short Caryopteris hedge that screens the side patio from the house. It’s an important area because it’s the first thing you see looking out the dining room window but for the past two years it’s been unimpressive. I scattered Lupin seeds there last fall and they germinated but remained small this year. I planted Snapdragons there last year and this year and although they’re one of my favourite annuals they didn’t make the statement that’s really necessary for this location.
I decided last spring that Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ would make that statement and planted a few dozen earlier this week – adding Chianodoxa near the top of each planting hole to extend the spring blooming season.
I wanted to keep the Lupin seedlings that have been slowly growing there so dug them out first and made an interesting discovery:
Lupin have a tap root, just like a dandelion or carrot – long and tapered, with many fine hairs coming off it. So all summer, while producing little growth above ground, extraordinarily long roots have been developing underground.
I replanted the Lupin I had to remove to plant bulbs and hopefully they’ll survive.
Now, when I look out the window, I have an image of blue Chianodoxa followed by purple Allium followed by purple or pink Lupin. I’ll let you know next June if my day-dream becomes reality!
Is it too early to start thinking about what the garden will look like next year? Sorry (I am Canadian, after all), but I just can’t help it. It’s the hottest week of the year, the garden is lush with annuals and summer blooming perennials, the veggies are starting to be harvested, pole beans and Morning Glory are climbing feet a day but I’m thinking about spring.
Likely because the last of the Narcissus (Daffodil) leaves are finally fading away and I’m remembering all the bare patches from last April, May and June. And I’m thinking – why didn’t I plan ahead. It’s all well and good to wander around in mid spring, thinking to oneself: ‘Self, I should plant more Hyacinth here – there’s lots of room,’ unless you somehow note where exactly you want to dig without damaging the existing bulbs. Can’t do that now, of course, because for the rest of the season that spot of ground is a very full Lupin and Echinacea bed – I’ve no idea where to plant new Hyacinth!
I could have taken close up photos, drawn sketches or developed a really good memory really quickly but no. This past spring, like most springs, I just enjoyed the display. Realizing the folly of my ways last week, I gathered some small stones that appear in abundance (even when I’m not looking) and, before the last of the daff leaves withered, quickly placed small cairns where it will be safe to dig when my bulb order arrives.
Here’s where I’m going to plant more Colchicum bulbs at the end of August, so that this existing patch expands to match the ever widening spread of the Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda Dogwood) on top.:
A few years ago I planted three Fritillaria persica bulbs in front of the fountain – the bulbs have multiplied so that this there there were five stems, but only one bloomed. So this fall I want to plant another 10 or so – and placed individual stones in the general area. Hopefully next April I’ll have a small forest of these purply flower stalks!
Have you started to think about spring bulbs yet? What do you want to plant?
As the growing season progresses I find that some plants, even amongst dozens that may be blooming, steal the show. Lilac and Lupin in spring. Sunflowers (seeds sown late to ensure autumn flowers) and Asters in the fall and, before the bright orange Rudbeckia starts, the tall and serene majesty of Hollyhocks.
They’ve just starting blooming this past week in The County and you’ll see them in ditches and gardens everywhere. In the garden, they can provide a screen for something you want to hide. They can be a dramatic focal point to a driveway entrance. They can stand alone, in a clump, at the side of the road – a colourful distraction for Sunday drivers.
My favourite Hollyhocks are the ones I start from seed collected from friends’ and neighbours’ gardens. It just means more to see them sprouting from the soil. The waiting for the second year (because Hollyhocks are biennial and don’t bloom the first year), to see what colour they are, is worth it.
This year, I’m loving the pastel shades that have appeared for the first time. The flowers appear so delicate, yet are born on the six and seven foot stalks that make you take a second glance, make you want to walk over to appreciate them better. And provide motivation to start thinking about collecting seeds for next year.
That’s a show stopper.