Toronto Star column – published July 27, 2013
“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” ~Susan Heller
Do you ever feel left behind? It is mid summer and just about everyone that I know seems to be away or planning to be away very soon. If their description of ‘away’ amounts to anything, it is almost always better sounding than where I am at this very moment. Phooey. I have a secret that I will let you in on – a place that seems far away but really is not.
The public gardens in your neighbourhood are not only looking their best this time of year BUT many of them feature special events and activities that might tempt you to cancel your trip to France or Jamaica or wherever. As I dig into the happenings in the green, public spaces around home, I feel good about my decision to lay low this summer. Easier on the budget too.
Country Music at the RBG.
This is not a joke; the venerable Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington/Hamilton has added country music to their popular outdoor music series this summer. It looks like the grand old lady of Canadian gardens is shedding its stuffy image, and I say ‘ya hoo!’
Free with your admission [$12.50 per adult] and no charge to season ticket holders [starting at $68], every Tuesday you can join some special Country talent at 6 p.m. This is in addition to Red Hot Jazz and Cool Blues every Wednesday. All of this happening in HendriePark.
Saturday and Sunday you can enjoy “Edible Weekends” all summer. This weekend you can learn how to prepare a Thai meal between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day. A cooking lesson is offered at 1 p.m. both days. No doubt you can learn how to grow some of the fabulous vegetables that are used in Thai cooking. The ‘VeggieVillage’ is an education in itself and you can go there any day of the week. Go to www.rbg.ca for details.
Classical Music Twice a Week
The TorontoMusicGarden celebrates their 10th anniversary this summer with classical concerts Thursdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. The garden design was inspired by Bach, so you can take a self-guided tour any day. This beautiful treasure is one of Toronto’s best kept secrets. In fact there are readers who will be disappointed that I am telling you about it here as they would prefer to keep it to themselves. Ha! Bring a lawn chair as bench seating is limited and arrive early. Free. The word is now out! Located at Queens Quay, west of the Terminal building. Go to http://www.toronto.ca/parks/featured-parks/music-garden for details.
If the program at the TorontoMusicGarden does not turn your compost then check out ‘Terrific Thursday’ at the Toronto Botanical Garden. Each Thursday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. a different musical group is featured. I urge you to check out their website at www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca for details. This coming Thursday, August 1, Whitney Rose is featured. I have no idea who she is but with a name like Rose, playing in one of the great public gardens in the country must be a great fit. Free. As is the Farmers Market every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. I like the honey vendor the best.
If music in a public garden is not your thing, perhaps Shakespeare is. If that is the case, then head over to Toronto’s HighPark. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday The Taming of the Shrew is featured 8 to 9:30 p.m. at the amphitheatre. Directed by Ted Witzel, you will no doubt enjoy this one.
On Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays you can be entertained with a live production of Macbeth in the same amphitheatre. Directed by Ker Wells, this too is a winner for Shakespeare fans.
These productions must be good as they have been going on for some years at HighPark. They are ticketed events: $15 to $25. Purchase tickets online ahead of time – they take credit and debit cards. You would pay that in gas just to get to Stratford and even then you would not have the ‘outdoor’ experience that you will at HighPark. I suggest that you arrive a few hours early for a stroll among the trees, a visit to the formal gardens across the road from the Grenadier Teahouse and plan a picnic on ‘the Hill’ in front of the amphitheatre. It is all very civilized. Go to www.canadianstage.com for details.
Mosaiculture – back!
Let’s say that you would not mind travelling just a bit. Say, 5 hours north-east of Toronto to Montreal. It is not France, I know, but then Mosaiculture is not in France. It is back in the MontrealBotanical Garden after a 10-year absence. Without pictures it is hard to describe, but here it goes: these are living sculptures fashioned after real people and/or events. They are pieces of art, by 50 artists from 25 countries, which are crafted using plants. It is very cool. And Mosaiculture is on display all summer to September 29th. It is free with admission (admission being a mere $9.50-$18.75 depending on age and student status). I urge you to go to their website for details – and pictures! Located in the thriving east end of downtown Montreal, this 190-acre garden is worth your time and trouble.
In addition to Mosaiculture, the MBG features an ongoing exhibition titled ‘The Glass and MetalGarden’. Which sounds like a contradiction: plants vs. glass and metal? However, the pictures tempt me to get on the next train to Montreal to check it out. Apart from the paths made of crushed glass, a green wall including glass bottles and the inox and rusted steel structures mix with plants with leaves and flowers of silver, gray, orange, brown, and purple. These represent the various states of steel, sometimes shiny, sometimes oxidized. Albert Mondor and his team have created something extraordinary. A real mind bender. This exhibit ends September. 29th.
If you carve out less than a full day of your schedule for the MBG you will be cheating yourself. Details at http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/botanical-garden.
If you have access to public transit and find yourself wondering what to do with yourself during the balance of the summer, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the great events happening at public garden venues in and around Toronto.
Question of the Week
Q/ Is there such a thing as a perennial hibiscus that will survive in Toronto?
A/ Yes. There are Hardy Hibiscus which will grow in Toronto. They feature monstrous flowers and are hardy to zone 4. My favourites: Heart Throb, Jazzberry Jam and Midnight Marvel.