Toronto is going to go wild this Friday. For 10 days Canada Blooms, the venerable festival of all things green and colourful, will kick off with the theme “Wild” at the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place.
This is particularly appropriate seeing as the GTA went wild for a couple of days in December, just before Christmas, when we were visited upon by the ‘Great Ice Storm’. In one foul swoop we were reminded that Mother Nature is really in charge.
This years’ edition of the largest flower and garden festival in Canada [and the second largest on the continent] provides a useful reminder that we work with the powers of the natural world around us to create continuous beauty and recreation in our yards.
The trees of Canada Blooms are remarkable. More than 300 of the best specimens have been forced into leaf and flower in time for the event. Charlie Dobbin, horticultural director for Canada Blooms, tells us that all of these trees are winter hardy, many are native, and all of them are ‘greenhouse tender’ due to the long warm spell that they have experienced being forced early in an Ontario greenhouse this winter. What you will see when you visit are trees that look [and think] like it is actually the long weekend of May. This is why they say that Canada Blooms really is a breath of spring. And who among us is not ready for that after the winter we have endured?
I suggest that you bring a notebook and a camera to record some of the trees that catch your eye. Of the native species featured you will find the latest sugar maple, serviceberry, tulip-tree and hackberry cultivars. You will also be introduced to a brand new maple: the Regal Petticoat Maple [Acer pseudoplatanus spaethii]. Paul Gagnon, the developer of this exciting new variety, is offering small, portable specimens for sale during the show.
How Does a Tree Nursery Work?
Winkelmolen Nurseries is installing a fascinating exploratory exhibit that explains how trees are grown on a nursery. The good people from this nursery will demonstrate the difference between pot- and field- grown trees, explain grafting techniques, and they will introduce you to new tree varieties.
“All trees that are not kept by the garden builders are donated to good causes after the festival is over,” explains Dobbin. “Some of the past recipients of Canada Blooms’ top-quality trees include the City of Toronto and a Halton Catholic High School.”
Anna van Maris, president of Parklane Nurseries, donates all of the trees in their feature garden to not-for-profit ventures after the last day of the event, Sunday March 23.
More Than Trees.
The “Wild” theme is carried throughout the four acre site [which is co-located with the National Home Show for the third year]. Adam Bienenstock and Joe Genovese [of Genoscape Landscaping, Markham] have teamed up to create a large natural space that is meant to reflect Toronto’s ravine system. Robert Bateman, wildlife artist, is working with them to create way-finding signage in Toronto ravines. Mr. Bateman was raised in Toronto as a child and remembers these ravines before highways were cut through many of them and others were buried, now out of sight.
A Checklist for Getting the Most out of Canada Blooms.
- Check out the gardens. There are 21 feature gardens this year and every one of them is worthy of your attention. The copy writers for Canada Blooms put it this way, “They [the feature garden contractors] will create stunning showcases with vibrant colours, alluring fragrances, and captivating designs to overtake your senses.” This reminds me of the group of visitors from Moncton, New Brunswick, who come to the festival each year for the first four days of the event. I bump into them each year; in fact, it is hard to miss them as they giggle and cajole in a good-natured way up and down the aisles. Each year I ask them what they find to do at Canada Blooms for four days and they always reply that the feature gardens are #1 on their list. Have a peek and they will be #1 on yours too. Guaranteed.
- Toronto Flower Show. This elaborate display of floral design, horticultural arrangements, and masses of cut flowers has a pedigree that reaches back over 50 years. The Garden Club of Toronto is responsible for the coordination and design of the Flower Show and they deserve a tremendous vote of recognition for their efforts. An ‘amateur’ show of blooms? To beat the band, I would say.
- Expand your mind. Take in the many opportunities to learn more about the natural world around you and how you can harness it. Check out ‘The Wild Soil Inhabitants’ with Astrid Muschella; ‘Creative Containers’ with everybody’s favourite Paul Zammit; ‘Go Wild with Backyard Habitat’ with Pat de Valence; ‘Dancing with Wildflowers’ with my friend Miriam Goldberger [who has a new book out to the same effect]; ‘Attracting Hummingbirds to your Garden’ with Claudette Sims; and ‘Helping Trees Recover After the Ice Storm’ with Cathy Kozma. This is a small sampling of the more than 200 hours of education/entertainment that is offered on the Unilock Main Stage, in the Garden Solutions Theatre, and on the Learning Stage. Bring a notebook. Denis Flanagan and I open the main stage this Fri, Sat, Mon and Wed.
- Take a tour. For a nominal extra charge you are invited to take a guided tour of the Canada Blooms landscape with a trained tour guide. Many days [but not all] during the event there are morning tours. There is a VIP evening tour planned for March 19. Register in advance at www.canadablooms.com. Suffice it to say that a guided tour is well worth the money and time invested for two very good reasons: first, you will avoid the crowds, for the most part, and secondly, details will be revealed to you that you would otherwise miss. Tours are the best possible way to enjoy the festival in depth. Simple as that.
- Add them up: bring a camera: there is so much to see that your head will be swimming with images when you are done. Wear flat soled shoes. You will walk your gardening socks off. Bring your credit card if you like shopping for the latest gardening goodies: supplies, tools, plants, books… you name it. For some people the #1 reason for coming to this show is the shopping marketplace.
I might add that there are more opportunities to eat while at the Direct Energy Centre than ever before. You can sit down in the restaurant at Heritage Court or grab some pizza and everything in-between.
If you pay attention while at Canada Blooms, you will find opportunity to win a valuable travel prize. Air CanadaRouge and Tourism Ireland are offering a trip to Ireland called ‘The Atlantic Way’, a tour of the longest defined coastal touring route in the world.
Voted one of Ontario’s Top 100 events by Festivals and Events Ontario and one of North America’s Top 100 Events by the American Bus association, it’s hard to say no to at least checking it out. It is interesting that Canada Blooms is a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to the promotion of the benefits of gardening in our great land. This is why over 2,000 of us show up willingly just to do our bit and shout to the world that we love this hobby, vocation and past time.
Kudos, for the 18th year in a row, to the Garden Club of Toronto and Landscape Ontario, the Horticultural Trades Association for putting together what is sure to be another winner of a festival. I urge you to go, to bring your friends and family. Miss it and you will have missed a wild time.
Details at www.canadablooms.com