Published in the Toronto Star – March 11, 2017
Good morning. This is day two of the greatest garden festival in the country. Are you up for it? I am warning you that the scent of fresh flowers, the oxygen of an abundance of greenery and the sensations aroused by several hundred tonnes of clean dirt might be a bit much for you, after two or three months of winter slumber.
Canada Blooms opened yesterday to great fanfare. It is the earliest public celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday in the City of Toronto. Before you put your walking shoes on and head down to the Enercare Centre, here is a snap-shot of what you can expect.
- Canadian Shield. No, not the rock. The rose. This amazing new rose is being introduced at Canada Blooms for the first time. Yes, it is in bloom. No, you can’t buy it (just a wee bit early). It features a rich, rose-red colour, ‘majestic beauty’ and, like Canadians, it is very winter hardy. It matures to about a meter wide and high.
Branded and marketed in Ontario by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, the Canadian Shield rose is the first of Vineland’s 49th Parallel Collection to be released. More than 20 Canadian nurseries have grown 50,000 specimens of this rose for sale this spring. You can see about 150 of them in bloom right now at ‘Blooms.
- Canada 150 Ceramic Vases. The horticultural history of Canada comes to life through the artistry of Elaine Waisglass at TM Glass. Nature’s intricate geometrical design is replicated in ceramics and ‘painterly photography’ on flower vases. Many flowers we grow today such as anemones, hydrangeas, clematis, peonies and roses were grown in Canada 150 years ago. Many of these are the flowers TM Glass chose to bring to life in the pictures of this exhibition. Unique!
- Wine Garden. This is always a hit at Canada Blooms, especially with the ‘after 3 p.m. crowd’. Look for the 3,000 square foot Lechuza Wine Garden. It features a $10,000 putting green (yes, you can putt), live entertainment, a relaxed setting and wine.
- Master Gardeners speakers series. And many other speakers too! Two stages feature back to back presentations most days during the 10 days of the festival. Look for the Unilock Celebrity Stage and the Hortus TV Garden Solutions Stage presented by Harrowsmith. Look for topics and speakers that interest you (including me on 5 separate occasions) by visiting the website at canadablooms.com.
- Garden Marketplace is an excellent place to find unusual plants, bulbs and seeds. Plus garden supplies, gardening gear and garden décor items to beat the band. Check out the Toronto Botanical Gardens ‘bee’ display and get your copy of my new book The New Canadian Garden signed by the author. I have a gift for you too…. Bring your credit card or cash.
- Pick Ontario flowers. Wade into a floor display of cut flowers and potted flowering plants. Even if you don’t buy anything (you will) I know that you will wish spring would just hurry up and get here.
- Win a Trip to BC. The Toronto Star, Butchart Gardens, CVS Sightseeing, the Oswego Hotel and Tourism Victoria offer a chance for you to win an amazing trip to Victoria (and of course Canada’s most famous gardens of all, Butchart). Go to the Toronto Star booth to fill in a ballot.
- Flower competitions. You like flowers? Get this. The Garden Club of Toronto hosts the best floral exhibit and competition in the country. Magnificent floral presentations at Canada Blooms include entries from regional, national and international competitors. Some are amateur and others feature professional designs (you can decide which you like best). And see what the judges thought on judgement day.
Vital details: to get the most from your Canada Blooms experience you need to know the following.
- Bring a camera or camera/phone.
- Wear walking shoes. Canada Blooms is 6 acres plus the National Home Show.
- Be entertained and educated. There are over 200 hours of on-stage education and entertainment. Read through the program to determine what you want to hear and plan your day around these experiences.
- Bring the kids. There is always lots for them here.
- Want to avoid peak traffic times? Come early (doors open at 10 a.m. every day) or come mid/late afternoon and enjoy the evening (doors close at 8pm Monday to Wednesday, 9pm Thursday to Saturday and 6pm on Sunday). The quietest time of day at the festival (and the best time to get a good look at the 17 feature gardens) is between 10am and noon and between 4pm and closing.
Be gracious. I know you will pay $17 to get in to the festival (which entitles you to enjoy the National Home Show also) but remember that Canada Blooms is a not for profit organization. It takes over 1,200 volunteers to put on this event and virtually all the gardens are installed by professional members of Landscape Ontario. If you enjoy the experience (and I know you will) be sure to thank someone, anyone! Chances are they are not being paid to be there.
They just love what they do.