Toronto Star column – published March 16, 2013
“Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.”
~ Geoffrey B. Charlesworth
It is finally here – Canada Blooms. As you read this article, there are thousands of volunteers moving into action at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place, preparing for the first big Saturday of the Flower and Garden Festival, which opened yesterday.
I could use up my allotted space here in the Star to review any one of the features of this year’s ‘Blooms but instead I will give you an overview of it and suggest various ways that you can squeeze as much as possible out of your experience there.
Canada Blooms: What is it?
The largest flower and garden festival in North America is a 6-acre ‘show’ that features: – 20 professionally designed and executed ‘gardens’ [Landscape Ontario]
– an internationally juried flower arranging competition [Garden Club of Toronto]
– a plant and garden competition in the Floral Hall [regional]
– a one-acre marketplace [where you can buy great gardening stuff – plants and gear]
-back-to-back gardening demos, lectures, and entertainment on two stages
– commercial exhibits by many local and international commercial enterprises including a wine tasting garden, a tea garden, garden travel with Via Rail, the Canadian Cancer Society and more.
Canada Blooms co-locates with the National Home Show. Your admittance ticket gets you into both events. $20 for adults, $17 for seniors, $16 for students, and children under 12 are free.
Canada Blooms and the National Home Show began Friday, March 15th and will run until Sunday, March 24th. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day except tomorrow [10 a.m. to 6 p.m.] and closing day [10 p.m. to 5 p.m.]
There is plenty of parking at grade or underground, so do not worry about crowds making it difficult for you to access the site.
The TTC and Go Transit provide direct-to-the-backdoor service (more information here: http://www.canadablooms.com/html/location-maps-accessibility.html).
So those are the facts, now how are you going to spend your day?
Let’s start with how you should prepare:
– Flat soled shoes. You are going to do a lot of walking.
– Camera. Your cell phone camera might do the job, but most do not do justice to the quality feature gardens and the floral exhibition offered by the Garden Club of Toronto. Bring a good camera.
– Travel light. A small note book and other essentials like cash, credit cards and the like will do the job. There is a coat check.
– Review the website. Canada Blooms has invested heavily in communications including a web site that is easy to navigate. www.canadablooms.com
– Lectures. Determine which gardening seminars you wish to attend [there are 200 hours of them over the life of the event], plan your day around those. Note that Denis Flanagan and I open the festival today, this coming Monday, and Wednesday at 11 a.m. from the Unilock ‘OntarioGarden’ theatre.
– Tour gardens early or late. The best time of day to access the popular feature gardens and avoid the crowds is either first thing in the morning or after 4 p.m.
– Book a Garden Tour. Wednesday March 20th enjoy an evening tour of the feature gardens with Charlie Dobbin and Denis Flanagan. The tour includes highlights of the new and most popular features of each garden [along with some editorialising] and some wine at the ReifWineSensoryGarden. Tour with Denis and there could be a greater emphasis on the wine. Just guessing. Register online.
– Eat. While there is an expanded selection of food venues this year [yes, management was listening to you last year!], I recommend that you plan to eat lunch just a few minutes before twelve noon to avoid line ups and crowds.
– Open mind. Perhaps it goes without saying but if you plan on picking up some ideas for your own garden this season or if you are looking for inspiration for a better garden in your own yard, the results of your visit to Canada Blooms will be directly proportional to your ability to absorb what is offered. This festival is a multisensory sensation. I have met many people who have told me that, more than anything, it is the smell of spring that draws them back year after year.
– Plan an extra day. I find it odd, in a way, that many people travel long distances to see Canada Blooms and plan to stay for 2 or 3 days (like the group of 8 women who have been coming annually for a few years from Moncton, New Brunswick) while locals jam their ‘Blooms experience into a few hours. Sometimes we need out-of-towners to demonstrate the value of what we have right here in our own yard.
Describing the Canada Blooms experience to someone who has never been there is like describing parenthood to an expectant mother or father. Until you experience it for yourself there is little that you can say to accurately prepare them for it.
While ‘Blooms now locates in the same building as the National Home Show, it is not a home show. It is not a trade show or an exhibition. It is not a ‘show’ at all. It is a celebration of nature, conceived and executed by people who devote their lives to the business of plants and gardening on a professional and amateur level.
This event is unique due to the enormous engagement of industry practitioners like landscape architects, contractors, and suppliers. In addition, the volunteer elements that put this fabulous event together cannot be over-emphasised. There are over a thousand volunteers who put together the exhibits in the Floral Hall, hand out programs, direct visitors to where they wish to go [look for the people in the purple aprons] plus many more volunteers who show up several days before the event opens its doors to install the feature gardens. These same dedicated individuals come back after closing on the 24th to take the gardens apart and to ensure that many of the plants are distributed to not-for-profit organisations that can put them to good use. Last year, many of the permanent trees and shrubs were donated to the City of Toronto for use in public spaces around the city.
When you visit Canada Blooms, do not judge it as you would any other ‘consumer event’. Rather, approach it with the attitude that this celebration has been put together for your enjoyment and edification by countless individuals who are so proud of the original ‘green’ industry [gardening] that they have devoted themselves to putting their very best foot forward.
The results are not flawless or perfect. But then, nature is not perfect either, except when viewed through the prism of a long, cold Canadian winter. Then, every Canadian that is fortunate enough to find themselves at this earth-rendering event will breath more deeply the gifts of an early spring.
Details at www.canadablooms.com