Thursday, 31 March 2011

Princess Pineapple

A full review of Canada Blooms 2011 is still owed to this space, but there's so much to say about Canada Blooms that I'm going to need a good amount of time to do justice to it, and that time just hasn't been available lately.

Until I get to that though, I thought I'd share my latest little adventure in flowers. As a member of a society that's part of the Ontario Horticultural Association (OHA), for the last couple year's I've participated in the OHA's floral competition, which is housed at the Successful Gardening Show.

So, last night I took a bucket of flowers...

...which I'd been hiding in the bathtub (one of our cats thinks all flowers are "salad" and she loves this kind of salad), and started to play around.

I get a bit nervous competing in OHA-wide events in the "formal" design categories, as there are some highly talented and very experienced who also compete. But I figure the best way to learn is to give it a shot.

So, in the category of "When the time is Ripe" I created this:

My idea was that your eye would move from the "unripe" green on the right to the "ripe" oranges on the left, and then land on the eruption of a bright little flower arrangement.

As uncomfortable as I am competing in the formal designs, I was excited about the "fun" class. In this competition you were to decorate a fruit or vegetable to reflect the theme of "Once Upon a Time."

I went grocery shopping a week ago and stumbled across a unique looking vegetable known as a chayote, which my friend blogged about recently, and a lightbulb went off...

May I introduce, Princess Pineapple...

I had fun with this one! Her body is a pineapple, head is a chayote, hair and cape/dress are chrysanthemums, tiara is statice, eyelids are seedpods from Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis,) and her eyelashes are dried seaweed.

I also entered a grape or oak-leafed ivy in the "trailing houseplant" category.

Judging was this morning. To my great surprise my "When the time is ripe" design placed SECOND! I was thrilled--as I mentioned, my competition in this category was very steep.

The oak-leafed ivy was second.

And "Once upon a time" with Princess Pineapple? FIRST, of course. She's royalty.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Squirrels and steam cleaning

On a recent Saturday morning I woke to see a squirrel chewing the buds off of my just-about-to-bloom witch hazel. When I “shooed” him he promptly ran up a lilac and started gnawing the buds off of it. A short while later he moved to feast on the cherry buds. He has good taste, but the little blighter was eating my spring blooms! Considering that the ground near the house has several inches of sunflower seed shells and a good number of actual sunflower seeds, he had lots of other options. I think he was just trying to taunt me.

He probably saw me checking on that witch hazel every few days, and then exclaim with delight when I finally saw a little bit of bright red popping through. He’s a sadistic squirrel, I tell you.

Gardening has the reputation for being a relaxing pastime, but taking a serious interest in your garden can lead you to some less than conventional behaviour. This morning, for example, I was sorely tempted to run outside in my flannel pyjamas and winter boots,and fling something at that little rodent with enough force that he’d think twice before nibbling on my blooms again (don’t worry rodent lovers, my aim isn’t that good.)

Weeds can be another trigger for unusual behaviour. A book I read last month  mentioned flame throwing torches as an effective method of weed control, but cautioned that the side effect of setting your yard and house on fire was a concern. Can you imagine explaining that one to your insurance company?

But then I read on the internet about someone using directed steam to kill weeds. Just take one of those steamers designed for home cleaning outside and zap your weeds with it!  The article said the heat should bake them but there would be no danger of fire (unlike with the flame thrower). The steam can be directed to a pretty small area so you can fry the weed and not your prize rosebush. Hmm, interesting!

So last week steam cleaners went on sale at the big box store, and I had some big box store “points” to spend…so home came the steam cleaner. I have to admit that it was a lot of fun to clean with (I’m sure the novelty will wear off, but hey, anything that makes cleaning “fun” for even a short while can’t be bad!) Our house hasn’t been this clean since we moved in!

But I think the real calling of this new toy is going to come when the weather warms up and it’s time to weed. Granted, the dog walkers and neighbours going by may take a second look. ”Honey, that lady with the crazy garden is out there with a big purple thing strapped to her back and a long orange extension cord, and she’s shooting steam at things like thistles and dandelions. She was laughing and I think she was talking to herself too... Do you think she’s finally cracked?”

I can’t wait for spring!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

My Long Overdue Review of Canada Blooms 2010

With Canada Blooms being next week, "What are you looking forward to at Canada Blooms?" is a question that keeps popping up on facebook and twitter. Since I haven't yet posted what I enjoyed most about Canada Blooms 2010, I guess I'd better get to that, before I'm two years behind instead of one!

Purple hyacinths, purple campanula, white tulips, and ferns--what a combination!
What I enjoy about Canada Blooms is liable to be a little different than everyone else--you see, I'm one of the small team of volunteers that are responsible for planting up all of the huge planters you see throughout the show. So while I do swoon over many of the larger feature gardens, I have a fondness for the exuberant collections of blooms we create throughout the show.
You'd never get this combination to grow together "in real life", but what a show it makes!    

A delicious combination of pink. These ranunculus were amazing.

Proudly showing off one of my creations
Small scenes with big impact
Being a rabid heuchera fan (betcha don't know many of those!) I had to stop and take half a dozen pictures of this "lawn" of heuchera and "Princess Irene" tulips at the Home Depot garden. Absolutely adorable.

The Canadian Cancer Society's fortress of daffodils was a sad and delightful monument, all at the same time:
Air ferns and orchids make extraordinary wall art
Vegetable Delight
The Toronto Botanical Garden's display had a whole edible theme to coincide with their 'edible summer.' I know the trend now is to include edibles with your ornamentals, but no one can make those combinations look as stunning as Paul Zammit (TBG's Director of Horticulture.)
I did not know that chrysanthemums were edible. And how did they get tomatoes to fruit in March?!
A tiny perfect raised bed.

The vegetable theme carried through with the City of Toronto's garden. Check out this herb and veggie topiary:

And if you could actually grow a real garden with this mix of plants, we'd have everyone in the city gardening:

Competition in the flower show is tough. I do a bit of floral design but these arrangers are in a whole other league:

The Dance of Time

Feature Gardens
Some things at the show are just too big or too difficult to do capture in one tiny photograph. Landscape Ontario's garden was a stunner but how to encapsulate something so mammoth? This time lapse video from Landscape Ontario will give you some idea of the scale of this undertaking:  

Good Things
And of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that a highlight of Canada Blooms in 2010 for me was seeing...
Canada Blooms 2010 was a wonderful burst of garden in a desert of winter, and I've no doubt that Canada Blooms 2011 will be even better. I promise not to take a year to post a report...