Saturday, March 29, 2008

The next big thing


The Next Big Thing demands gardeners skip the petunias and plant some offbeat salad greens

Hold the hostas. And cancel the cannas.
A hot new trend is looming on the gardening front and, refreshingly, it doesn't revolve around foliage plants or in-your-face tropicals.
Quite simply, the Next Big Thing is going to be veggies. Lots and lots of veggies. Heirloom tomatoes, offbeat salad greens and stuff like that. All organically grown, of course. By us.
As concerns about the environment and chemicals used on food escalate, it's predicted that more people will decide to try cultivating a few edibles of their own. The trend toward "urban agriculture" is already big in Vancouver and Europe and has some staunch proponents in Toronto.
Gayla Trail is typical of the trend. Her feisty green-friendly website promotes the message that "gardening is for the people" and that more urbanites should get involved.
"I'm very interested in urban agriculture because it makes sense," says Trail, fingering a pea vine growing on the roof of her Parkdale apartment. "Everyone's talking now about `buying local.' So, why not grow local, too?"
Trail says most vegetables are easy to grow (provided you have sun) and a surprising amount of them can be squeezed into a small space. They're also very decorative. On her hot, jam-packed rooftop, she cultivates everything from peas to hot peppers in containers and she has more planted in a nearby community garden.
An advocate of greening "all the empty lots and wasted spaces" in cities, this energetic young green thumb also recently helped get another community garden going in a downtown neighbourhood.
Trail is part of a movement that's swelling faster than a cucumber on phosphate fertilizer. In Vancouver, several corporations have vegetable gardens for employees to use on the roofs of their buildings. And in the U.K. (where gardening trends tend to start first), urban agriculture has become so hot that a recent issue of the Royal Horticultural Society's influential magazine The Garden was devoted entirely to vegetables, fruit and the controversy over pesticides used on food.
Growers are taking notice. Seed catalogues offer many compact varieties of vegetables that can be grown successfully in containers or small gardens.
Sales of vegetable seeds soared last year, outstripping those of flowers for the first time since the l950s.
Here in Toronto, the Toronto Botanical Garden has noticed a huge surge of interest in growing food, particularly among young people. And what everyone wants to get their hands on is exotic veggies from other countries.
"Our Japanese vegetable garden was our most visited garden last summer," says horticulturist Cathie Cox. "Everyone went straight to it. And they all wanted to know where to buy seeds of the Malabar spinach, because it was so colourful."
Demand was so great, in fact, the botanical garden started four flats of seedlings of this knock-out climbing spinach for its plant sale in May. They sold out in hours.
Trail professes a preference for colourful stuff, too.
"When you garden in a small space, you want plants that serve two purposes," she says. "They should look pretty. But if they're useful, too, that's a real bonus."
However, she thinks the biggest change taking place is in people's attitudes toward growing vegetables.
"It used be considered a low-class thing. Only immigrants did it," she says. "But, now, everyone I know wants to plant them."
Sonia Day is a writer, painter and master gardener based in Belwood, Ont. Contact her through

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

12 sign's your a Garden Hoe

Garden Hoe’s

The first day of spring has arrived, stirring our souls, and planting the seeds of a new season in our thoughts. It started weeks ago, I see them in my shop," Garden Hoe's", women with dirty secrets, and plant addictions. I recognize them, I'm a whoreticulturist …and I run a small garden centre. Sow what, I sell plants and accessories to them, if I didn't they would just go to the box stores for a cheap fix. I try and help, I understand them, I offer professional advice, I have quality product, and I don’t judge.

It started early this year, I thought the nursery was empty, when heading to the back corner I startled a young women. Her eyes like saucers, her face turning crimson; "I'm sorry" she sputtered before dropping her gaze. In her mitten’d hand, weeds; I had inadvertently caught her weeding my untended pots. I touched her woolen hand, "it's ok, I have to go back inside, you stay out here "." If you want to come in, I have a large collection of back issue Gardening magazines downstairs, you can sit and read for awhile if you like". Garden porn, sometimes it’s the best thing to offer.

They are easy to recognize at the cash desk. They try and pass for just another customer, but I sense their angst, the shame, and the burden of their obsessions. I am gentle; they have enough to be defensive about. I hold eye contact; we speak a silent language. I break the ice with a question," will you need to lie about that, will you hide it when you get home"? The pent up emotions, fears, strain, and pretense spill out in a verbal torrent.

" I hide them in the garage, when my husband goes out I will plant them. I tell him they have been growing there since last year; he knows I am lying. I can’t help myself.

Then there are the hardened ones, they rush in and out, ask if I will remove the prices, pay cash, and admit they are supposed to be somewhere else. I have been asked for 50% off stickers to be applied to purchases, or if I can hold till a spouse is out of town. I have been there, I know all this too well.

Are you a "Garden hoe"?
12 sure signs.

Increased activity

You find yourself waking early to garden before work, and rushing home after to get in another fix.

You garden until it is too dark to see.

Decreased sleep

You hate mornings, but you rise early to create more gardening hours in the day.

You stay up late into the night reading garden porn, and fantasizing what you will do this season.

Worrying about nocturnal pests, gets you out of bed to check plants in the middle of the night.

Impulsive or/ risky decisions

You go to the garden centre for one plant, and come home with one of each cultivar.

You buy a new plant knowing you have no room in any of your beds.

You buy a must have exotic, too tender for your zone.

You buy a plant that loves sun when all you have is shade.

Lie, or refuse to say where have been.

Have bribed your child, or friend, not to tell you have bought more plants

Hidden plants to plant later when you’re alone

Removed or changed price tags on purchases so spouse doesn’t know what you’ve spent.

Keep a secret stash of money for garden supplies

Made up stories or alibis to cover up your horticultural escapades.

Begin stealing

You have taken snips off friends or neighbors plants without their knowledge

You have divided plants, or taken snips from public gardens, parks, or retail centres.

You carry bags and gardening tools in your purse or the trunk of your car.

Missing family or social events

You have made excuses to miss events so you can garden

You have lost track of time and gardened through important social occasions, or appointments.

You have double booked over an important function, when something better, "horticultural" came up.
Angry/ or defensive without causes

You have been moody, or distracted when your spouse surprises you with an invitation to
Sunday brunch; it’s sunny and you would rather garden.

You are pre-occupied at a sunny family picnic because you are desperate to go home and water.

You would just rather be gardening

Abandon old friends to spend time with other addicts

You have joined a garden clubs

You would rather go to the Orchid show than coffee with your girlfriend

You start visiting your "new friend’s" gardens

Trouble paying bills

You have spent grocery, or essential money on plants.

Your gardening project has gone way over budget.

Neglect self, or family

You treat your plants better than you treat yourself.

You care more about the appearance of your yard than yourself, your children, or spouse.

You have more pictures of the garden, than of your kids.

The kids are upset, because there is no lawn left to play on.

You ask for manure for your birthday

You have stopped trying to keep your fingernails or knees clean.

Neglect possessions or home

You only do housework when it rains.

Spring-cleaning happens in January.
You have damaged your car using it as a truck.

Obsessive or irrational behavior

All your fantasies are about gardening.

You own a miner’s style headlamp so you can pick slugs at night.

You have gardened in mittens.

You have more than 10 cultivars of any plants.

You have stopped cleaning your fingernails.

You have dirty fingernails year round.

You check the weather before your morning pee, or coffee.

Your lawn keeps shrinking, and you can no longer see the house.

You are eyeing the strip of lawn between the sidewalk and road.

You have been caught weeding public or commercial property.

You are trying to garden in your neighbor’s yard

Seeds have germinated in the soil build up in your trunk.

You don’t realize your in pain, sun burnt, bug bitten, frozen, or bleeding during gardening.

You can't remember how old you will be this birthday, but you know all the 2011 NEW release plants by heart before the 2010 plants are available for sale.

Monday, March 24, 2008

March in the Garden Centre

The store is beginning to fill with Spring stock.

Herbs, and grasses are good cool weather choices

The succulents have begun to be available.
Early Spring is when many of the rockery plants bloom.

Bellis daisy, and pansies are frost tolerant.

This is my Mom, potting up some divisions, I can't thank her enough for her wonderful support.

Aubretia, and Arabis in bloom

Tree Heaths, and many Winter, and Spring flowering Heathers are in bloom in March.

Here is a potted Narcissus, shown against Nandina "Firepower"

One of the Easter baskets, with a resin bird to add cheer.

Hyacinth is a good choice to bring a little Spring indoors.

Another basket with one of my favorite plants, Helleborus "Ivory Prince" in the background. I love the compact nature, and sturdy habit the leaves of this variety has.

Viburnum tinus "Gwenallin", a dwarf variety, great in borders for year round interest.

These carnations don't seem to mind the cold at all. I had one still holding blooms through January. It is loaded with buds now, and will bloom all summer.

Ribes, our native Herald of Spring. Plant this to provide an early food source for Hummingbirds.

Clematis "Armandii", a Magnolia in bud, and Pieris japonica "Valley Valentine" still in full bloom.

Ranunculas is a member of the buttercup family that comes in every color of the rainbow. An excellent cool weather plant.

Flax, "Mauori Sunrise", Viburnum davidii, and Heather "Mary Helen" make a nice treesome.

Easter weekend has been a mix of weather; sun, rain, and a return of some colder temperatures. It is a good reminder not to rush the season. There are some cold tolerant bedding to choose, but I would stay away from the first offerings of tender bedding beginning to show up for sale. Stick with the gorgeous offerings that like the cold for a few weeks yet.

Meadow lawns

This home in my neighbourhood has a well established meadow garden in place of a regular lawn. This is taken in March, while the Chinindoxia, and Narcissus are in bloom.

This is the same home as above, taken in January. Here we see Cyclamen Coum, snowdrops, and snow crocus.

Last fall I planted crocus in my lawn, they were a treat this spring when they arrived. The first one had raised it's head for January 1st, when I take photo's of all the flowers in my yard. My, B.C. thing meant to mock the rest of Canada, still buried in a deep freeze.