Monday, November 30, 2015

I agree: Brown is a colour, too

The Toronto Botanical Garden's entry garden in January 2013
Today, we'll put November to bed, and tomorrow we'll wake up to December – which some feel means the end of colour in the garden. Well, all the leaves may be brown, and the sky is grey… but when we go for that walk on a winter's day, that's not such a bad thing, is it?

Last June, when Paul Zammit, head of horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Garden, showed our Fling garden bloggers how he magicked a container, he made the bold statement: Brown is a colour. Yes, Paul, you're right. Look at all the shades of it above. Brown is beautiful.

Though, technically, winter doesn't come for three weeks, I've tried to turn you on to it before. Winter is a season with a lot of brown in it. Or a lot of browns. Think of them all; the richness. Tan, russet, fawn, bronze, buff, chestnut, coffee, sepia, ochre. Goodness, there's even a brown called fulvous!

So, for the last post of my unofficial NaBloPoMo 2015, I'm going to try showing the browns in my life some respect, appreciation and gratitude. I invite you to join me.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Miraculously, my clivia bloomed

What is that – a flower spike? Could it be? It is! My Clivia is blooming!
This was a year for miracles in the garden. Not only did the Hoya I'd tended for 30 years bloom for the very first time this spring – it did it three more times in succession over the summer!

And the Clivia I wrote about two years ago – suspecting the plants were virusy – put out two flower spikes this summer. What did I do right? I have no idea. Perhaps fed it a bit more often? It certainly didn't get the cold spell it likes between October and February – which is apparently why it bloomed in June and not March, as it should.

Who cares! By blooming, it has given me hope. Perhaps I'll figure out a way to chill it. Perhaps I have a sister with an unheated sun porch. Or perhaps I'll actually follow these detailed care instructions from And maybe I'll have even better luck (and more to be grateful for) next time.

My friend Veronica tells me the secret with clivias is to ignore them. Perhaps that's what I did right?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

68 New Environmentally Protected Sites in Toronto

Beautiful Crothers Woods will now be an official environmentally significant area in Toronto.

Our beautiful ravine systems are one of the best things about Toronto, counteracting the concrete and condos, right in the very heart of the city. We are fortunate to have so many stunning, wild areas in Toronto: places where nature does the gardening for us all on its own, creating ultimate no-maintenance (for us) gardens that city dwellers can appreciate every day of the year. The good news is that the city is adding 68 new environmentally significant areas—known as ESAs—to its official city plan.You can see the areas in the ESA Interactive Map, pictured below.

Portion of Toronto's interactive city map shows new proposed protected areas in orange.
These are areas that exist already as wild spaces, but will now be protected in black and white, with official city recognition and involvement. Toronto will support these four areas:
  • Maintenance
  • Invasive species control
  • Encroachment
  • Overuse 
Natural parklands don't have lawns to be mowed or fences to be painted but they still require management to maintain and sometimes restore or enhance their ecological values.

Friday, November 27, 2015

David Austin 'Windermere' rose

Gorgeous, creamy and scented Rosa 'Windermere' from David Austin
Today, I'm grateful for this lovely 'Windermere' rose, sent to me to trial and planted in spring 2015. Ultimately growing about a meter tall and wide, this rose easily fits into the Microgarden. And, unlike some David Austin roses I've tried, the heavy-headed flower doesn't sag. It's creamy white and deliciously fragrant, the kind of perfume that transports me back to my grandmother's garden. At the end of the season, the foliage still looked healthy. Crossing my fingers for a great show in 2016.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving in September at Muir Ranch, Pasadena

Tables set amongst the vegetable rows at Muir Ranch School Farm
"A day of thanks for the blessing of the harvest" – that's what Thanksgiving is about. And if we did it earlier in the year (even earlier than we [ahem!] sensible Canadians do), I imagine Thanksgiving dinner might feel something like the farm-to-table dinner I had the pleasure of experiencing at Muir Ranch in Pasadena, California last September. I'm grateful for the opportunity.

Muir Ranch has a great story. It's a high school, transformed in 2011 into an urban farm school. Students can come to perform community service or complete paid or for-credit internships – by growing fresh vegetables and flowers. And, sometimes, by serving at a dinner like ours.

Invited chefs made yummy stuff with the produce from the farm – like these grilled cauliflowers
Slow flowers from the garden awaiting magicking into bouquets
Some of us sat down right away and got to know our dinner mates before dinner was served
Some of us (like Dee Nash of RedDirtRamblings) explored the flower and vegetable beds. 
I was one of those
The 1.5-acre site was pretty intensively farmed
And that mountain backdrop continued to catch the sun as it set
Eventually, we all began to take our seats
 We didn't need alcohol to lubricate our conversation. In such a setting, it flowed naturally.
We admired our dinner-ingredients-to-be 
Bouquets bloomed every few feet. Many mixed flowers with edibles like sorrel and amaranth
Or the exotic (to me) with the charmingly everyday such as zinnias
Purslane soup, with cilantro, ginger, garlic chive flowers and fried amaranth. Just one of the interesting dishes served
Darkness began to fall.
We were shown interesting ways to light up our table
It was a happy accident that caused Mud Baron, Project Director at Muir Ranch, to invent #FlowersOnYourHead – a pretty way to promote growing flowers. Check out his Instagram for the most fun you'll have with flowers on your head.  
Happy Thanksgiving, whomever or wherever you are, however and whenever you celebrate!