Oh, I suppose, some practical ideas that could be executed in real gardens are expected, but that’s not why I go. Here are my requirements for an enjoyable afternoon at the typical North American garden exposition, generally held in late winter:
1. Color and scent everywhere. By this time, we Northeasterners need as many breaks from the dull gray weather as we can get.
2. Spectacular displays. Lacking that, really silly displays are almost as good.
3. A garden celebrity or two (in as much as we have them) is also a great addition, though I’m not terribly fond of sitting in sterile conference rooms listening to speakers, no matter how cool they are. Nonetheless, had the Renegade Gardener made an appearance anywhere around here (he did not) I would have sat in.
So, for my money (figurative speaking; I had a media pass), Canada Blooms, Toronto’s big garden show, satisfied on all counts and more—they even had a very civilized “wine garden,” where you could try a line-up of offerings, including icewine and some biodynamic vintages. After the needlessly harrowing drive from Buffalo to Toronto (always several inexplicable traffic hold-ups, and of course the all-new, all-stressful border experience), a drink is exactly what I needed.
Once soothed by some unoaked chard, I and my companions (gardening friends Cheryl and mentee Ron) could take in the show.
Of course, you have to have a theme, and CB’s was really a fun one: Flower Power. Bright pinks, green, and yellows were the dominant colors, and flowers in these hues had been fashioned into all kinds of symbolic and sculptural forms by creative TO florists. I didn’t see all the featured display gardens, and I have no idea who won which prizes, but what I did see was mostly interesting and creative. There were lots of sustainable strategies everywhere and some attractive—even subtle—water features.
The gardens were fine, but I think CB excelled most in its very literal expression of its theme: cut flowers were everywhere. This was very welcome, as most garden shows focus on forced spring bulbs, hothouse hydrangea, azaleas, and whatever perennials they can muster at this difficult time. No one uses these flowers in their gardens in the way that garden shows do, so their presence to help simulate real gardens can be tiresome in a way that the frankly fantastic use of exotic blooms isn’t. Anyway, that’s how I see it.
Psychedelic floral creations aside, the main purpose of our visit was to talk to Barbara Damrosch about her revised Garden Primer. More on that Wednesday.