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Garden Journal

Canada Blooms 2007


It is very late on a Saturday night and I am doing a ton of last minute organizing before I head off to England! YYYEEEAAAHHHH. I hear that the Daffodils are blooming every where? Do you hear them too? Oh I am so excited. I am off to Kew Gardens, the gardening Mecca of the collected plant world.

So, for this weeks garden journal I am doing something a little bit different. I went to Canada Blooms this past week, and I loved it. I saw so many unique and wonderful gardens and floral arrangements, but rather than tell you about it, I uploaded my photographs onto my flickr account for you to see! Just click on the Flicker square in the top right hand side of the page. 

In about 1-2 weeks I am going to be posting my first podcast! All I need to do now is learn how to edit :)

Take care Everyone.


Seeds and Feeds

Bioregionalism-Is a term often used to define a geographical area. More recently It has come to connote our preference to buy locally. I wasn't too long ago farmers didn't have much choice in who their market would be, they sold their produce closer to home for fear of it rotting.

For years now I have toyed with the idea of living for 6 months, or even more challenging for 1year eating a bioregional diet. What would this entail?... well, I would choose a boundary. Say, southern Ontario, and I would for the allotted time, eat only food that was grown in this area . Now it helps if you grow and preserve your own food. But what about wheat to make bread? In my city there are some beautiful bakeries, but where is their wheat grown and processed? I wouldn't be able to eat it unless it was grown in my bioregion. It means forgoing all tropical fruits, unless I grew them in a green house, and eating out would be next to impossible. The amount of planning it would take to have this diet would be Herculean .

I think what I would become most aware of, is how far food has to travel< to enter my digestive system. The amount of fossil fuels it would take to send Canadians apples from New Zealand, if it was measured, would be staggering! For some who may be reading this and aren't aware, most regions of Canada have the ability to grow hundreds of apple varieties, so it does seem a bit absurd to be getting apples from as far away as the Tasman Sea!

As a consumer (or an eater, as I like to call my self) I try and buy as locally as possible, especially when it comes to purchasing seeds and plants. I can't always know exactly the conditions the plants are grown in, but I can get some idea of the hardiness of that plant or seed if was grown near by. In making this decision, I also get the opportunity to support local businesses.

Over the years I have tried different seed companies, and here are my own reviews of the various companies and why I continue to use them. Also worthy of mention is a catalogue of garden catalogues called,

Urban Harvest - Organic. Excellent seeds, great rates of germination and lots of heirloom varieties. For those of you who live in Toronto, Urban Harvest sells WONDERFUL wildflower and vegetable plants in the Spring! They also sell salves and garden amendments like kelp meal and compost activator.

Wildflowerfarm - Is a pick your own wild flower farm, and sells wild flower seeds and plants. The seeds are all native to North America, and the plant material is sturdy and hardy. Miriam who runs this company with her husband, does a lot of speaking engagements and will be at Canada Blooms this year as both a seller and a speaker. Go say hi, she has a wonderful sense of humor, and is very knowledgeable.

Richter's Herbs - organic. I definitely prefer to go there, and smell everything. The scent of Earth and mustiness is heavenly. They should be in full production of their cuttings for Spring. Well worth a visit!

Howard Dill Enterprises - "Dill's Atlantic Giant" The largest pumpkins EVER! If you have an empty spot somewhere in the back, plant one or two seeds just for fun. I did, and it was huge!

One of my favorite seed companies is an American company from Vermont called The Cook's Garden. The diversity of her seed selection is pretty impressive, especially if you like exotic lettuce.

Here is a list of some companies that I haven't used before, but have a very good reputation.

Hope seeds - Organic. The owner of this company and I met recently at the Guelph Organic Conference a few weeks ago. She has a wonderful small family business growing her own seeds, and they have quite a few rare varieties of beans.

The Cottage Gardener - Organic-Has any one reading this, ever had blue banana winter squash?

Greta's Organic Seeds - Wow she has 184 varieties of tomatoes, Rapini and 12 varieties of cucumber!

Eco Genesis - Organic. It turns out, upon inspection that they have edible Chrysanthemum. This vegetable is also known as Shingiku and is a real delight if you like slightly bitter vegetables like rapini. You can cook it so many ways, but sautéed lightly with butter is heavenly. (Please image that there is an accent aigu over the first e in sautéed, unfortunately, my key board and the web apparently only speak English, Editor's note: I Fixed it for you!) Go Gary! The best PDA in the world.

Terra Edibles -Their farm is located just north of Belleville in Ontario, and has a lovely selection of fragrant sweet peas. Who doesn't love the scent of sweet peas? It is important to plant sweet peas in a well ventilated (It is so funny to consider an out side area as well ventilated) however they are prone to powdery mildew, so a good breezy spot with lots of sunshine would be the best.

Garden Makers-If you are looking for rare and unusual flower seeds this company has a very extensive list of just about everything you could want.

Finally, and almost in conclusion, I wanted to mention seedsavers. This service is a great (in both senses of the word) way to keep seeds alive, literally. Certain seeds can have a short shelf life and if the seeds aren't used they can dry out and become unviable. The purpose of seed exchanges is to keep heritage varieties from becoming extinct. The most impressive organization doing this preservation work in Canada is Seeds of Diversity. The best part about seed exchanging is that it is free; you get to meet new people, and potentially save a variety of a species. Not bad! If you want to know more about the state of the worlds seeds, I recommend reading anything by Vandana Shiva, or visiting the site of Wakehurst Place. They have started an ambitious project of saving all of the seeds on the planet and storing them in a -20C vault!

I have grown so many things from seed, and by far my favorite was Tithonia speciosa or "Mexican Sunflower". In an unmarked Ziplock bag, I was given a present from a fellow gardener Cynthia Chataway, who mischievously didn't give me any other details other than "They are gorgeous". I think of her when ever I see one of these giants in someone's garden. They aren't very common, but if you are into orange, huge and prolific blooming, then this is the annual for you. There are other varieties, smaller and yellow and bushier. But Speciosa are my favorite. Last summer, Cynthia lost her battle with breast cancer. There were so many ways that she touched my life. When she began chemo in the fall, as a symbol of her own hope she asked all of her friends who had gardens to plant red, orange and yellow tulip bulbs. She wanted to be around in the Spring to see them bloom.

Thanks for tuning in.

The Weather Network


This morning as I was sitting down to breakfast, I looked across the table at my house mate and personal digital assistant and said “Have you looked at the Nether Wetwork today?”


Seedy Saturdays

When I had a CSA a number of years ago, I remember (with great anticipation), receiving my Canadian Gardening magazine in the mail. (Now in pdf) It was the "LIST" edition I used to call it,  with an endless menu of plant and seed distributors from Canada, the US and England. Nestled into the menu of growers were articles on how to harden off your seedings and ways to prevent dampening off. The list also provided growers for water gardens, Dahlias, perennials and Gladiolas. As well, it included a fantastic chart on when to sow seeds indoors and out, days to germination, how to treat the seeds before planting, and optimum ambient temperatures needed for germination.

As an example:  Snapdragon  8 weeks 24 C (75F) grow in light, cold tolerant, self seeds. And Coleus  8 weeks 21C (70d F) grow in light, use warm water, pinch back when 8 inches tall. The biggest question for me was, how do I decide which company to order from? My philosophy balances between, we should all be supporting the little guy, and, the larger company having a known reputation for success. Do I buy from the seed company who's flyer is still hand written? or because it has stories in it about their daily lives as seed collectors? ( I believe now a days they call that a blog?) Or do you buy from the more established company with the glossy or on-line catalogue? Cause lets face it, we want a good rate of germination! For me a rate of 80% or better, is my comfort zone in the gambling world of plant that seed! With the Internet or 1-800 numbers why not give them a call? "Hey, your Lima beans? do they need a lot of water? because I grew some a few years ago and they needed more water than any other plant in the garden? (This is actually a question I once asked) After all why not take a $3.85 chance?

Be on the look out at this time of year, when all kinds of journals, magazines and newspapers start writing articles on how to start your seeds. When I go through my files on seeds, there are articles in it, from The Toronto Star, Garden Ideas, Outdoor living, Country gardens, and Country Living Gardener. And for those of you who read my bio, know that I surfed the web for the first time January 1st 2007! So I am about to do research on the web for good suggestions on seed starting! There is also and they have a "garden watchdog", which gives you the chance to look up other people's experiences dealing with a particular company.

If I had to recommend one book on the topic it would definitely be The Seed Starter's Handbook by Nancy Bubel. It is the most down to earth and practical book on seed starting that I have seen. I love the illustrations and the whole 1978 aesthetic. Although it focuses mainly on vegetables, the advice is relevant for many varieties of plant seeds. When I was a member of the Civic Garden Center, I had access to their impressive gardening resource library.

The New Seed Starters HandbookI signed out The Seed-Starter's Handbook , and promptly dropped into my bath while reading it. I sent $25.00 in the mail to pay for it. Funny, I trust gardeners. I thought about sending a cheque, but sent cash instead! A few weeks later, I got a great reply letter and thank you from the staff member who received it!

Saving Seeds For seed saving I would recommend Marc Rogers book Saving Seeds :The Gardener's Guide to Growing and Storing vegetable and Flower seeds.

I am kind of close to signing off, but not without letting you all know about some wonderful events that are coming up in Toronto and it's environs. All of these events will put you into a Spring time seedy kind of mood. Look for seedy Saturdays near you!

Seedy Saturdays

Saturday March 17, 2007

    10am - 3pm

    Scadding Court Community Center

    707 Dundas St. W (southeast corner of Dundas West & Bathurst)

    Seed exchange & vendors, displays and information from environmental groups, great food from local vendors, raffle, workshops and hands-on demonstrations. Wheelchair accessible. Info: or 416-652-7867x222.

The description abovef is truly an understatement of how much fun this day is. This is an event that puts the culture back into Agriculture. (kid friendly) is the sponsor for this event and they have an amazing roster of programs and activities especially for the urban gardener. 

Although this event is near Guelph, if you have kids (or often feel like one) this is a great day out. This is a gardening training center extrodinaire. Every aspect of organic farming and environmental sustainability can be found here. Don't be shy go and say hi to Lynn Bishop. She is one great gardener, event planner and mom.  

Hillsburgh, ON

    Saturday April 28, 2007

    10am - 3pm

 FEE: General Admission to Everdale

At Everdale Farm. Come out and find all those wonderful hard to get heritage seeds, and organic vegetable transplants. Trade, buy and sell. Mini workshops on organic gardening, and other experts will be there to inform, and inspire you for the coming season. Kid's activities, fun for the whole family. Go to for more info

    Lynn Bishop

    Program Coordinator

    Sustainable Living Workshops

Toronto Botanical Garden play day. I am planning on going to this event, mainly because it looks like it is going to be a lot fun. I can't wait to see all of the renovations they made to the building "formerly known as Civic Garden Center!"

I would be remiss in my duties as an information giver if I neglected to mention Canada Blooms. This is the largest flower and garden show in Canada. I know this, because one year I volunteered, and ended up managing the coach/bus area for drop off and pick up! Visit the website is all I can say. I wouldn't do it justice by my description. But I will say, bring your own water, and be prepared for some claustrophobia. The speakers are going to be amazing, and if you want some feed back on who is worth listening to, I can give you some suggestions. If you have the time, look through the speakers list and their topics, and if any interest you, copy the person's name and Google them.

Well, I think this is it for Blog # 1. I am right now looking at Blog # 2. It still needs some tweaking, so I am going to send it out in a few days.