By Andrea Bannister
With snow swirling in the bitter wind, it was a perfect day for Canadian garden writers to connect, learn, and dream of summer days at the annual GWA Region VII gathering held at Canada Blooms. As a first-timer, I was warmed by the friendly welcome of GWA members, lush gardens and generous plant, tool, and other giveaways from sponsors (rookie mistake – I took the bus to the meeting!)
Canada Blooms Red and White
The show hall was quiet when Helen Battersby from Toronto Gardens gave us an early morning tour of Canada’s largest flower and garden show. Many Canada Blooms show gardens were bigger than my urban yard with drool-worthy patios, paths, and pools, softened with an abundance of bright plants and surprisingly large, healthy trees.
As 2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday, it was no surprise many gardens were decked out in patriotic red and white combined with whimsical touches like Tim Horton cups as planters and hockey sticks as décor. Other exhibits celebrated the Canadian outdoors with Ontario stone water features, native trees and plants, and of course the iconic maple leaf.
One of my personal highlights was The Secret Path exhibit, inspired by a shameful
chapter in Canada’s history. For generations, thousands of indigenous kids were forcibly sent away to schools that shunned their culture and beliefs. The garden’s winding, woodland path represented the heartbreaking journey of a boy named Chanie, who ran away from one of these schools and died from hypothermia on his desperate 650 km journey home.
Canadian Insights and Innovations
The Canadian theme continued with the morning presentations and updates. Mark Cullen, one of the country’s best known gardeners and a recent recipient of the Order of Canada, shared his insights from his book, The New Canadian Garden. He’s seen a huge, welcome shift during his career as a gardener and media personality away from “perfect lawn and impatiens” to a naturalistic, sustainable style. His best-selling book dives into Canadians’ growing interest in pollinators, community gardens, edible gardening, and gardening with children.
His son, Ben Cullen, showed off his millennial chops with wisdom on top social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. He urged us to use our words, photos, videos – whatever our medium – to position gardening as an amazing, engaging experience, similar to how travel and food is often packaged.
Next, Dr. Amy Bowen unveiled the first rose, ‘Canadian Shield’ from Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Recognized as Canada Blooms’ Plant of the Year, this hardy red shrub rose kicks off Vineland’s new 49th Parallel rose collection. As part of the selection process, Vineland extensively researched Canadian consumers’ rose and plant buying preferences. There were lots of “oohs” and “aahs” over the beautiful ‘Canadian Shield’ rose and an upcoming blush stunner called ‘Chinook Sunrise.’
New Tools For Better Growing
After lunch sponsored by Fiskars and a few laughs offered by Region VII National Director and host, Ken Brown from Gardening-Enjoyed, the learning continued with presentations from other passionate gardeners:
- With worldwide horticultural and agricultural projects under his garden tool belt, Robert Patterson’s latest focus is “permaculture in a box” through The Growing Connection. Their lightweight planters with a built-in water reservoir are 50% recycled plastic and frost proof. Already used by organizations and home gardeners globally, his goal is to make healthy, tasty homegrown vegetables accessible for everyone.
- Bob Reeves shared Root Rescue, which helps transplanted trees and plants by adding beneficial Mycorrhizae fungi to the soil. His talk focused on the cozy relationship between tree roots and these soil fungi, which aid plants in absorbing water and nutrients.
- Finally, Fiskars (in business since 1649!) spotlighted some of their new gardening tools including watering products from recent acquisition, Gilmour.
As we left Canada Blooms, the March snow fell harder in the icy air. But we writers, photographers and, above all, gardeners, were warmed by the promise and excitement of another growing season just ahead.
Meet the Author
A lifelong gardener, Andrea Bannister is a freelance communicator who lives in Toronto with her husband and three nature-loving children. She is finishing a Horticulturist certificate this spring and is excited to bring her love of gardening and writing together. You can reach her at email@example.com.