Canada Blooms 2011: Gardens and garden trends

A full blast of spring from the Home Depot Backyard Oasis. Orange, naturally.

Despite the full-on colour above, this year’s Canada Blooms 2011 is not a Big Wow Year. However, it is a year of many Quiet Little Wows, the kind that have you thoughtfully nodding your head. Really, the kind real gardeners like you can use. That makes it worth experiencing, which I hope you will.

The huge Landscape Ontario Green For Life entry garden showcases green roof technology.

There are some eye-poppers. The Landscape Ontario entry garden is the largest single exhibit to be at Canada Blooms in ten years. The 9,000-square-foot space includes an immense green roof and floral wall. After having my expectations inflated by the orientation for the early-morning tours, however, I was a little underwhelmed. Nevertheless, while some of the solutions used for the show were not the innovative technologies I was expecting to see (they’re more theatrical than practical), they are right on theme with one of this year’s overall trends: Thinking green.

Often a showcase for beautiful hardscaping, Parklane’s Earth Tones garden had barely a limestone paver in sight

Strongly representative of the green trend is regular exhibitor Parklane Nurseries, with one of those quiet nod gardens. Their objective: when it rains, what falls on the garden, stays in the garden – or percolates into the ground water.

Permeable paving is used extensively and imaginatively. On the main paths, honeycomb turf pavers are overlaid with a fragrant mulch of pine needles. Paving includes a basketweave of prefab wooden deck panels. The patio backdrop is made by stacking a concrete and wood fibre cinderblock usually buried in building foundations, but showing off its interesting texture here.

Much of the materials have a salvaged beauty: reclaimed telephone poles become pillars, rusty rods top the pergola, tree trunk slab are steps and reclaimed subway grates bridge a rivulet connecting two ponds. Edging the garden on one side are a train of wooden crates; on the other are large tree limbs in their natural state. Sand and gravel are unadorned surface treatments. It’s earthy yet urban. I liked it a lot.

An educational collaboration between the Toronto Botanical Garden and the Royal Ontario Museum

The environmental times, they are a-changin’, and the TBG’s and ROM’s Nurture Urban Nature is showin’ us how, with info on native plants, edible gardens, pollinators and water conservation. (By the way, order that rain barrel you’ve been meaning to get! Earth Day will be here soon.) Natural log edging appears here, too, and I love the clever use of PVC piping and a recycled electrical spool to great the archway. But, the TBG being the TBG, there are pretties such as a lust-afterable, double hellebore ‘Golden Lotus’ to keep things from getting too, too serious. The City of Toronto Parks, Seneca College and the Chirp-Pollinator Project are other gardens with an educational focus.

In fact, education isn’t the only reason to bring the kids to Canada Blooms this March Break. Another is the Bienenstock Natural Playground, with massive, 200-year-old reclaimed black willow stumps marking the way in. Bienenstock has won awards for an innovative approach that turns natural materials into playgrounds, such as a brand new one in Toronto’s McLeary Park. Their exhibit has fun stuff to see and actually do, and Karen Fralich is making her nifty sand art right next door.

Canada Blooms ties in with the Juno Awards 40th Anniversary with its theme of Rhythms…  and even the music-related gardens get into the go-green spirit.

Sarah Harmer’s garden by Oriole Landscaping reflects her farm-girl heritage. As the Juno-winning musician is also an active campaigner against quarrying in her Niagara Escarpment home area, the design uses responsibly harvested stone.
Judith Wright created this Parsifal-themed garden for friend and client, operatic tenor Ben Heppner. The multi-limbed tree was salvaged from a park removal, divided into numbered parts and reassembled at the show.

There’s still time to take an early morning tour to get more inside stories like these – and avoid the line-ups for two whole hours before the doors open, at which time you’re ready to hit the Marketplace, completely unjostled. Really, it’s the stress-free way to see Canada Blooms, and I’m not saying it just because I’m a tour guide tomorrow. Show up. We’ll talk.


  1. Wow! It looks like quite a show to me1 I didn't get to the Boston show this year – too much work getting ready to leave for Texas where I am going to visit with the Houston Garden Girl and Cindy at My Corner of Katy. And Houston Garden Days organized by the Garden Conservancy. That should make up for it. Wonderful post.

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