Go see Grow Op 2016 at the Gladstone

You get an underworld view of daffodil bulbs in Persephone by the Toronto Flower Market and various local growers, including Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard whom we ran into at the show.

Happy Earth Day. A perfect time to share earthy thoughts that make us think. These scenes are just a few from the Gladstone Hotel’s annual alternative garden show Grow Op, taglined “Cultivating Curiosity.” The show runs till April 24th, and I hope you’ll find time over the weekend to see it.

Thirty artists, landscape architects, historians and other smart and creative folk have made things that provoke and stimulate. Like these. And we haven’t even shown you the countertop cricket farm…

Look closely to see the etched cities surrounding grassy terraria in Green Living by glass artist Becky Lauzon.
Turf and its roots are the medium in Terrena by [R]ed[U]x Lab from Ryerson’s architecture department – the same group who made one of my favourites (the dayglo pine cone) in 2015’s Winter Stations.
Artist Michael Rennick with one of his many pieces in Sticks, Stones, String and Sealing Wax
If I had a million dollars (story of my life) I’d’ve been happy to take this one of Rennick’s works home. Part dreamscape, part garden, part Dali-esque horse head.
Woodworker Shelly Dwyer‘s Unbroken by Nature sees what she calls “garbage chairs” rehabilitated and reborn into something new using willow basket weaving techniques. This is one of her chair pods.
Vivian Wong of Wabi-Sabi Collective with All Night Blossoms Fell, inspired by Tanabata-style wishing trees.
My wish is to have one of these in a corner of my home.
Loop, a cool hydroponic garden by urban-ag design collective Design Build Grow Studio
Bright pink manganese chloride crystals grow in glass bulbs in Michaela Macleod‘s strangely beautiful My Chemical Garden
One of the evening’s award-winners, David Perrett stands beside three hollowed-out, ash-borer felled trunks, collectively titled Timber. The base of each trunk allows it to rock back and forth, like one of those punching-bag clowns.
Chainsaws, chisels and a lot of elbow grease went into hollowing out these. The textures, manmade inside, insect made outside, were mesmerizing. And no one could resist giving each trunk a shove. Go try it before the weekend ends!



  1. I've been hoping to get to the Grow Op since it began but no luck so far. Cultivating curiosity is a great tagline. It's difficult to get a sense of the show as a whole and whether the installations worked in concert to get people thinking and asking questions. What do you think, Helen, did it?

    I really liked David Perrett's ash and human-bored tree trunks. The punching bag base adds an interesting dimension. But it also suggests that the tree will spring back, despite begin attacked. Is this the message Perrett wanted to send?

    1. I don't know about "in concert," as the installations are all individual explorations – sometimes art pieces, sometimes meditations on an idea, sometimes science experiments.

      But I love that feeling of being surrounded by creative ideas, no matter how disparate. They all have or had something to do with the natural world, even if, as in Michael Rennick's work, that natural world exists in a realm of fantasy.

      Yes, Perrett has turned a diseased tree into one that can't be felled.

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