The Garden Bloggers Fling was all about stimulating the senses – sight, smell, sound, touch and taste (those box lunches were so good!). Originally I was going to write one post for each day, but since our schedule was jam packed with so many different destinations, I decided to break it up into morning & afternoon posts.
Most out-of-town flingers stayed at the Royal York, a historic & grand (which is really the best way to describe it) hotel in Toronto’s financial district. Since I’m about 1 hour from the city, I opted to commute each day, either driving in or taking the GO train.
|Royal York Hotel|
as seen from the corner of Front & York
Destination #1 – High Park Oak Savannah Restoration Project
First stop for my group was High Park, which is often referred to as the Central Park of Toronto. High Park covers a 398 acre area just west of the downtown core.
|One of the entrances to High Park|
Before the European settlers arrived, Southern Ontario was primarily an oak savannah & prairie grass plain. As we walked down the sandy paths, we were surprised to learn that the sand was indigenous to the area. I don't normally associate soft, beachy sand with Toronto.
|Sandy soils from the former Lake Iroquois,|
which covered this area 13,000 years ago
Today, only 0.1% of those native landscapes remain. When I see statistics like this, I always get that sinking in the pit of my stomach feeling. It’s just so incredibly sad when you think of the enormity of what was lost.
|I loved the architecture of this tree|
|Multiple bird feeders hang from the trees|
One of the biggest battles faced by the restoration team is that of invasive species removal. Some of the worst offenders are Norway maples, buckthorn (I'm battling this one myself) and Asian bittersweet.
|A Grand Oak|
This tree is in a reclaimed area but many others in the park are
threatened by the stranglehold of invasives such as Asian Bittersweet
Sheet mulching as well as controlled burns are used extensively in the Parks efforts to reintroduce & encourage the spread of native species in the area.
|Wild lupine - The only native species of lupine|
What can we as individuals do to help? One of the easiest things is to avoid planting invasive species. You may be surprised at what you will find on that list; I certainly was. In southern Ontario, the list includes many common garden perennials that are widely available at local garden centers such as barberry, euonymus and periwinkle – all three of which grace(d) my ornamental borders. I did get rid of the barberry before I even realized it was an invasive as it was in a bad spot and those thorns kept getting to me. The periwinkle & euonymus are still in one of my beds & removing them is on my project list.
Our guide gave us a great little booklet entitled “Grow Me Instead”. It’s a wonderful resource that gives practical alternatives for native or non-aggressive species to replace these invasive plants.
|The "Grow Me Instead" Booklet|
Wrinkled pages courtesy of the major soaking we had later that day in the Toronto Islands
Destination #2 – Swansea Private Gardens
Running along the western boundary of High Park is the Swansea District, one of the last villages to be amalgamated into the City of Toronto back in 1967.
|Quite the backyard view|
|Lots of hostas - one of my favourite perennials|
|Ornamental planter with a lower level gazebo in the background|
|If you have a slope,|
you naturally need a waterfall
And now for a bit of eye candy. As many of you are MORE than aware, I don't know that much about ornamentals - but that doesn't stop me from appreciating them! And if I've goofed on the identification in any of the photos, please feel free to correct me.
The unofficial Fling Flower
|Beautiful colour contrast between the deep purples & greens|
|A scattering of dramatic petunias|
|One of my favourite shots...I really need to get a birdbath|
Destination #3 – My Luscious Backyard
Sarah Nixon is the owner of “My Luscious Backyard” (http://mylusciousbackyard.ca/), a business in which she grows annuals and perennials (organically, of course) which are then used in arrangements for individuals and local businesses.
|Sarah Nixon explaining her business|
Sarah went around to her neighbors and asked if she could use their backyards (and/or front yards) to grow flowers. She would do all the work (soil amendment, planting, weeding, etc.) and all they had to do was sit back and enjoy the flowers…and maybe do a touch of watering during a dry spell. Not a bad deal, especially if you are the type that appreciates a yard full of greenery and colour, but are not inclined to do any of the work that would entail.
Sarah does, of course, also grow many plants and flowers for her arrangements in her own backyard, which was packed from end to end. To get the most out of our short season, she makes very good use of some portable season extenders:
|One of these days, I may be organized enough to need a season extender|
|Question & Answer Period|
To end our tour, Sarah walked us over to one of her "borrowed" front yards. Since it was early June, this yard had only recently been planted up but I have a feeling that it would be a riot of colour right about now.
|"Borrowed" front yard that was recently planted up|
Till next time…