Garden Bloggers Fling - Day 1 (Afternoon)

Now that the garden is done and I have a bit more time, I'll be getting back to posting about the Garden Bloggers Fling I attended back in June of this year.  I've written about our Welcome Evening and how we spent the morning on Day 1 of the Fling.  Now on to the afternoon...

After a delicious lunch at High Park – did I mention how yummy the box lunches were? – we all got back onto the bus for the relatively short trek to the Ferry docks in the heart of downtown Toronto.

We were off to the Toronto Islands.

Destination #4 – The Toronto Islands

The Toronto Islands are a group of small islands just off the downtown waterfront.

Google Maps image of the Toronto Islands
The most popular destination on the islands & the only one I had visited before was Centre Island.  There are no residences on Centre Island which is essentially a combination of beaches, amusement park, recreational park and restaurants.  Our destination that day, however, was Ward’s Island which, together with Algonquin Island, contain approximately 300 homes.

A beautifully landscaped entrance;
particularly like the graceful curve on the front walkway
You can’t actually buy a “property” on the island.  You lease the land from a Land Trust and only buy the house that sits on top of it.  To purchase a house, you have to get onto a waiting list that is capped at 500.  It’s a long – and I mean loooong – wait.  If you want details on the process, there's a great article HERE.  In short, you will likely be waiting at least 35 years before your name reaches the top of the list…if your lucky.

Signs help you find your way around,
although we still managed to get lost at one point ;)
The Toronto Islands have a different culture in and of itself.  Folks from all walks of life co-exist on these motor vehicle-less islands.

Bloggers enjoying their scenic stroll down the streets
The chief mode of transportation is by bicycle, often with a cart attached to make for easier transport of things like groceries from the ferry or docks.  The practicalities of everyday life take on an entirely different meaning here.

One of several areas where residents can dock their boats
You see, there are no stores on the islands – if you need something, you either get in your boat or take the ferry to Toronto.  That’s it.  Consider the logistics behind doing something as commonplace as adding a deck or renovating a room in your house.  Not only are you dealing with bringing supplies across the water, but also transporting them from the docks to your house…without the help of any type of motorized vehicle.

Imaging having to bring over the supplies for this treehouse, for example:

We all thought it resembled a spaceship
Makes me think twice about complaining when I’m trekking back and forth from the driveway to the garden with a bunch of lumber for my raised beds.

I have a feeling that recycling was the name of the game around here, even before anyone had heard of a "Blue Bin".

Why throw out old tables when you can use them
for display in the garden
And then, their is the ultimate in recycling:

The toilet is interesting, but it's the sink that really caught my eye
(notice the hummingbird faucet handles)
Up until just this past summer, the only way to access the islands was by water.  In July of this year, an underwater pedestrian tunnel was completed linking the Toronto Island Airport to the mainland.  It's still quite a trek to Ward & Algonquin Island, however.  In the top Google Maps image, the tunnel is on the far left of the island while the residential communities are on the far right.

A beach entrance along one of the islands many walkways
Speaking of the airport, Toronto residents were up in arms about possible plans for expansion to accommodate larger planes - needless to say, those on the islands were greatly concerned about the added congestion, noise and pollution that would bring to the area.

These signs were posted in many gardens in an effort
to raise awareness (see the official website HERE)
The expansion, spearheaded by Porter Airlines, was an issue that was near and dear to many Torontonians.  Surprisingly, even Air Canada, the countries largest airline, came out against expanding the airport.  A couple of weeks ago, the federal government made it's decision - there will be no expansion of the island airport.  The right thing to do trumped the profitable thing to do...not something that often happens these days.

So on to a few (well, not so few as it turns out!) photos of what I saw on my stroll through the island gardens, starting with what turned out to be the official fling flower, an allium:

Gotta get some alliums into my garden
(other than the edible kind, I mean!)
And look at this gorgeous peony - I'm a sucker for pale flowers with just a blush of colour:

Perfection in a Flower
This tree was literally dripping with yellow flowers:

You can't help but stop when you see a tree like this
I believe this is a Goldchain Tree (Laburnum watereri).  A close up was in order:

Goldchain Tree blossom
As we strolled the paths, I saw this plant (no idea what it is) near one of the beach entrances:

Horsetail (Equisetum)**
Watch out as this one can become a nightmare
to remove once established
There was no shortage of whimsy in the gardens:

Boat planter box
 I'm not sure if this is a "functional" birdhouse, but I thought it was just lovely:

I think the leaning pole actually gives it that much more character
Now that's what I call a pop of colour:

You turn a corner and you see this...
it literally makes you stop in your tracks 
Just because you are surrounded by water doesn't mean that you shouldn't have a water feature in your garden:

These stones were most likely locally gathered
This pond was nestled into a relatively small spot, which goes to show that you don't need a lot of space for a fabulous water feature:

I really love the evergreen and Japanese maple
spilling over the rocks and framing the partially hidden waterfall

Speaking of waterfalls, the only hint that we are not in the wilderness in the next photo is a glimpse of the fence in the background:

Look at how natural this looks with the rocks and moss;
I can practically hear the rush of the water

And then we have an island in a pond on an island:

I'm wondering if this house is occupied in the summer...
I adore these bi-coloured tulips:

The brush strokes of red are so vivid against the pure white
And how about these lilacs:

Each petal is framed with white - just beautiful
A beautiful hellebore:

Can you spot the ant?

I don't know what this next one is, although the foliage does look familiar.  The inflated look of these flower petals intrigued me:

Are they about to unfurl or do they remain this way?
This is most likely a rhododendron in the bud stage**
I became enamoured by these little guys the second I laid eyes on them:

Campanulatus "Redvein Enkianthus"
The owner was nice enough to rummage around her house
and find out what the specific variety was...for which I was very grateful :)

It's not all about pretty flowers and foliage however:

Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum)**
I've seen lots of trees with peeling bark,
but these were particularly beautiful
And how about some seed pods, waving in the wind:

Lunaria (aka Honesty)
Jo (The Good Life) recently visited a garden that had a grouping of Lunaria & the pods had dried into fluttery, silver rounds.  Apparently, these were often used in dried flower arrangements back in the day, although I think they look rather modern myself.  This is one that I'll be adding to my garden wish list.

It's not often you see a single chair in a garden, but there is definitely something to be said for taking some time out for yourself:

A tranquil spot to read a book or simply sit back and relax
I only wish I could grow rosemary that looked like this:

Now THAT'S a healthy looking rosemary plant
If you only have a small area with full sun, why not make the most of the space and go up:

A tower of planter boxes are used to grow greens
Should have taken a better shot of what was growing in the planter, but this is all I have:

A closer look and I'm thinking these are
a variety of brassica
And not to let the space on the steps go to waste, they are occupied by several pots with Russian kale:

Looks like Red Russian, and healthy specimens too
Speaking of planting up, how about a green roof:

No boring asphalt shingles for this shed
It's obvious that a gardener lives here:

Wonderful variety of textures
and I love the way the greenery spills onto the path
This next photo epitomizes the welcoming feel of the community on the Toronto Islands:

Open gate beckons visitors to enter the garden
After our leisurely stroll through the island gardens, we headed back to the Ward Island ferry dock.  And our timing was almost perfect.  Literally 30 seconds before we reached the dock - no exaggeration there - the skies opened and we had a torrential downpour that lasted about 10 minutes or so, followed by light rain.  Thankfully, the area where you wait for the ferry was covered and only a short distance from where you got on the ferry.

This photo was taken from the covered waiting area
at the Ward's Island ferry dock
We were a rather sorry looking lot, everyone having been drenched to some extent, but that didn't dampen our spirits one bit.  What it did do is give us one more story to tell & laugh about :)

Till next time...

**Thanks to Helen for identifying these for me!


  1. Great memory of our visit, Margaret. So glad you came. Watch out for those "canelike" plants -- they're horsetail (Equisetum) and will gallop through your garden, sure as blinking. The purple flowers with the foliage you recognize are likely Rhododendron in bud. And the lovely peeling bark you like belongs to one of my favourite small trees, paperbark maple (Acer griseum). Cheers!

    1. Well, thank you, thank you and thank you, Helen! I had a feeling you would know what my "mystery" plants were. I'm sure you are right about the rhododendron - I knew I recognized those leaves from somewhere. And thanks for the horsetail warning - you know, I had heard of horsetails but had no idea that's what they were.

  2. What a fabulous place to visit and so much interest on the island. You said you'd seen the green seedheads of Honesty and there they are, it's a lovely plant so I hope you can get some going in your own garden. Thank you for the mention. I had some alliums in my garden but they've all vanished so I've just planted some more bulbs, I'm hoping they'll put on a good show next year. We had a laburnum tree in our garden when I was a child, I'd been warned that the seedpods were poisonous and it's something I was always aware of. I was going to say that the cane type plant is horsetail, very invasive and the purple flower has foliage like that of rhododendrons. The red and white tulips are beautiful, really eyecatching.

    1. My wish list of plants is forever expanding & hopefully I'm that much closer to finding a spot for them in my garden once my beds are done (a job that was planned for this year, but will have to wait till next...all in good time, right?).

      Alliums are at the top of my list as well - we saw so many beautiful ones during the Fling, I think I will have a hard time choosing which ones to plant when the time comes. The tulips are incredible, aren't' they - not just the vibrant colour but how the red is seemingly "brushed" on.

      And I'm (very) slowly learning about different ornamentals, but it's so nice to have ornamental experts like yourself and Helen to help me out with identification in the meantime :)

    2. To reinforce what Jo wrote, all parts of the Laburnum are poisonous. In fact, there's a wonderful, darkly comic or comically dark Masterpiece Theatre series with Diana Rigg in which laburnum features prominently. Look it up sometime if you enjoy mysteries.

    3. Whoops. I should have added, the series above is called 'Mother Love.'

    4. LOVE mysteries - I'll be looking that on up - thanks Helen!

  3. Great photos of all the gardens! I love that green roof, and all the flowers. It's so much fun looking at others gardens, especially well kept ones like those.

    1. It was so much fun and really inspirational too. Up until the Fling, I'd never done garden tours like these before - I see myself going to many more of these in the future.

  4. I have horsetails here and don't find them too invasive. They do pop up a lot in the one space I have them but they don't seem to spread into the grassy area surrounding them. Where I grew up in the 'burbs of Vancouver, we played with these a lot - you can pull the segments apart and put them back together (hence the nickname "puzzle grass"). Maybe it's the cold winters that prevent them from spreading too much ...

    I still can't believe I live so close to Toronto but didn't know about the Fling until it was already over. Ugh, it will be years before it comes this close again! Was thinking of you and the Fling when I got my Lee Valley catalogue in the mail a few days ago ...

    1. I'm glad the horsetails are behaving in your garden! I thought they were so unusual and pretty when we encountered them on the island.

      I received the Lee Valley catalogue too - I've been eyeing a few things there including an ash can for our fireplace but they are already sold out - drats! I'll have to be more on the ball next year and start looking out for it in June!


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