Friday, August 28, 2015

A love letter to our Toronto Fling 2015 sponsors

Just some of the samples our wonderful sponsors provided for Toronto Fling attendees!
Photo from The Botanical Journey blog.
Dear sponsors of the Toronto Fling,

Whether you provided cash sponsorship to help us defray costs, sent samples for our garden bloggers to try, or underwrote an event or a meal, as a sponsor of the Garden Bloggers Fling you made it all so much more possible. We literally could not have done it without you.

In 2015, the organizers and attendee bloggers of the Toronto Fling were hugely grateful for your generous support – as new and repeat Friends of the Fling from both Canada and the United States. 


BLOOM LEVEL:
Sponsorship $1,000+
http://www.leevalley.com/en/Garden/Index.aspx

Our bloggers were over the moon that Lee Valley Tools was our Opening Night Event sponsor. Not only did Lee Valley provide the creative food and beverages for our evening – they held the party in the Lee Valley King Street store! Even non-blogging spouses were thrilled to be able to browse through the garden and woodworking tools and just general neat stuff.

What's more, Lee Valley provided each blogger attending with a $50 gift certificate to shop with (and our visit coincided with a free shipping offer, great for long-distance and U.S. guests). And if that weren't enough, we each went home with a big shopping bag full of wonderful Lee Valley-branded merchandise, including three beautiful hand tools (like this one), a stainless steel mug, the best folding cap ever, and the hoodie you can see in the pic at the top. A very big thank-you from us all.

About Lee Valley Tools: Lee Valley is a family-owned business that has been serving users of woodworking and gardening tools since 1978.

http://torontobotanicalgarden.ca
The Toronto Botanical Garden was our very first sponsor and our very last stop on the official Toronto Fling – as the site of our final dinner. Their support went far beyond the waiving of fees for the space, tables and chairs, and tableware, which significantly unburdened our budget. Throughout Fling the planning process, the TBG went out of their way to guide us and make our Fling special.

They helped us find our caterer (thanks, L'Eat, you were wonderful – people still talk about the gourmet poutine). They organized musicians to play over cocktails. They brought in Betsey Price & Omar Hamouda of P & H Farms, regular vendors at the TBG Thursday organic farmers' market, who treated us to a tasty tasting. And who could forget the great presentation on container planting from the always informative, ever entertaining Paul Zammit. Moreover, they gave each of us this handy shoulder bag. We love you, TBG.

About the TBG: The Toronto Botanical Garden offers an array of 17 award-winning themed gardens spanning nearly four acres, designed to educate and inspire. 

https://coronatoolsusa.com
Corona Tools has been a five-times sponsor of the Garden Bloggers Fling, for which we send thundering applause. This year, we were delighted to receive from Corona a cash donation towards costs, as well as a Corona ComfortGel Trowel and a ComfortGel Hoe & Cultivator for each of our bloggers. That box filled my entire front porch when it arrived! In addition, Corona donated a $150 gift certificate that one very happy blogger received in our draw. Corona Tools, you are a true Friend of the Fling. Thank you!

About Corona Tools: Founded in the early 1920s, Corona, Inc. is a leader in the marketing and manufacturing of professional and consumer tools for the lawn and garden, landscape, irrigation, construction and agriculture markets.
http://www.gardeners.com
Gardener's Supply is another Fling sponsorship alumnus, and although Canadians aren't really their market, we were extremely happy that they agreed to come back to support the first Garden Bloggers Fling outside the U.S. The company provided both generous cash sponsorship and $250 in gift cards for our draw. The lucky winner felt herself to be very lucky indeed. From the Canadian Fling, merci!

About Gardener's Supply: Gardener’s Supply has long been a socially responsible business, which we've expressed by supporting employee volunteerism, sourcing sustainable products and donating 8 percent of our profits back to the community.


BUD LEVEL
Sponsorship $750-$999

https://www.rbg.ca

We approached the Royal Botanical Gardens early in our planning, and they were very receptive to welcoming our bloggers to the Laking Garden, as our first destination on our optional extra day in Niagara. Because of our early start, the RBG sponsored our breakfast on the bus, complete with some direly needed caffeine coffee, allowing us to spend as much time as possible looking at plants. We also want to thank the RBG for planting so many informative staff in the garden, just for our Flingers. (While we're at it, let's credit them with stopping the rain in time for us to enjoy the irises.) Thanks!

About the RBG: Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) is the largest botanical garden in Canada, a National Historic Site, and registered charitable organization with a mandate to bring together people, plants and nature.

http://bloomsofbressinghamplants.com

Three-times returning sponsor Blooms of Bressingham has traditionally provided plants as part of their sponsorship. This year, however, as the Fling was in Canada and most of our attendees were from the U.S., it was logistically impossible to move plants across borders. We were very grateful that they remained a loyal supporter with a cash donation. We also love one of their most famous introductions, the 'Rozanne' geranium – which is already in many of our gardens.

About Blooms of Bressingham: Blooms of Bressingham was founded by father and son Alan and Adrian Bloom, prolific English plantsmen who have been responsible for introducing over 200 perennial cultivars over the company’s 100 year history. 

http://www.rainwand.com

The Toronto Fling also welcomed back Dramm as three-times returning sponsor. Like all cash sponsors, their donation helped defray costs such as buses and meals – allowing us to keep registration fees low and make the Fling accessible to more garden bloggers. We were also happy to receive Dramm watering products for draw prizes, including this Revolution Spray Nozzle (which I lusted for the moment it arrived – I have a similar Dramm hand sprayer with fewer spray options, and just love their one-touch thumb control). Lust and love. You can't get much better than that.

About Dramm: Dramm Corporation has been a leader in watering tools and accessories for over 70 years. It all started with a man named John G. Dramm and his invention that revolutionized the way greenhouses; nurseries and gardeners water their plants.

ROOT LEVEL
Sponsorship $500-$749

http://www.gardendesign.com

Garden Design magazine is a second-time Fling sponsor and contributed in a number of ways. They gave us a cash donation, they provided free issues of their amazing magazine for all our bloggers, as well as for garden owners and other helpers. And they included a special offer for first-time subscribers in each copy of their magazine. Both beautiful and practical, Garden Design is a great read for garden inspiration. Last but not least, the magazine publisher Jim Peterson came on the Fling as a paid attendee. We love you many times over, Jim and Garden Design!

About Garden Design: "The new Garden Design magazine is so highly, gloriously visual that it’s almost fragrant. Its 132 pages join horticulture with the human-made, crisscrossing the U.S. for backyard glamour and expert advice, species spotlights and design tips."

https://www.provenwinners.com

When it comes to garden plants, there are few recognized brand names – but one of them is Proven Winners. As another five-times sponsor, Proven Winners is also a celebrated Friend of the Fling. Not only did they provide cash support, they make a little video of 2016 plant introductions, just for us, including 'Holy Moly' calibrachoa, which is proving to be a tough customer under the toughest conditions when tested it in my garden this year. (Not in the video, but another tough guy in Helen-proof testing has been their 'Endless Illumination' browallia – can you tell I'm a shade gardener?) Thank you, Proven Winners, for your support – and for these proven winners.

About Proven Winners: Proven Winners searches the world to find and select plants which are clearly superior to others of their type in our trials in Michigan, New Hampshire, California, Germany, Japan, and Florida.


SEED LEVEL
Sponsorship $200-$499

http://www.whiteclovergardening.com/tool-bag-1.html

It isn't only the big guys who reach out to support the Fling. An early sponsor has been the small Canadian company of garden pros Barbara and Maritta, White Clover Gardening. For their own use, they created a hardy garden bag for long tools (I reviewed it here), and offered four draw samples for our garden bloggers to try. That's big support from a little company, for which we send huge thanks!

About the White Clover Gardening Tool Bag: Custom designed to fit long-handled tools. This is truly a Canadian product! Heavy duty, outdoor grade canvas milled in Quebec, entirely manufactured in eastern Ontario and screened in Toronto. You can't get any more Canadian than that.

http://bonnieplants.com

A big box of high-quality rain gauges arrived from Bonnie Plants, with one for every blogger – and extras to share with our Fling garden homeowners. We're already finding them useful. Thank you!

About Bonnie Plants: A national plant wholesaler based in Alabama, Bonnie Plants supplies retail stores all over the United States. You may recognize us by our green hat logo and our biodegradable pots. If you’re a Bonnie gardener, you know us for our quality plants—the best vegetable, herb, and flower plants available.


SWAG & PRIZE SPONSORS

Further thanks go out to all the companies who provided gifts for our gardeners or financial support for the Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling. Check out the links to see what they're all about!

Acti-Sol – For Sprinkle-On Organic Fertilizer for annual flowers*
All-America Selections – For a selection of AAS Winners seeds*
Botanical Interests – For Botanical Interests seed kits*
Botanical Paperworks – For herb garden seed bombs*
Toronto CityPass – For Toronto CityPass passes for our teaser draw
Clif Bar – For those addictive gluten-free organic trail mix bars*
CobraHead – For a classic and a long-handled CobraHead for our draw
Colorblends – For 100 complimentary bulbs for each of our U.S. bloggers to order
Cool Springs Press – For a selection of Cool Springs book titles**
David Austin Roses – For a prize of five David Austin roses for our draw
DK Publishing – For a selection of DK book titles**
Fairmont Royal York Hotel – For beverages and hors d'oeuvres for the Wild for Bees Buzztini event*
Fernlea Flowers – For 'Rio' Dipladenias for our Canadian bloggers, and 'Rio' swag for everyone
Fiskars – For a selection of Fiskars PowerGear pruning tools for our draw
Garden Making Magazine – For a selection of Garden Making back titles*
Garden Media Group – For BrazelBerry cleaning cloths*
Gardener's Dream – For sample packs of Gardener's Dream creams*
Kneepads.com – For large TommyCo kneelers*
Loblaws – For the oversized Loblaws shopping bags for our swag bags*
Parkwood Estate and Jubilee Group – For our lunch and beverages at Parkwood Estate*
Raincoast Books – For a selection of Raincoast book titles**
Reif Estate Winery – For complimentary Reif wines at the tasting on our optional Niagara day*
Sheridan Nurseries – For Sheridan Garden Guides and bags for our thankyou gifts*
St. Lynn's Press – For a selection of St. Lynn's Press book titles**
Stokes Seeds – For Stokes nasturtium seeds*
Thermacell – For a Thermacell mosquito repellant appliance and lantern for our draw
Thomas Allen – For a selection of Thomas Allen book titles**
Tradewinds International – For dahlia tubers for our Canadian bloggers*

* Sponsors supplied samples for each of our bloggers, and any extras were donated with thanks to Fling open garden owners or other Fling partners
** Books from different publishers were combined so that each blogger received comparable value






Thursday, August 20, 2015

Save the date: Garden Bloggers Fling is heading to Minneapolis!


Minneapolis

On behalf of the Minneapolis Garden Blogger's Fling planning committee, I would like to formally announce that the dates for the 2016 Fling are July 14-17, 2016! We can't wait!

In Minnesota we're lucky to have no only one, but TWO beautiful cities - Minneapolis and St. Paul, also known as the Twin Cities. The Twin Cities are close neighbors; it’s only about a 15 minute drive between the two downtowns. Even though we’re hosting the fling in Minneapolis, we'll be visiting gardens in both cities. In addition to seeing a variety of urban gardens, we'll be exploring some amazing suburban gardens too.

St. Paul
As much as we’d like to guarantee to have perfect weather when you come, we can never plan anything around the weather in Minnesota (to give you an example: on Saturday it was almost 100F... and when I got up this morning, it was only 50! Haha!). But don't worry, we'll let you know as the time gets closer what the weather forecast is predicting. In the mean time, think cool-weather thoughts.

We're busy planning away and putting together a list of gardens we think you'll love! So, save the date and we hope to see you in Minneapolis in July!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Here's what you wrote about #GBFling15

Our official Fling 2015 group shot from Ward's Island, Toronto
The Toronto Fling has flung, and everyone who came seems to have had a Flingtastic time! That's gratifying for us on the organizing committee, and we thank you all so much for coming.

Here are links to our bloggers' posts about their experiences in Toronto. Much more was written on Twitter or Instagram (look for the #GBFling15 hashtag – although hashtags don't live forever) and on the Garden Bloggers Fling Facebook group page.

Here are a few of the nice things you've said:
"Absolutely LOVED the fling this year! Thank you everyone for making me feel welcome even though I'm a plant newbie!" (Brandon, Colorado)
"Thank you Helen, Sarah, Lorraine, and Veronica for sharing your incredible city! As a first time flinger I was blown away by the magnitude of this event. Your countless hours of planning that took place behind the scenes made for a flawless fling. Every stop was a new adventure and gave a real taste of the diversity of gardeners there are in the Toronto area. It was such a treat to meet all my blogger friends, those I've known for years on-line and others for the first time. Y'all are amazing! And a special thank you to Janet for being my fling mentor and taking me under your wing." (Janet, Georgia)

Toronto's famous skyline
Your Fling/Toronto overviews:

#GBFling15 on CityGardening's Flipboard, Ontario  (Flipboard login required)

Garden Bloggers' Fling 2015, Cooking in Someone Else's Kitchen, Ontario


Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling – What is a garden?, The Arch City Gardener, Missouri

Flinging in Toronto, Homegrown - Adventures in my Garden, Ontario


Everything Looks Good Next to a Blue Hosta, Notes from NorthernGardener magazine online, Minnesota

Ten Takeaways from the Garden Bloggers' Fling, PlantPostings, Wisconsin

2015 Garden Bloggers' Fling, Toronto, Garden337, Michigan

We're Flinging in Toronto, Garden Rant (Elizabeth Licata, New York)

Garden Bloggers Fling 2015: Highlights, Southern Wild, South Carolina

Toronto Skyline, Garden Bloggers Fling 2015, GardenWalkGardenTalk, New York

Your June garden needs more alliums, Toronto Gardens, Ontario

Toronto, The Botanical Journey, Texas

The Fine Craft of Garden Art, Into the Southern Wild, South Carolina

Fling experience, Toronto style, The Queen of Seaford, South Carolina

The New Perennialist: A moment in the sun, The New Perennialist, Ontario

The Local Gardening Show I Covet: Central Texas Gardener, Garden Rant (Susan Harris, Washington, D.C.)

The Heart of the Matter, Casa Mariposa, Virginia 

Toronto Music Garden: A remarkable garden experience, Natural Gardening, North Carolina 

Wildlife Wednesday, Rebecca's Retreat, Texas

Allan Gardens Conservatory, The Danger Garden, Oregon

Clever Ideas, Central Texas Gardener, Texas


Thursday, June 4

Our opening night at Lee Valley Tools

A Texan post from the Garden Bloggers Fling Facebook group:
"Dear Lee Valley Tools,
Our generous opening night sponsor, Lee Valley Tools on King Street West
I am in love with your website! I have had a thing about tools ever since my Grandfather (gruff scary man) let me play with all his carpentry tools and helped me build a boat when I was six. I have been looking for a good source of useful tools and other practical things forever. I found you even have great shorts with tons of pockets that my husband will love. I am going to live dangerously and sign up for your email updates! The tools you gave us at the Garden Bloggers Fling are going to be used by our crew...I can see us needing more. Now how to spend my gift certificate.....
Sincerely,

Laurin of Ravenscourt

P.S. Flingers....pass the word about this very cool company!" 
Lee Valley Rocks!, The Danger Garden, Oregon

Opening Night in Toronto with Lee Valley Tools, Garden Bloggers Fling Blog

Garden Bloggers Fling Welcome Evening, Homegrown Adventures in my Garden, Ontario

Six Days in Toronto, The Danger Garden, Oregon

2015 Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling, Two Girls with a Purpose, Ohio


Friday, June 5 

Hillside garden in Swansea
My Luscious Backyard, Site and Insight, Quebec

Farmer Florist – My Luscious Backyard, The Garden Diaries, Maryland

Plant Profile: Ninebark, Notes from NorthernGardener magazine online, Minnesota

Floral design demo with urban farmer Sarah Nixon: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling, Digging, Texas

Kicking off American Flowers Week with a visit to My Luscious Backyard, Danger Garden, Oregon  

Knock Knock, Your Weekly Flowers Have Arrived, Arch City Gardener, Missouri

In Defense of Natives, Yard Fanatic, Texas

Swanning around Swansea, My Corner of Katy, Texas

Heavenly Hillside Gardens on Garden Bloggers Fling Toronto, Sharing Nature's Garden, Texas

Hillside Swansea gardens: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling, Digging, Texas

Pondside Gardens of Eden in Toronto, Garden in a City, Illinois

Sculptured Steel on a Sculpted Hillside, The Paintbox Garden, Ontario

Artful garden mixes blooms and mixed media fine art, Sharing Nature's Garden, Texas

Visiting the Swansea neighborhood gardens, Danger Garden, Oregon

Terraced in Toronto, GardenWalkGardenTalk, New York


The leafy lanes of Algonquin Island
Small Gardens with Big Impact: Toronto Islands and Cabbagetown, Yard Fanatic, Texas

Fling preview: The Gardens of Toronto Islands, Garden Bloggers Fling Blog

The Gardens of Ward and Algonquin Islands, #GBFling15, Ravenscourt Gardens, Texas

Ward Island Gardens, Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling 2015, GardenWalkGardenTalk, New York

Ward Island and the post-apocalypse, Gardening With Confidence, North Carolina

The gardens of Toronto Islands, Garden Rant (Susan Harris, Washington D.C.)

The Toronto Island Gardens, Danger Garden, Oregon

Island hopping, Toronto-style: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling, Digging, Texas

Garden is But-A-Dream on Algonquin Island: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling, Digging, Texas

That certain "je ne sais quoi", Danger Garden, Oregon

Storybook Garden on Algonquin Island: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling, Digging, Texas

Just Offshore from Downtown Toronto, Verdant Islands with Personality to Spare, Garden in a City, Illinois  

Algonquin Island Gardens, Part I, Garden in a City, Illinois

A Serene and Verdant Garden on the Toronto Islands, Garden in a City, Illinois


Forest Hill private garden
Saturday, June 6

Fling preview: Two Forest Hill Gardens, Garden Bloggers Fling Blog

An Urbane Urban Garden, Art of Gardening Buffalo, NY

The garden with the cool chairs (and urns), Danger Garden, Oregon 

Simple lines, big impact in Forest Hill contemporary garden: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling, Digging, Texas

Design tip: Repeat distinctive shapes, Southern Wild, South Carolina 

Ideas for cabbage-sized patios, Central Texas Gardener, Texas

Garden Blogging and Flinging in 2015, Garden Rant (Susan Harris, Washington, D.C.)

Gardening with Brush Strokes, the Marion Jarvie Garden in Toronto, Yard Fanatic, Texas 

A Collector's Garden, GardenWalkGardenTalk, New York 

Nature Rewards the Bold, Garden Rant (Elizabeth Licata, New York)

Golden Brocade Garden of Marion Jarvie: Garden Bloggers Fling Toronto, Digging, Texas 

Marion Jarvie's garden, The Danger Garden, Oregon

The Parkwood Estate, Danger Garden, Oregon

Peony Time from My Northern Garden, Minnesota

Toronto Flingers, meet You Grow Girl, Garden Bloggers Fling Blog 

Do Bloggers Want to Be Popular, GardenWalkGardenTalk, New York


Sunday, June 7

Small Gardens with Big Impact: Toronto Islands and Cabbagetown, Yard Fanatic, Texas

Cabbagetown garden art and Hugh Garner Co-Op Green Roof: Garden Bloggers Fling Toronto, Digging, Texas

Visiting a few gardens in Cabbagetown, Danger Garden, Oregon

Ideas for cabbage-sized patios, Central Texas Gardener, Texas

A City Within a Park, Open Gardens Niagara, Ontario
 
Cabbagetown private garden
Rooftop Ideas for Grounded Gardeners, Central Texas Gardener, Texas

A Luminous Sculpture of the Don Watershed, Natural Gardening, North Carolina

Evergreen Brick Works community greenspace: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling, Digging, Texas 

Evergreen Brick Works, The Botanical Journey, Texas

Evergreen Brick Works, The Danger Garden, Oregon

The Aga Khan Museum and Garden, Open Gardens Niagara, Ontario

Wildlife garden with an artful touch, Digging, Texas

Sedums at Toronto Botanical Garden, Natural Gardening, North Carolina

Beginning at the End, Three Dogs in a Garden, Ontario

TBG Hosts Garden Bloggers, Toronto Botanical Garden Blog

Toronto Botanical Garden, Garden Bloggers Fling 2015, GardenWalkGardenTalk, New York

Paul Zammit, Toronto Planter Powerhouse, The Paintbox Garden, Ontario

Fling wrap-up at Toronto Botanical Garden: Garden Bloggers Fling Toronto, Digging, Texas  

Remembering Toronto Botanical Garden, Plant Postings, Wisconsin

Scintillating Salvias, Hortitopia, South Carolina 

The Toronto Botanical Garden terrace

Niagara-on-the-Lake private garden
Monday, June 8 (our optional Niagara day)

Niagara preview: Irises galore at the RBG Laking Garden, Garden Bloggers Fling Blog

Things in Unusual Places #15: Turtles, Veg Plotting, UK 

What's in a name? Southern Wild, South Carolina

Fling preview: Shaw Festival gardens Niagara-on-the-Lake, Garden Bloggers Fling Blog


Some lovely bling from Bloggers Fling 15 from Barbara's Garden Chronicles, Ontario

A prairie garden in Niagara, The Paintbox Garden, Ontario

A Niagara garden tour in three acts, The Paintbox Garden, Ontario


Tuesday, June 9 (our unofficial sidetrip to Wild Flower Farm)

Miriam Goldberger's Wildflower Farm, Tales from Awkward Hill, UK

A visit to Wildflower Farm, Toronto Gardens, Ontario

Monday, May 25, 2015

Where to eat at the Toronto Fling

A walk along Front Street makes dining spots easy to find.
Toronto has no shortage of good restaurants. If you like to eat, no matter what you like to eat, you'll find it here. Every ethnicity, meaty or meatless, raw or cooked to perfection. You name it.

You can use an app like Urban Spoon or Yelp or the search features on the Toronto Life magazine or Now Magazine websites. Part of the search will be choosing a "neighbourhood" – FYI, you're in the Financial District at the Royal York. Other easy-to-get-to nabes downtown will include:

The Distillery Historic District – an interesting walk or short cab ride east of the hotel
King West – we'll walk or ride the streetcar past this, a little north and west of the hotel
Harbourfront – along the lake at the foot of Bay and York Streets; includes waterfront patios

Just a tad further north, never far from a subway stop, are:

Greektown – almost in my neighbourhood, along Danforth Ave. between Broadview and Pape
Yorkville – the "see and be seen" village just north of Bloor between Avenue Road and Bay Streets

But if you want to make dinnertime easy, simply walk east along Front Street, turning left at the Royal York's front door. You'll find three large, well reviewed restaurants five minutes away in the block at Yonge and Front, all with large patios – or head further east for more options.

Breakfast is another thing that Toronto does well. 

Here are some of your choices (besides room service, which for me is always a temptation – nothing beats breakfast in bed!). The Hotel's own breakfast place is York's Café, which opens at 6:30 am:

On the west side of the hotel:

The Royal York's awnings in the background.
Timmie's is close!
Tim Hortons, an American-owned Canadian tradition, Timmie's is cheap and cheerful and about a minute's walk north of the hotel's west exit. Get breakfast sandwiches, yogurt, bagels and donuts for just a few dollars "to go." A Canadian coffee with two creams and two sugars is a "double-double." This is coffee for people who don't like Starbucks. I find their tea "bag in" vs "steeped" (that's hot tea, to our American friends) to be quite drinkable. Tim's opens at 7 am.

York Street Café, just across York Street at the Strathcona Hotel, has both a breakfast buffet and à la carte menu. Opens 6:30 am weekdays; 7 am on weekends.

East of the hotel:

Marché in Brookfield Place
Marché, in the Brookfield Place atrium – which is a cool piece of urban architecture – accessible via the entrance just this side of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Self serve; lots of options. Opens at 7:30 am.

Over Easy at the Hotel Victoria on Yonge Street, a few doors up from Front Street. Opens at 7 am
Big brekkies are a block away at Fran's

Fran's, a modern outlet of a classic, big breakfast Toronto diner (check out one of the originals on College St. west of Yonge sometime), is just a block east of Yonge on Front Street. Opens at 6:30 am.




Remember our early-morning walk to St. Lawrence Market for breakfast on Saturday. Meet me in the lobby, ready to leave at 6:45 am – it's a 15-minute walk. Bring cash to make your life easy. Let me know if you're coming! Here are just some of the options there – pictures = 1,000 words.





All raw, all vegan!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Toronto Fling: What to do besides Flinging?

The Royal Ontario Museum (picture via Virtual Tourist)
It's easy to find things to do in Toronto to supplement Fling activities – or occupy yourself while significant others look at gardens. And I've made it even easier with this link-laden post. What we lack in images, we make up for in online connectivity. Explore away!

Museums and Attractions:

The Bata Shoe Museum is pretty cool
If you're staying at the Royal York Hotel, you can walk almost everywhere. Two of the closest attractions are the Hockey Hall of Fame or the new-just-last-year Ripley's Aquarium of Canada. It's best to pre-purchase aquarium tickets online. Another one-of-a-kind destination nearby is the Museum of Inuit Art near the lake on Queen's Quay (pronounced "key").

The terrifyingly brave might try EdgeWalk at the iconic CN Tower (note, it's CN or Canadian National, not CNN), also walkable from the Hotel. EdgeWalk makes my hands sweat just thinking about it. Toronto Tourism calls it one of the city's must-see attractions. But you don't have to go outside to find the tower view impressive. On a clear day, you can see the plume from Niagara Falls. The revolving restaurant isn't cheap, but the food isn't bad. If you go to dine, do it near sunset.

You could also walk to our Frank Gehry-designed Art Gallery of Ontario on Dundas Street. The Emily Carr exhibit is among the shows running when you're here. Around the corner on McCaul is one of Toronto's controversial love-or-hate bits of architecture, The Sharp Centre for Design, main building for the art school OCAD University. I'm a lover. Let's see how you feel.

A view of the CN Tower from underneath
OCAD U's Sharp Centre for Design 
On your way, you might catch Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol at the Textile Museum of Canada – on Dundas Street, just north of our photogenic Toronto City Hall.

A little further north, along "Fashionable Bloor Street," and nudging elbows with the likes of Gucci and Chanel, is The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). You'll be in time to catch a number of exhibitions – and, if you're here after June 13th, there's the Pompeii show. You can decide whether you're a "lover" or "hater" of the crystal addition to the architecture. Guess which camp I'm in.

Across University Avenue from the ROM is The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art. A few blocks west on Bloor, find the small but fascinating Bata Shoe Museum. Their first 20th Anniversary show is on men in heels. Other shows are ongoing, and their permanent collection is unique.

Other museums downtown include photography at the Ryerson Image Centre, the new visitor centre at Fort York National Historic Site, and Toronto's "castle" Casa Loma with Spadina House just next door. To reach the last two, get off at my favourite subway stop, Dupont.

If you don't mind going a bit further afield to see things "blowed up good" the Mythbusters show is on at the Ontario Science Centre. Get there via transit (aka the TTC, Toronto Transit Commission). In that general nabe is the Aga Khan Museum which we'll also visit on our Fling.

Performing Arts:

Titanic, the Musical – the Tony-award-winning musical – will be playing at the Princess of Wales Theatre on King Street, not far from our hotel. It stars Canadian tenor superstar, Ben Heppner.

Roy Thomson Hall and Toronto's ubiquitous
CN Tower
A short jaunt south from the hotel, the Air Canada Centre hosts Ed Sheeran on June 6th. The rest of the June calendar includes Rush (June 17 & 19) and Bette Midler (June 20).

Roy Thomson Hall, the concert hall of the Toronto Symphony, has a variety of performances that might appeal to you. If you'll be here as early as June 3rd, extreme climber Will Gadd, National Geographic Explorer of the Year, talks about his climb of a frozen Niagara Falls.

During your visit, The National Ballet of Canada will be performing Sleeping Beauty, one of their gems, at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. If you're here by lunchtime, Wednesday, June 3rd, you might be able to enjoy a free lunchtime music concert at the Four Seasons Centre, also the home of the Canadian Opera Company (though opera season is over for the summer).

Waterfront:

Toronto is situated on the vast freshwater sea known as Lake Ontario, and the waterfront makes an interesting stroll from one end of the city to the other. You can rent a bike and explore along the Martin Goodman Trail which runs close to the waterfront through city and countrified paved trails.

One stop might be the cool park known as Sugar Beach, right up against the docklands.

Sugar Beach, with a freighter ship backdrop
About a 10-minute walk from the hotel is Harbourfront Centre with maker spaces (such as glass blowing), the Power Plant art gallery, and just general cool walking around.

You can take a harbour tour or even rent a boat and sail yourself.

Neighbourhoods:

Really, there are way too many to cover here. But here are a few close to the centre of town.

A must-see is the Distillery Historic District – a converted Gooderham and Worts distillery often used as a movie set. Wednesday nights are music nights from 6 pm. Two micro-breweries (one for beer, one for saki) and an excellent performing arts theatre are among the many attractions.

King Street West – and we'll walk along this on our way to opening night at Lee Valley – is heart of the entertainment district, with a restaurant row of places to eat. Roy Thomson Hall (see above) is here, as is the Princess of Wales Theatre. The Bell Light Box is home base for the Toronto Film Festival (come back in September for that!).

Queen Street East and West. Ride the streetcar from one side of the city to the other (get a TTC transit day pass; or if you'll regularly use transit for more than 4 days, the weekly pass might be the best deal for hop-on-hop-off travel). The east end is the city's Beach neighbourhood – my neck of the woods. Once waaaaaaaay out in the country, now absorbed into the fabric of the city. The west side takes you into more Bohemian Toronto. East of Spadina has been taken over by big-brand names, but still has a bit of its old roots. The street gets edgier as you head west.

Sports:

Wanna see a Blue Jays game (that's baseball, for the uninitiated), they'll be at the Rogers Centre, formerly known as the SkyDome, during Fling.

Shop Till You Drop:


Just so you don't think we're all about angular, pointy
 buildings, here's the Heliconian Club in Yorkville
Being a writer, I have to put in a plug first for the new gift shop at the Toronto Reference Library at Yonge and Bloor. It isn't the only reason to visit the Library – another is the Library's Arthur Conan Doyle Collection.

The Toronto Eaton Centre. Eaton's is no more (Simpson's and Eaton's, both gone now, were Canada's Macy's and Gimble's), but the huge shopping galleria that still bears its name is a few blocks north of the hotel. Speaking of Saks (or I will be in a few sentences), the Hudson's Bay Company, just south of the galleria, will be Toronto's new Saks location, but check it out now for a Hudson's Bay blanket or souvenirs.

Bloor-Yorkville, with the haute-est names in fashion, galleries, restaurants, and stuff. Holt-Renfrew is our version of Saks or Bloomingdale's. Yorkville is a cool neighbourhood to stroll around.

And that's just a taste. Stay tuned, gardeners, for another post on gardens we just weren't able to squeeze into the Fling. I'll also fill you in on how to fill up on good things to eat!

Rent a bike and take the Martin Goodman Trail eastbound
to get this view of the skyline from Tommy Thompson Park

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Toronto Fling Itinerary – A first look

A view of Grenadier Pond is just one of the delights in our Swansea gardens.
While there's still a detail to iron out here and there, we're excited that we can now share the broad strokes of what you'll see and do at the Garden Bloggers Fling 2015 in Toronto. If you haven't signed up, and this whets your appetite, we still have a few places left. Email me!

Don't sweat the actual times yet – you'll get a detailed itinerary with your registration package.

OUR WELCOME EVENT (Thursday evening):

In case you've come late to the party and missed our post – Lee Valley Tools is hosting our welcome fest in a big way. You'll want to be there. Really, you will. Tip: Leave room in your suitcase and be ready to check your bag on your return flight.

DAY ONE (Friday):

Buses rotate between three west-end sites:

Luscious arrangement from My Luscious Backyard
The Parkdale garden of (and floral demo by) Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard – a real "slow flowers" story. See a news feature about Sarah's business here.

A look at site restoration at Toronto's High Park, with info on invasive species, especially in Toronto's native oak savannah habitat. High Park is Toronto's Central Park or Hyde Park.

We'll explore two (possibly three) neighbouring gardens in the Swansea district. Some overlook High Park's Grenadier Pond.

Buses take us to the ferry docks

Box lunch to eat on the Toronto Island Ferry to Ward's Island

Toronto Island cottages

Note: On the Island side, we'll stop at the docks for our Toronto Fling photo op with a skyline background! Wear your best smiles.

Then, a preview of the Toronto Island Garden Tour, with as many as ten cottage gardens to tour at your own pace. We'll give you a map and set you free.

Friday dinner on your own. If you're on the Island, you might try the Rectory Café or the Island Café for dinner. Both are a short walk from the Ward's Island ferry docks. No return ticket required.

Friday evening – hold this space for bzzzzzznzzz we are arranging with Burt's Bees. Details TBD.

DAY TWO (Saturday):

Earlybirds can begin the day by walking with Helen to St. Lawrence Market, our historic downtown farmer's market, for breakfast. The Canadian back bacon on a bun is a fave, but there are more gourmet options. The Market opens at 5 am on Saturdays – we don't have to be quite as early as that!

Marion Jarvie's garden
Walk back to the hotel, so the buses can take us to Forest Hill, where we'll tour two very different gardens, a few blocks apart. Check that link for teaser pics.

Then we head north to visit the garden of Marion Jarvie for our own private tour. Marion is plantswoman and true collector, and her half-acre space is filled with unusual species and specimens. With one of Marion's four Open Gardens having happened the weekend prior, the garden should be in top form.

Yes, we'll feed you lunch; details in the works.

Parkwood Estate and (we hope) peonies!
Next, get out your Downton Abbey millinery! We head out of town to visit Oshawa's Parkwood Estate, the historic stately home of R.S. McLaughlin, one of the parents of General Motors. Parkwood is planning some special things for us, but details will be a surprise.

From here, we're crossing our fingers for fine weather, because our next stop, a few minutes away, is the peony garden at the Oshawa Botanical Garden, with (with luck) 300+ species of peony gloriously in bloom.

Ellen Carr's garden in June 2013

Our last stop of the day is the Bluffs-area garden of Ellen Carr, president of the city's largest, poshest garden club, the Garden Club of Toronto. Our picture gives you a wee peek, including a corner of the thyme lawn.

Back to Toronto for dinner on your own

Saturday evening – our bloggers' chat with You Grow Girl Gayla Trail. Check the link for info, with exact time and place to come.

Have we exhausted you yet? Get ready for Sunday!

DAY THREE (Sunday):


View of the skyline from the Hugh Garner Rooftop Garden
We begin in Cabbagetown, which I wrote about just yesterday. In addition to the gardens we've told you about, we're hoping we'll have time to visit the Hugh Garner Rooftop Garden while we're there. It's a special place.

Then we head to the Evergreen Brick Works, a heritage industrial space that has been transformed into a nature preserve and education centre – as well as an organic farmer's market. Sarah wrote about it a few years ago.

Box lunch at the Brick Works

Aga Khan Museum grounds
Our first stop of the afternoon will be the brand new Aga Khan Museum – which was quite a coup for Toronto when it opened just last fall. It's shown in our photo shortly after opening. We'll break into three groups, and circulate between 20-minute tours, including the dramatic grounds and a look at the striking contemporary architecture.

Then we all head to the lovely certified wildlife habitat garden of Siri Luckow, not far away.

Toronto Botanical Garden
We close our day – and the official Toronto Fling – at the Toronto Botanical Garden for garden tours, cocktails, dinner and more!

Buses bring you back to the Fairmont Royal York, well fed and well fêted. If you need to go to the airport directly from the TBG, please let Helen know asapASAP.

And stay tuned, soonish, for our optional Niagara day itinerary.

P.S. Sarah is organizing a small,  unofficial excursion to Wild Flower Farm on Tuesday, June 9th. Let her know on the Fling Facebook page if you're interested.