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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Toronto Fling Preview: The Gardens of Cabbagetown

Welcome to Cabbagetown
Toronto is sometimes called a city of neighbourhoods. On the Sunday morning of the Fling, we're delighted to be able to show off one of the prettiest, the Heritage Conservation District once known disparagingly, but now affectionately, as Cabbagetown.

Cabbagetown got its name because the hungry Irish workers who once lived here used their precious garden space to grow cabbages. (The link above takes you to more on its history.) Residents were too poor to tear down and modernize the lovely Victorian townhouses and cottages – and our age is the lucky beneficiary.

We're partnering with the Cabbagetown Preservation Association, who are giving us a pre-opening preview of their annual Hidden Gardens and Private Spaces of Cabbagetown garden tour on the day of the tour, June 7th. Tickets to this tour usually sell out quickly.

Walking one of the area's central blocks, we'll get a peep into five tiny gardens off Magic Lane (one of Toronto's many laneways), look at some charming front gardens along leafy streets, and enjoy private access to two Cabbagetown gardens – created by avid gardeners.

Cabbagetown gardens show what big impact can be created in a small space.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Opening Night in Toronto with Lee Valley Tools

Setting for our opening night at the Toronto Fling – the King Street store of Canada's own Lee Valley Tools
As Canadians, we are excited and proud to have Canada's own Lee Valley Tools as a major sponsor for the Garden Bloggers Fling 2015 in Toronto. I know you will be, too.

As a gardener, I find poring through the Lee Valley catalog an exercise in acquisitiveness – I want that and that and that and that! They have a knack for finding intriguing things, and the tools branded Lee Valley are invariably well made. A browse through the store, with it all on display, not only neat stuff for gardeners but mysterious paraphernalia for woodworkers, is like visiting the Olde Curiosity Shoppe. Fascinating.

Lee Valley Tools is our generous host – and Lee Valley's 590 King Street West store is the setting – for our welcome event, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, June 4th. It's an interesting, 25-minute walk or a short street-car ride from our hotel. Getting-there details will follow in our itinerary soon.

Here's the official Lee Valley Welcomes the Toronto Fling invitation from Lee Valley itself:
Mingle with fellow garden bloggers and meet Lee Valley’s gardening experts while enjoying delicious refreshments and hors d’eouvres. Enter for chances to win throughout the evening. Plus, get to know the Canadian-owned and operated retailer that has earned a reputation for manufacturing and selling high-quality, hard-to-find gardening, woodworking and hardware products for over 35 years. Lee Valley’s products are available globally online and in stores across Canada. @LeeValleyTools #LeeValley #GBFling2015
And here's what they're not saying, but is important for you to know: Leave room in your suitcase! You will NOT go home empty handed.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Toronto Fling Headgear Challenge

Vicki's banana slug and ferns won the first unofficial Fling Fascinator challenge in Seattle hands down.
Blame me (that's Helen) by way of Kate Middleton for the first time a fascinator appeared at a Fling. I threw out the gauntlet, which a brave few took up – and, lo, it was fun. For everyone.

Things stayed quiet for a while. Then, last year, the Portlanders surprised us (AKA showed us all up) with their Fabulous Floral Fling Fascinators. Yes, that's the technical term. Even meadow man John Greenlee got into the grass-hatted act, proving that fascinatoration is not just a girl thing. And now someone has asked if we're doing something for Toronto – so they won't be shown up again.

So, yes, Andrea: Here's your challenge for Toronto in 2015! Inspired by the early 20th-century heritage of two of our Fling spots – our hotel the Fairmont Royal York and historic Parkwood Estate (more on this later) – we're letting Downton Abbey go to our heads! Bring on the fancy headgear.

To show that a hat can amaze, cross borders and pack well, too, have a look at this link. Cool, eh?

Vanessa went Allium-allium-oop! in Portland.
Ann was a walking garden in Portland, too.
Kate was great in living crown and matching jewels.
Even Helen's lazy, last-minute dollar-store do (left) had that "just do it, anyone can" attitude. 
And sometimes, as in Asheville, a hat just becomes an unofficial Fling thing.
Participation is optional, but anything goes. So, hey, will you play?