Toronto Star column – published March 14, 2015
Canada Blooms: My Top 10 List
Right now Toronto is hosting the largest flower, garden, and home show on the continent. Canada Blooms and the National Home Show have come together for the 4th edition of the combined event and it opened yesterday at the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place.
Canada Blooms is celebrating their 19th anniversary: not bad for an idea that was hatched by Tony Digiovanni and Kathy Dembroski in 1994. At that time they created the festival by combining the resources of the industry trade association, Landscape Ontario, and the Garden Club of Toronto. Together they have made horticultural history. Canada Blooms is the event that all other public festivals of this kind aspire to become.
So it is with enthusiasm that I present my list of the top 10 features of Canada Blooms. I met with the executive director of Canada Blooms, Terry Caddo, and together we came up with the 10 best reasons for you to attend this year. Here they are:
1. New Hall Ambiance. When you walk down the alley of giant palms towards to feature garden area you will be greeted with state of the art lighting that highlights the unique designs of the gardens. Over a quarter of a million dollars has been invested in professionally designed lighting to produce the very best effect.
2. Toronto Flower Show. This is a show-within-a-show. While the entire area taken up by Canada Blooms is almost 6 acres, the Floral Hall is not to be missed. It includes one of the top floral competitions in the world. When 32 members from the Garden Club of Toronto attended the World Association of Floral Artists (WAFA) championships last year they were inspired to create the best floral competition we have ever seen in this city.
3. Fresh flowers. Smell them, photograph them and, perhaps most importantly, buy them! Pick Ontario has selected 10 of the best growers in Ontario to supply fresh cut flowers in their display. Meander through more than 2,700 square feet of space, pick up your favourites and be sure to bring a method of paying. Cash works.
4. Canada Blooms Promenade. As you enter the festival through the main doors on the south side of the building, look for an alley of 50 Majesty Palm (Ravenea rivularis) trees. Skip the trip to Florida and plan on staying at Canada Blooms for the week. Grand!
5. Landscape Ontario Otium Outdoor Exercise Garden. No, you don’t have to do exercises to enjoy this. Just sit and watch gorgeous, able-bodied amateur athletes demonstrate how you can use your outdoor space to get fit. Over 4,500 sq. ft. of space is devoted to showing how daily living can be incorporated into your outdoor living space. Note: Landscape Ontario always provides an inspiring feature garden experience.
6. Chaise Lounge Art. Don’t Sit Here! The top florists of Toronto are challenged to create works of floral art using chaise lounges which are featured in the entrance to the Floral Hall. I know, it is hard to picture. Bring your camera.
7. Kids. Gardening and kids is a theme of this year’s big event. Check out the Bienenstock feature garden, which returns to Canada Blooms again this year and is always a huge hit. Kids can get their hands and knees dirty, learn how to garden and they will plant their own vegetable seeds and flowers to take home. Give the kids an inspirational break this March Break and bring them along!
8. Listen and Learn. There are over 200 hours of lectures, demonstrations and (dare I say it) entertainment at Blooms. The program indicates that ‘Canada’s top gardening talent’ is featured. Seeing as I am on the list, it is not for me to say how ‘top’ they are, but I am pumped. The Celebrity Stage features some great talent, to be sure, including Albert Brulé – no one gets a crowd going like this guy! It is all about learning and having fun. Look for Niki Jabbour, Tara Nolan and, of course, Frankie Flowers!
9. Questions? We have answers. The Master gardeners are back to answer all of your gardening questions thoughtfully and accurately. Each of these volunteers has devoted hundreds of hours to learning the ropes of horticulture and they are more than happy to share their knowledge with you. Bring photos of your garden, yard, diseased plants, and your dying ash. While you may not like all of the answers that you get (like, “sorry, it’s dead”), think of this as a trip to the plant doctor. Check out the special classroom dedicated to the work of the Master Gardeners.
10. Feature Gardens. Oh my, it is hard to find the words to describe the gardens at this year’s edition of Blooms. There are over 20 creations that have incorporated the theme ‘Let’s Play’. The standard of creativity and execution is unsurpassed anywhere on the continent (which is why this is such a successful event!).
Every year exit surveys tell us that the #1 reason that people come to Canada Blooms is to see these gorgeous gardens. And why not? If you were to have them built in your own yard, you would need almost an acre (they take up about 36,000 sq ft) and it would cost you over eight million dollars.
Truth is, there is only one place that you can go for such a wide variety of garden experiences and this is it.
If you are thinking of creating a new landscape, having a patio or deck built in your yard, a hot tub or a garden pond, Canada Blooms is your best choice to see it all in one location.
Joe Genovese of Genoscape is back for his fourth season. He creates one of the most interesting display gardens each year. It features water, fish and a variety of water plants that will make you yearn for summer in your own yard. He understands how to produce great water features that are chemical free and beautiful.
Anna van Maris made a name for herself last year with the installation of a yurt. This year she has another surprise for you. I can’t tell you precisely what it is or it wouldn’t be a surprise (right?); however, I can tell you that she specializes in the innovative use of native plants, food plants and techniques borrowed from Native people in her work. Look for the Parklane feature garden.
There is always lots to shop for at Canada Blooms. I always pick up some unusual flowering bulbs at the festival, talk to the suppliers for growing tips and I look for unusual gardening gear (which can include most anything). Bring your charge card or some cash.
And speaking of shopping, remember that the National Home Show runs concurrently with Canada Blooms from the same building (the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place). The Home Show portion of the event features lots of buying opportunities for hot tubs, swimming pools, fences, decks and other outdoor home and garden features. So, don’t limit yourself to a stroll through the Blooms portion of the show! Your ticket for one event gets you into both of them.
When you are budgeting time to go, be sure to put enough time aside for unanticipated diversions. You will want to hear celebrity speakers, enjoy a meal, take some photos, talk to the experts and, no doubt, consider the options that you have to create a Shangri-la in your own yard or balcony.
Planning to attend a second or third day is not a bad idea.
For details go to www.canadablooms.com and www.nationalhomeshow.com