In This Issue: British Flower Show Not Just Any Potato Our Own Celebration Product of the Month New Book Rusty-Patched Bumblebee ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A New Day Dawning As I write to you this fine morning it is plus 10 degrees C and a little bit cloudy. I am in London, UK, not where the snow flies free as a bird and worms are still frozen a meter deep in Mother Earth. Alas, I am finally here to bring you an early spring. Damn the ground hog and his shadow, there is hope out there and I am over here pocketing my share of it. Just for the record the 300,000 daffodils in Hyde Park are up and pushing colour,still a couple of weeks from their peak. The jonquils or 'dwarf narcissus' are in full colour as are the primula, English daisies and hellebores. Not that there are a lot of them, but there are enough to remind me that there is life lurking there, under the frozen ground back home. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ British Flower Show I attended the annual Royal Horticultural Society's Flower Show at the grand "Floral Hall" yesterday with my 'gardening daughter' Heather. It doesn't matter if you love gardens or not, attending this event is a cultural experience, above all. The Brits, as you know, have been eating, drinking and living 'gardening' for over 400 years. They are soaked in it. Their late winter is a celebration of what is to come each season and I can tell you that they come out in droves to an event like this to catch a slice of the great gardening season ahead. They are nothing, if not enthusiastic. There is, for instance, a sell out crowd for a lecture entitled 'The Secret Life of the Potato'. Go figure. The theme of the entire show, which is squeezed into two large halls in the heart of London, is 'Potatoes'. They have made 'potato arrangements' which are like flower arrangements only with tubers. There is potato painting and Mr. Potato contests. There is a display of over 150 varieties of them, offered by variety in half-bushels and available for sale for 40 cents Canadian per potato. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Not Just Any Potato Call me crazy but I bought a couple dozen potatoes to bring home. Potatoes to Canada: coals to Newcastle. No one ever accused me of being completely sane.
I can hardly wait for the customs people to pull me over for questioning. "Are these potatoes that you are bringing in?" "Um, yes officer. English potatoes." "And we don't have enough potatoes in Canada?" "Well, not THESE kinds of potatoes. I have British Queen and Arron Victory here, the latter so named as it was developed the year that the Second World War ended." Would any customs officer really care? I am about to test that one. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Our Own Celebration My annual trip back to the UK is a timely reminder that we have our own celebration
of the season before us: Canada Blooms. Truth is, this is the one occasion when we actually out-gun the Brits [until the BIG show at Chelsea in May] in terms of numbers of attendees [over 200,000 last year], space devoted to 'feature gardens' [4 acres], numbers of plants on display over 10,000] and showcase of professional garden design [21 feature gardens, each designed and installed by a different design/build team]. Rumour has it [as British singer Adele is fond of saying] ... we have over 9 million dollars worth of plants/materials/design expertise at Canada Blooms. And the really good news is that it is less than 2 weeks away. Less than 2 weeks! For those of us with work to do in order to get ready for this 10 day event, the deadline is a bit daunting. For the rest of us it is something to look forward to like we have never looked forward at the month of March ever before. That's because most of us have experienced the most severe winter in living memory. Like a watch that has been wound too tight, we are ready to let loose on this spring. "Bring it on! Bring it on!" I hear you say. If hosing down the driveway seems like a trip to Florida, a trip to 'Blooms will be a dream come true. All of the 2,000 volunteers who put Canada Blooms together will be there, waiting for you with answers to your gardening questions and about washrooms and where to eat [the #1 and #2 questions, after all].
And yes, it is worth the drive/flight/train ride to the big city. But then, you will only know that for sure if you come to see it for yourself. Book your trip today, while the idea is fresh and you are still excited about it. Call up a couple of gardening buddies and plan to make a day or two of it. For details go to www.canadablooms.com. I hope to see you there. Mark Merchant of Beauty
Mark's Choice Product of the Month Nylon Knee Pads My common salutation is 'keep your knees dirty', and I mean it partly in jest. I can't count the number of blue jeans that I have worn through at the knees. I've tried many knee pads without satisfaction, generally because they are too big and bulky, and they allow dirt in from the top. The new Mark's Choice Nylon Knee Pads have been torture tested on my own knees for many hours. I recommend them for people who want to protect their knees from injury and their pants from wearing out prematurely. These pads don't have any excess padding because there is enough natural padding from the soil and the lawn. And, as requested, the top of the pad seals out dirt. They are light, easy to put on and take off while wearing gloves and they are washable! Exclusive to Home Hardware. (item# 1010-270) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
New Book by Niki Jabbour Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans that Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden will be released by Storey Publishing in March, 2014. "This book was incredibly fun to write and involved Niki chasing down some of her favourite garden writers, bloggers and experts who then created an edible garden plan for the book. The book includes a very wide assortment of garden plans - fruits, berries, veggies, herbs, edible flowers and much more. Contributors include Mark Cullen, Marjorie Harris, Liz Primeau, Jessica Walliser, Steven Biggs, Joe Lamp'l, Barbara Pleasant, Debra Prinzing, Amy Stewart and Susan Morrison, Amanda Thomson, Jeff Lowenfels, Jessi Bloom, Nan Sterman, Paul Zammit and many many more!"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Rusty-Patched Bumblebee, Bombus affinis Canada's Endangered Species The rusty-patched bumblebee is a newly listed endangered species in Canada and the first federally listed bee in North America. This species is on the brink of extinction throughout its large range. In Canada, only three individuals have been found in the past 10 years with the only currently known population occurring at Pinery Provincial Park. Wildlife Preservation Canada is working to find wild populations of Bombus affinis as part of their Pollinators-At-Risk Initiative.