Fling wrap-up at Toronto Botanical Garden: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling


Wherever I travel, I enjoy visiting local botanical gardens. So I was happy to see that Toronto Botanical Garden would be our final stop — including a catered dinner — on the recent Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Upon arrival we 70 garden bloggers were treated to a zingy, high-energy talk and container-design demonstration by the talented and funny Paul Zammit, director of horticulture at TBG. Afterward we were set loose to explore the gardens until dinnertime. I’ll start my virtual tour with masses of tulips in a rainbow of colors. Because…tulips in June!


There were peonies too, in all their improbably large, frilly glory.


Dare I admit that a peony always reminds me of an overstuffed chintz armchair? I swear, it’s not Southern-gardener-can’t-grow-them sour grapes either. I do admire, however, these steel planter rings. I’d put those in my garden! Oh wait, I already have.


I also loved this terraced garden, with sheets of galvanized steel creating tiered planting beds.


Doesn’t this just sing?


I love, love, love these zippy variegated iris.


Dark purple iris adds depth to the scene.


As dramatic as a thundercloud


Purples were also coloring the entry garden, which was designed by the famous Dutch designer Piet Oudolf. (Oudolf also designed the High Line garden and Lurie Garden, both of which I’ve blogged about.)


Fried-egg peonies flounced through the meadowy spring garden.


Purple alliums and burgundy smoke tree — a match made in heaven


Like stars fallen to earth


In a small demonstration garden — stock tank planters! I quite like this formal arrangement, with a tree centered at back.


Paul Zammit’s container arrangements appeared throughout the gardens, like this gorgeous succulent planter in sunset hues.


Echeveria was in bloom.


Fuzzy leaves and kissy-face orange blooms — what’s not to like?


While I was taking photos, a passing visitor stopped to admire this container too. He reached out to pinch a paddle plant (Kalanchoe), and then turned to me and said, “Feel it. It feels like meat.”


By now my appetite was whetted, but I explored on, wanting to see the whole garden before dinnertime.


The garden is not quite 4 acres — very small for a botanical garden — but the director has ambitious plans for expansion into the city-owned parkland next door.


The garden had attracted a lot of visitors that day, and I enjoyed seeing how other people explored and used the gardens. Two women had a tête-à-tête in the clipped hallways of the knot garden.


Other photographers were busy capturing their own vignettes.


On a small lawn, a cluster of what looked like dancing trees caught my eye — part of a temporary art installation by W. Gary Smith. Austinites may be familiar with his work, as he designed the new family garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.


According to TBG’s website, Stooks & Punes — I think Punes is the tree-like portion that remains — is constructed of natural materials found on-site, and it’s “a precursor to the design phase for the TBG’s proposed new children’s garden, which will also be designed by W. Gary Smith.”


Another of Paul’s planters, I assume


When we arrived, tables were set up for us in a lovely outdoor courtyard. But as clouds rolled in threatening rain, staff members made a quick change of plans and moved the tables indoors. I was sorry not to get to eat outdoors but grateful not to have to wear a rain slicker to dinner.


More of Paul’s creations graced the courtyard, and burgundy Japanese maples made the perfect backdrop for them.


I loved them all, but especially these Victorian urns stuffed with sea-glass-colored succulents.


I hope you’ve enjoyed my posts about the Toronto gardens we visited during the Garden Bloggers Fling this year. Enormous thanks to Helen Battersby (left) of Toronto Gardens, who headed up the Toronto Fling planning committee, which also included Sarah Battersby (right), also of Toronto Gardens; Lorraine Flanigan of City Gardening; and Veronica Sliva of A Gardener’s World. These hard-working women did a terrific job of showing us their city’s gardens and green spaces. Hats off to them for a great tour!

If all of this has got you thinking about attending next year’s Fling (open only to garden bloggers), it will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As with Toronto, I look forward to attending in another city I’ve never visited. Meanwhile, if you’d like to follow the links back through my Toronto posts, starting with an artful wildlife garden, click here.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Wildlife garden with an artful touch: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling


On our last day of the Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling in early June, we visited a private garden described as a wildlife garden. I didn’t end up taking photos of its wildlife-attracting features, however. Instead I was drawn to the artful touches found throughout, many of them composed of natural materials. Most prominent was a blue-painted dead tree, centered like sculpture in the back lawn.


What an incredible focal point, don’t you think?


I also admired this cross-section of a tree stump, set on edge to become a sculptural accent in a shady bed.


And this egg-shaped stone, cradled in an upright tree branch.


Two cartoon-style paintings, hung on exterior walls of the house, create surprise and amusement as you encounter them along the paths.


This fellow seems a little worried about something, doesn’t he?


The back patio is inviting and homey, offering a prime view of the blue tree.


In front, a contemporary porch holds a few pots of colorful annuals.


I like this copper-colored planter.


The front garden slopes toward the street, and runoff has been tackled with a lovely dry stream that winds through the lawnless garden.


Here pollinator plants are favored, like this Jerusalem sage. Although intimately familiar with the yellow-flowering Phlomis, I’d never seen the pink cultivar. I love it.

Sometimes it’s the little details in a garden that really grab you.

Coming up next: My tour of Toronto Botanical Garden, where Toronto Fling officially concluded. For a look back at the Evergreen Brick Works community greenspace, click here.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Evergreen Brick Works community greenspace: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling


For nearly 100 years, Don Valley Brick Works supplied Toronto with masonry bricks and helped the city rebuild and grow after a devastating fire. By 1984, however, the kilns were closed down, and the factory buildings languished. Urban explorers and partying teens found their way in, and graffiti soon covered the brick walls.

The derelict factory might eventually have been torn down. Instead, Toronto brought it back to life in the form of a community environmental center that includes a farmer’s market, a small garden shop, a cafe, a bike shop, a children’s playground, a lake and hiking trails, and art display space. Opened in 2010, Evergreen Brick Works offers workshops, community festivals, and tours of its sustainable features like water harvesting and ecological demonstration gardens.


We toured Evergreen Brick Works during the Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling in early June. I found it to be an inspirational re-use project, not unlike the High Line in New York. New features, like an exploratory playground/garden for children (pictured), co-exist with original buildings like this tall smokestack.


There was a lot of activity at Sunday midday, when we were led on a tour around the facility and then treated to box lunches.


The playground has many fun features to engage kids with gardening and nature, like a tepee, shovels and wheelbarrows, planting beds in stock tanks, and even, I think, a pizza oven — for cooking up homegrown veggies?


Around the other side of the building, circular demonstration gardens show locals what can be done, like this lushly planted rain garden.


Several bloggers pulled up colorful chairs here and relaxed in the sunshine, including Helen, Gail, and Jean.


Attached to one of the exterior walls is an incredible art installation and living sculpture, Watershed Consciousness by Ferruccio Sardella. Constructed of Corten and stainless steel, vertically planted with sedums, and trickling with water from top to bottom, this large-scale water feature is also a map of Toronto’s watersheds.


As the artist explains on his website, “Presented as copper and brass rods that lace across the work, only the major road and rail arteries are depicted along with the vertical-horizontal axis of Yonge st. and Bloor st. Instead of the repetitive criss crossing of city streets, the piece depicts ghostly homages to the lost rivers of Toronto etched into the rusted steel. To consider this work as a map is to confront Toronto’s ecological essence.” In this photo, our tour guide points out some of the details.


The water trickles down through the sculpture and is collected on a shallow steel “table” before being recirculated through the work. This little girl found it to be a fun splash table.


Beautiful details are evident throughout the Brick Works, like this flower-power metal railing on stairs and balconies.


Inside, the brick kilns have been preserved, along with the graffiti that, over the decades, eventually marked every wall.


Having recently watched Banksy Does New York, I found the graffiti more interesting than the old kilns.


It’s ghostly evidence of a subculture of street artists, and this was their art gallery.


It’s all a bit spooky in the dusty, dimly lit kiln hall.


Preserving the graffiti was a smart move, just as the High Line preserved the look of weedy growth atop an abandoned rail line. It acknowledges the history of the place, which is not just about brick making.


Behind the brick factory, an old quarry has been turned into a picturesque lake, with hiking trails all around it.


Anything is possible, according to the graffiti artist who tagged this building.


Indeed, the transformation of a derelict old factory into a vibrant community eco-center seems as unlikely as anything, and yet it worked. I hope it, like the High Line in New York, inspires other cities to consider how they might transform their own blighted industrial places into something green and beautiful and designed for people to enjoy.

Coming up next: A Toronto wildlife garden with an artful touch. For a look back at Cabbagetown garden art and the Hugh Garner Co-Op Green Roof, click here.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.