Canada Blooms is More Compact & Has an Air of Happiness About It
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

March 21, 2010


Above: two shots of the Landscape Ontario garden followed by one of The Wine Cellar. Photos by Rosemary Dobson. Below: first, a shot of a Wollemi Pine (referenced in the Landscape Ontario garden) that I took at the Vancouver International Rose Show last early summer; then, our large pond as it looks today with the Marsh Marigolds at their best and the Heathers lining our main path; followed by two shots of Rhododendron ‘Lutescens’. This plant bloomed at its best last year around April 9, but this year these shots were taken a month earlier--on March 11! Author photos.

This is my second year in a row missing the annual flower and garden show in Toronto--I started attending them on a regular basis back in 1962 when the Garden Club presented their annual show at the O’Keefe Centre. I am sure I could write a book of true stories of happenings over the years (such as the year I competed in the celebrity flower arranging category, and at the opening night heard that one of the morning radio announcers was dashing through the crowd lobbying for folks to vote for his arrangement, and it ended up he got only a couple of votes more than I did with no lobbying on my behalf!), and maybe I’ll do that one day!

My reason for not bothering to attend last year was my extreme disappointment in the 2007 and 2008 shows. Here is what I said at the time about those two shows: “a disappointing presentation was not at all aided by the freakish ice storm that closed almost all the roads in the vicinity of the venue because of ice falling from the adjacent CN Tower, but I for one was reasonably certain that not all the problems could be blamed on the weather. Ever so many people criticized the 2007 show for a lack of colour from forced plants, the single most un-inspiring entrance garden ever (remember it--all the trash in containers and the inadequate number of gerbera daisies), and the large open spaces both in the garden area and in the Marketplace; I wish I could say that [2008] was a bounce-back to the great shows of the past. It was not. Many of the same problems were evident, in at least one case, even more so.

“I found most of the gardens unspectacular in their lack of (more difficult to force) shrubs and trees. Now, don’t get me wrong, there were some very nice aspects to many of the gardens. The City of Brampton again put together a very colourful display and there were a great many small gardens that had interesting concepts and use of plants.

“Once again, the main entrance garden that most people saw first this year, done on behalf of Gardening Life magazine, was hard to figure out. What were the designers thinking? As you enter the hall, all you saw was a large area 1.5 metres wide of horizontal white curtaining material with “Gardening Life” playing on it in bright projected light. On the other side, once you were in the hall, there was a spring garden mostly of tulips in a yellow theme that was pretty, but not well executed, in that virtually every pot rim showed above the sand that is supposed to cover all of that. But why not have turned the whole exhibit 180 degrees so the spring theme welcomed the visitors? My suggestion would be to bring back a designer/landscape architect such as Tom Sparling who, in past years, has done magnificent wel-coming entrance gardens.”

So last year I decided to continue on with attending other shows, including particularly the Seattle show, and perhaps the one a little more distant in San Francisco (at that time run by the same people as that in Seattle). And so it is that this year we did go to Seattle and I reported on it in detail (including many photos) in my February 8th article here on  (which is still available for you to read now at: ).

And, early this week I’ll be off to San Francisco to see that show. In thinking back, it is about 30 years since I’ve seen that show--a long time. They are now on their third owner of the show since I last saw it at the famous old Cow Palace. It was a good show then, and I hope the new owners will put on a good show this year. I’ll report on it likely next week in this spot.

Now to Canada Blooms--the 14th annual. As most people in Ontario will know, whether or not they attended, the show moved to a new venue this year--the Direct Energy Centre. To ‘older’ Torontonians, the building with its relatively new addition in front is still known as the Coliseum. I’ve heard and read many comments, and they are varied, but most people seem to agree they like the one-floor, ground level facility. Exhibitors like the fact that the access, particularly for large equipment, is far superior, and attendees like the much more economical parking, although I personally had no complaint with using the big Harbourfront garage that was almost always available. The walk (there were shuttle buses available) only took about six minutes!

This new venue, though smaller, seemed to appeal to most attendees to whom I talked or from whom I heard. The one major problem that almost everyone mentioned to me was the shortage of places to eat and the accompanying long lines for food. Surely that could have been planned better.

The number of feature gardens is reduced to 23, but a couple of folks said to be that they liked nearly all the gardens, and that they were well done. One of my spies said that she liked the Landscape Ontario garden particularly well, and she was impressed that some 49 member firms of Landscape Ontario had contributed to building the garden. Congratulations to Landscape Ontario on that front. One of the feature plants in this garden was the famous Wollemi pine, about which I have written on several occasions.

The other garden which was particularly liked by one of my ‘spies’, and mentioned highly by several others was that of the City of Toronto. One wrote: “City of Toronto Parks has spent a fortune on city vegetable gardening with a LARGE garden and a ton of literature on the subject.” The garden was entitled ‘Get Growing Toronto!’.

According to their literature the four main purposes of the garden were: 1) To encourage Torontonians to “Get Grow-ing” by providing tips and tools on how to plant vegetables, herbs and fruits in any space, 2) To encourage residents on the environmental, health and social benefits of urban agriculture, 3) To promote the City Divisions and their related programs and services, and 4) To promote local community groups active in urban agriculture.

Other facts presented included: “The City currently operates 8 Greenhouses, 3 Conservatories, 17 Children’s Learn-ing Gardens, 47 Allotment and Community Gardens and one Urban Farm.”

“Since 2008 the City has provided over $800,000 in grants to local urban agriculture projects.”

The major garden included a model ‘Straw Bale Kitchen’, a Children’s Garden, a Backyard Garden, a demonstration Composting Area, and a Balcony & Container Display. Additionally, on loan from centrally located Ryerson University. ‘Carrot City’ is an exhibit that explores how design can be used to enable sustainable food production. Information boards featured urban agriculture projects (Downsview Park, Fairmont Hotels’ Rooftop Garden, Toronto’s Ur-ban Farm), while displays introduced new products (i.e. rooftop containers, green walls and bagriculture).

The personnel identified with the project were James Gardhouse and Jodie Callan.

Others of my reporters liked The Wine Cellar by landscape architects, D.A. Gracey & Associates, and Down to Earth by Parklane Ltd.

The Wine Cellar was the hidden heart of a classic garden courtyard. It was enclosed by stone walls and included a serene water feature. Actual wine tasting was available once inside the ‘cellar’.

Parklane said they had a concern about the amount of materials removed from newly constructed landscapes, and that inspired a fresh look at an ancient building method called ‘cob’. An organic garden studio was constructed using subsoil clay, water, sand, and straw. The area was surrounded by edible plants, and the ‘cob’ was constructed right on the site. A novel concept.

The Garden Club of Toronto’s area for flower arranging--including an international class, and for horticulture specimens was apparently smaller this year, and again, one of my spies said she did not think the quality of the entries was as high, nor the judging as good as it had been in the past.

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