Aldona at Large: Am I Blue?

By | Aldona At Large Blog | Tags: , , , | January 23, 2013 | No comments

“Blue Monday” is the name given to the third Monday of January, because it’s supposed to be the saddest day of the year. Blue who? Not me. In fact, I’m feeling pretty perky. City Council has voted to give us an additional $75,000 for 2013, and while it wasn’t as much as we were hoping for it’s certainly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick and we say “thank you very much.” Thanks, too, to everyone who wrote to their Councillor or the Budget Committee to support us.

And yes, our gardens may be dormant at this time of year, which gives rise to floral famine, but resourceful gardeners needn’t feel blue because it’s a good time to learn, read, and plan. For example, the Toronto Master Gardeners held their annual Technical Update at the TBG’s Floral Hall. This day-long, themed event is a must-attend for MGs, who not only have to perform a minimum of 30 hours of volunteer work each year to maintain their status, but also must keep their gardening knowledge sharp and up to date.

This year’s theme was “Water-wise Gardening,” and at the risk of sounding like a know-it-all (oh, why not?) I was pleasantly surprised at how much new and useful information I gleaned from the excellent presentations.  These ranged from a thoughtful talk about The Damage Urban Development Creates and What Gardeners Can Do to Mitigate it by Chris Denich of Aquafor Beech, to Extreme Weather Effects: What the City is Doing About Climate Change Challenges by Beth McEwan from the City’s Parks division, to Practical Solutions: Xeriscape Gardens/Drought-Resistant Plants by Jeff Mason. If you email Jeff at masonhousegardens.com and ask very nicely, perhaps he’ll share his list of plants that can handle dry conditions that he and his mother, Marjorie Mason, have gleaned from many years of “in the dirt” experience on their own difficult piece of property. These plants go far beyond the usual suspects.

Kudos to our Supremo Tena Van Andel, Elizabeth A. Stewart and all the Toronto Master Gardeners who worked so hard at pulling together both the program and all the details that made for an excellent day.

If you ever hear me saying, “I never win anything,” smack me. In fact, though I’ve yet to win a dollar on the lottery, I’ve been pretty lucky at raffles (knock wood and spit three times so the devil doesn’t hear me). At the TMG Tech update, I snagged the snazzy prize loot that you can see here.  My booty included a pink KitchenAid toaster, a pink suede tool belt, pink mittens, a fluffy pink stuffed dog, a pink t-shirt, pink crocs, a pink tape measure (do you sense a theme developing here?), a couple of baseball caps and a teapot and tea, all generously donated by The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Cathy Kozma, New Canadians Lumber (Home Hardware) and Market Sports at The Stouffville Farmer’s Market.

By the way, the photo of the mini-hibiscus at the top of this blog is for my niece Erika, who is currently travelling in Thailand and southeast Asia for some months and entrusted the plant to my care while she’s away. There’s a story behind this—it’s actually a small cutting from a hibiscus grown by her grandfather more than 25 years ago and kept alive ever since by my cousins Biruta and Egle. Alas, Erika’s cutting is planted in a narrow rectangular clear glass vase with no drainage, and is looking a little…rootbound. Yet much to my surprise, not only is it thriving in my bathroom window, but it has also managed to pump out one mini-bloom. Dare I risk transplanting it into a new pot where it will be happier in the long run? Or should I leave it alone and hope for the best?

Speaking of plants, walking around the TBG gardens on a cold sunny day, I thought how lovely these small golden conifers look in the President’s Choice Show Garden. They gleam against the rather subdued colours that dominate the winter landscape. Memo to self: must plant more evergreens of every kind, as my garden looks as boring as can be right now.

From time to time, I poke my head into a daytime class to see what’s going on, and I try not to be too jealous—especially if it’s a floral design class—like this intermediate class run by The Garden Club of Toronto for its members. Floral design really is some of the most creative fun you can have.

Look at this graceful and elegant composition (she said, gnashing her teeth with envy). All I can say is “wow!”, and I can’t wait until I get a chance to have a go at something like this myself. I can’t attend the day classes because I happen to have a job, but I’ve got my eye on several evening classes coming up in the spring for TBG members and the general public.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you may remember that last winter I wrote a post about deciding to work at a stand-up desk, which I then bodged together by simply plunking an inexpensive Ikea coffee table on top of my desk, and some anti-fatigue floor tiles (covered by a rug) under my feet. It’s worked like a charm, and I  have now been standing up—most of the time—for a full year. I have found that my core muscles have grown stronger, my posture and digestion have improved, and best of all, I can stand (or walk) for many hours without experiencing fatigue or any lower back pain whatsoever.  I write or answer emails standing up, and only sit if I’m editing hard copy, making telephone calls or in a meeting. It’s a Very Good Thing, and I don’t plan to take life sitting down again anytime soon.

(Then again, I must confess that this week I noticed a bit of soreness and stiffness in one of my hips. Sigh. Or as Dorothy Parker would say, “what fresh hell is this?”)

Adios until next time.

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Aldona Satterthwaite about the author: Aldona Satterthwaite

Aldona Satterthwaite started gardening as a child and has never stopped. Until recently, she was the executive director of Toronto Botanical Garden. Previously, Aldona was editor-in-chief of Canadian Gardening magazine, which during her eight-year tenure was twice named Magazine of the Year (large circulation category) by the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors. In 2007, she was co-named Editor of the Year. Aldona, who’s a Master Gardener, completed her journalism studies at the Regent Street Polytechnic (now Westminster University) in London, England and studied landscape architecture at Ryerson University. She’s enjoyed a varied and successful writing and editing career that has spanned magazines, advertising and the museum world, and has included stints as Director of Writing Services at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and as manager of creative services at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

TORONTO BOTANICAL GARDEN, 777 Lawrence Avenue East, Toronto, ON CANADA | 416-397-1341 | info@torontobotanicalgarden.ca