early tulips and crocuses

Aldona at Large: The “rest” of my life?

Last Friday I retired as the executive director of the Toronto Botanical Garden. Two days later, I was back at the TBG as a volunteer, helping to plant trees and shrubs for Earth Day in the Woodland Walk and Bird Habitat.


Despite how this looks, the TBG doesn’t really keep Sandra, Walter, Paul and Martha in a cage.

It was chilly, but I soon worked up a sweat dealing with umpteen tree roots that had to be sorted before the new babies could be planted. Lots of brave souls turned out to help and we soon had all the trees and shrubs in the ground, and plenty of perennials, too. Over at the Teaching Garden, children and families planted up the Alphabet Garden and enjoyed the antics of Discoverability, aided and abetted by TBG volunteers and Master Gardeners. Check out some images here.

My pal the garden designer Sara Katz, who was such a driving force behind the clean-up and replanting of the Woodland Walk, volunteered at the Plant Sale table. Paul found some exquisite native treasures, including merrybells  (Uvularia grandiflora), which are one of my favourite spring ephemerals. I hope that like me, you’re gearing up for the big TBG Plant Sale (Members-only Day is May 8)—you can get all the details here.

Two weeks ago, some of my closest co-Horts threw a lovely dinner party to mark the occasion of my second retirement (my first was four years ago, when I stepped down as editor-in-chief of Canadian Gardening magazine). Here I am, looking rather out of focus. Was it the wine or the tears?

So now that I am retired again, do I plan to sit around, resting up and watching the soaps? Not on your Nelly. This begins an exciting new chapter in my life—freelance writer/blogger/photographer and, if I’m really lucky, world traveller.

Perhaps it was a good sign then that the day before, I received confirmation that I’d been accredited to attend Press Day at the Chelsea Flower Show, which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary. I immediately mustered up all my frequent flyer points and contacted various friends throughout Britain, who kindly offered me places to stay (I must say, I love to “sleep around” when I travel—it’s such a great way to catch up. And of course it’s quid pro quo when my friends come here).

And, as I’m carrying on with this blog, this means that you’ll be visiting Chelsea right along with me. On Press Day, there are sure to be plenty of stars of the British horticultural firmament on hand, ready to answer questions. The plants of the display gardens and under the tents will be fresh and at the peak of perfection. And your faithful correspondent will be right there, taking loads of pictures, making notes and yes, enjoying herself to the hilt.

Who’s a lucky ducky then?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’m starting what will be a massive purge and sort-out of my house and garden. How is it that I’ve accumulated so much stuff? It must breed in the night. And the garden is overdue for a really serious re-think and some hard sweat equity. I can’t wait to dig in.

Riddle Me This

Okay, here’s a puzzler: last spring, I had large swaths of narcissi come up blind with thin leaves and stalks. When I pulled some out, I saw that the bulbs were super-puny—more like grape hyacinth bulbs than narcissus. So I dug out quite a few, intending to replace them last fall but you know what they say about “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Yet lo and behold, this spring big clumps of daffodils have appeared where I thought I’d yanked them out and they’re loaded with buds as well. Talk about serendipity! Has this ever happened to you?

Good Deal

I picked up this pretty planter at my local Loblaw store for $24.99 and it came just like this–stuffed with plants including three hellebores, pansies, and black and fasciated pussy willow branches (note to the critical: I popped it into my old sap bucket just for the photo—I have no intention of letting the black plastic pot rim show). Later this spring, I’ll transplant the hellebores into the garden, where they’ll come back again next year. Now that’s recycling at its finest!

Back at the TBG, the gardens are changing every day. Here, the Merrill magnolias (near the perennial borders) are getting ready to burst into fresh bloom, and that’s how I feel too. It’s a fresh start and a new beginning for me, and who knows what the future will hold? Life is good! See you next time.

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8 comments

  1. Maureen Mc

    All the very best, Aldona – I’m sure you will have a blast, travelling, blogging, photographing… sounds divine! Happy retirement – for the minute.

    Oh, I should have said how cheery and lovely your photos are here – I was mentally packing a bag and coming along for the ride! If you are keen to go to St Andrews again, I’m sure it could be arranged… even though I’m here and our house and garden is there. New tenants who are reported to be keen as mustard, garden-wise – doing a perennial bed cleanup before they even move in!
    cheers, Maureen

  2. Aldona

    Hi Maureen–thanks so much for your kind good wishes. I am ashamed that we haven’t yet managed to get together, and here you are living in Toronto as well. But now that I’ll be a lady of (relative) leisure, let’s meet up once I’m back from England.
    Wow, your tenants sound great!

  3. Congratulations on your new adventures! I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts here. If you post elsewhere, please let us know. Gorgeous pics! Hm. That is a very old Twitter pic that showed up here. I know not how. ;-) **Ah. There’s the proper pic. My Converse-covered feet standing on PEI.

    • Aldona

      Hi Ellen,
      Lucky you–PEI is one of my favourite places. Some of the things on my bucket list include becoming a better (read: more thoughtful) photographer. My daughter is a great photographer and does give me pointers, but often I’ll just snap away and hope for the best. And I love to blog, so I plan to continue as long as people are interested–there are so many things to talk about…

  4. Bonnie Ford

    I don’t know you personally, but thanks for all your contributions. You did great work as editor of Canadian Gardening and I’m sure the Botanical Gardens “blossomed” under your care. I’m so glad to hear your blog will continue and I look forward to viewing it in the future.

  5. Hi Aldona, It’s Chi-Chi from across the street. I just found your blog entry by chance as I was looking up the TBG plant sale. Wishing you well in your retirement. Happy to know that you keep it real by purchasing at the local Loblaws too! See you in the neighbourhood.

  6. Aldona

    Chi-Chi! What a nice surprise. Thank you for your kind wishes. Yes, I’m just like everybody else, picking up plant treasures wherever I can find ‘em. That’s half the fun, isn’t it?!

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