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Canada Blooms: Design Gone Wild

The garden and floral designers at Canada Blooms 2014 have gone wild! But that is just fine because Wild! is the theme of Canada’s largest floral and garden festival this year.

For three days last week, I joined Charlie Dobbin’s dream team crew of volunteers to build, plant and primp the 21 feature gardens and 24 immense planters at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place. Watching the transformation of a vast empty space to a green oasis while a snowstorm rages outside is truly inspiring.

The Wild! theme has encouraged  interesting design choices and novel ways of using traditional materials. The use of stone and reclaimed wood is notable this year.

north of 60

One of my favourite gardens has no plants. A bit of a surprise, but this garden is dramatic because of its strong structural elements. North of 60 (A39 – Forestell Inc.) uses stone and wood to represent the textures and forms of the Arctic. Water trickling through thin slices of stone depict arctic sea ice piling up against the shore. A striking bench composed of stacked stone slabs blends into the  shore. Angled, ombre-painted  beams evoke aurora borealis. The jagged, white walls of a cosy shelter remind you of icebergs. You can almost feel a chilly wind blowing through this garden.

wet wild canadian


Another favourite for its sheer natural exuberance is Wet, Wild and Canadian (A32 – Genoscape Inc.). Lots of moving water and relaxed natural plantings create the feeling of hiking through a wild landscape. An arched stone bridge in front of a waterfall, a reclaimed wooden bridge, pergola and sitting area and wood and stone arch at the entrance contribute to the impression of being completely surrounded by nature. Don’t miss the clever stone and moss mosaic in the sitting area.

rewild stone wall

rewild living room

Inside the yurt

picnic table

REWilding (A30 – Parklane) juxtaposes a built landscape with a natural landscape to show how we can bring the wild back into our gardens. Take a good look at the groundcover used throughout the ‘wild’ side—a brilliant carpet of pine seedlings! A trendsetting yurt and a picnic table set with succulents and moss depict “glamping” at its best. In the cultivated side of the garden, an innovative wood mosaic embellishes a garden wall. Another wall of insulated concrete blocks is arranged to hold a vertical vegetable and herb garden. Rustic reclaimed wood used in a table, benches and a pergola contrasts with Floyd Elzinga’s fine, wrought-metal tree sculptures.

REWilding is not the only garden that showcases healthy living through food gardens and spaces that encourage outdoor activity. Several Canada Blooms feature gardens demonstrate that you don’t need an ugly out-of-the-box jungle gym to boost active play, and vegetable gardens don’t have to be boring rectangles hidden at the back of your property.


wooden log chairs

Most of us don’t have room in our gardens for a dinosaur, but the Earthscape Dinosaur Preserve (A37) and the Bateman Forest Trail (A31 – Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds) show us how logs and boulders can promote active play. Stumps and logs are also repurposed as benches, tables and chairs. Shawn Gallaugher demonstrates that exercise can be part of the garden in the Remax Otium garden (A33A).

edible gardens go global

TBG has teamed up with Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation in the Edible Gardens Go Global display (A20) to show us how to grow delicious vegetables from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean right here in southern Ontario. The plants are beautiful as well as tasty. Okra and eggplants have beautiful flowers and attractive foliage. The raised vegetable beds would look good along the edge of a patio or used as a divider in any garden.

Attracting pollinators, especially bees, to gardens is important. Adjacent to the TBG, Canada’s Garden Route display – Ode to the Honeybee (A21) and Landscape Ontario‘s feature garden (A6) emphasize the importance of bees through the use of honeycomb-shaped displays. You can taste several different types of honey at the TBG booth.

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