Aldona at Large: Champagne wishes, caviar dreams

My goodness, but I need to go on a diet. We’re barely past Remembrance Day and the holiday party whirl has already started. My desultory 15 minutes of morning exercises need to be seriously ramped up if I want to avoid waddling around like two-ton Tessie by the New Year.

Speaking of parties, don’t forget to mark Thursday, December 8 on your calendar. That’s the date of our Holiday Open House. That same evening, be wowed by horticulturist Dan Benarcik from Philadelphia’s renowned Chanticleer garden, who will reveal the 25 Top Plants for All-Season Splash at our final Edwards Lecture of the year, generously sponsored by the Edwards Charitable Foundation.

Still in a party mood, Director of Development Claudia Zuccato Ria and I trotted along to the opening of the new Maya exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum. It was a glitzy affair and of course Claudia was double-fisting the drinks (just kidding. She said to make sure to tell you that hers is the benign one with the slice of lime. As if).

Then last week, my pal Sonia Day held a book launch at my house for her publishing team and a few people who helped her with her new tome, The Untamed Garden: A Revealing Look at our Love Affair with Plants. No work was required on my part, and it was lovely coming home and finding everything looking so festive. Among the attendees were Sara Katz, shown here with Sonia and Dugald Cameron of Gardenimport. Dugald kindly gave me three very interesting amaryllis bulbs (including one that will flower green). If a trip south is out of the question and cabin fever or a winter funk may be in the cards, cheer yourself up by having a browse around the wonderful Gardenimport catalogue. Dugald always has irresistible plant and bulb treasures and won’t ship stuff he thinks is inferior–last year, my order for ‘Betty Corning’ clematis was not fulfilled because he wasn’t happy with the quality of plants he had available, but what’s a gardener if not patient?

“What the (bleep!) is going on with the City’s parking lot in front of the TBG?” is a question that is on many people’s minds these days. A work hiatus of nearly a month was the result of old plans that didn’t accurately show the state of “what lies beneath,” and necessitated the custom casting of sewer pipes and catch basins. Work crews are now out there in force, racing against the clock to get as much as possible completed before winter freeze-up. The reality is, however, that the lot will not be completed until spring. For latest updates, check here.

One morning, Head Gardener Sandra Pella and seasonal gardener Anastasia Jakubasz were carrying out a plant inventory in the Woodland Walk and Bird Habitat. Sandra had her camera out to snap photos of the first blooms on the tiny, recently planted witch hazels–this long, warm fall has caused some plants to get confused, and these little tiddlers are among them.

My final flower arranging class of this session dealt with tropicals. In addition to bird-of-paradise, I brought along a number of other flowers to work with, but uncharacteristically decided that sometimes less is more. So I simply took some pliable curly willow and put it under water inside the vase, then added two bird-of-paradise and a dark leaf. Et voilà, an effective arrangement that cost $3.98 (for the bird of paradise) and around 50 cents for the willow and the leaf. On the course evaluation, I was asked for the most valuable lesson I had learned, and I wrote “courage.” I was inspired (and empowered) by Margaret Taylor’s relaxed attitude about trying things and moving them around. Very freeing.

Things That Make Me Happy

I’ve decided I love snapdragons. They seed themselves so beautifully (my driveway has a frill of pink ones) and are tough customers that can handle the cold. Here are a few stalwarts still holding their own, along with rosemary that needs to be brought in asap. (A little tip: if you allow rosemary to be kissed by frost before you bring it in, it seems to fend off the mildew it’s prone to indoors.)

And we’re all thrilled that our honey took sixth place (in a field of 20 entries) to win a pink ribbon at the Royal Winter Fair–with a score of more than 95 per cent! Not bad for our first batch from our first hives. Thanks again to the Toronto Beekeepers Cooperative for all their coaching, encouragement and support over the season. The hives are now wrapped, keeping the bees cozy for their long winter’s nap.

And finally, help safeguard our trees

On a more serious note, at meetings on November 29 and 30, Toronto City Council will review urban forest items as part of their budget discussions. I add my voice to executive director Janet McKay’s of LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests), who reminds us:

“Funding for our urban forest has already been reduced. In 2009, Toronto City Council approved funding for a seven year service plan to better protect, maintain and grow our urban forest; this funding was reduced in 2010 and then suspended in 2011.”

“City Council should NOT alter the established goal of doubling our tree canopy by 2050, or reduce our urban forestry budget…Council should hold firm to the goal of doubling our canopy and ensure that tree protection and planting are prioritized.”

I know money is tight, but if we are to continue having a livable city, it is essential that we take the long view on this. Thanks to an aging tree canopy and devastating infestations such as the Emerald Ash Borer, we need to ramp up our efforts at tree protection and planting right to ensure our children and grandchildren have trees for enjoyment, shelter, air-cleaning and so much more. Trees take time to grow, so their care and planting can’t be put on the back burner. If you, like me, believe trees are a priority in our neighbourhoods, please contact your councillor here asap.

Okay, I’ve stepped off my soapbox now. Let’s reconnect in a couple of weeks.

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