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Aldona at Large: Fabulous Festive February!

Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? And certainly at the TBG, the last few days of January have been as thorny as the Berberis shown above, as we wrestle to the ground this year’s budget, and pull up information about last year for the auditors. (Numbers are not my strong suit, so hooray for the wonderful Margaret and Nadesu, who have done the heavy lifting.)

But life isn’t just a numbers game, and plenty of fun is afoot right now, too. We’re gearing up for a French-inspired evening around Thursday’s Edwards Lecture on the Gardens of Versailles, which will be given by my good friend David Wistow, who is as erudite, urbane, handsome and charming as they come. I can imagine few things more delightfully warming on a cold February evening than looking at beautiful images of Versailles’ jaw-droppingly lovely gardens, which I had the good fortune to visit some years ago with my late mother. Arrive early and treat yourself to a light, French-inspired supper, see David’s sketchbooks, visit the library to meet our new Head Librarian, Zack Osborne, and browse through frou-frous with Gallic flair in the shop, where the back wall has been painted a very French blue (thanks, Walter).

“When all else fails, surround yourself with flowers” could be words to live by. Our winter Floral Design classes are in full swing, and I’m so sorry to have to miss the Miniature, Small and Large Floral Design class given by Margaret Taylor, but alas, it’s during the day. Wistfully, I popped in to see how things were going and everyone seemed to be having such a great time, darn it.

Margaret whipped this up as a demo, and to me that it looks like a courtly gentleman asking someone for a dance. “Oh, it toppled over a couple of times as I was putting it together,” she laughed, unperturbed.

Back at home, the gigantic amaryllis bulb I bought in our shop for half-price is sending up not one, not two, but three stalks of gorgeous flowers. Yowza. Although this bulb was misabeled “Red,” what a happy surprise its colour turned out to be.

Thinking about starting a few seeds? At the recent Landscape Ontario Congress, I was quite taken by this Grow Camp Ultimate Vegetable Growing System displayed by Vanhof & Blokker in the new products showcase. Although not cheap, it’s certainly less money than a greenhouse, seems reasonably sturdy, and is modular, so you can add more sections. This baby could be just the job for gardeners who want a jump-start on the season, or folks who have to cope with those townhouse gardens on concrete pads or gardening on windy, exposed balconies—there’s a lean-to model as well—or perhaps gardeners with mobility issues. (

Trees and their care can be one of those “easy cuts” (sorry) in a municipal budget, as their neglect may not show up for years, by which time it’s somebody else’s problem. But we gardeners know how vital trees are to a city’s all-around well-being and how long they take to grow. That’s why good guy Mark Cullen spearheaded the Toronto Tree Canopy Coalition, to which I, representing the TBG, belong. The TTCC’s goal is to double Toronto’s tree canopy by 2050, and in that good, old-fashioned spirit of “if you want something done, do it yourself,” Mark has barreled ahead, garnering great interest and support for this—so much so, that he wrote me that “we are unleashing a monster—a good one, mind you.” To find out what the TTCC is all about and why it matters, read his in-depth article from last Saturday’s Star.

Things That Make Me Happy

Double trouble! My daughter-in-law, Tammy’s, mother, Diana, and I have birthdays just two days apart, so my daughter Amy, and Tammy made a lovely joint family birthday party for the two of us, and Amy baked us a yummy flourless chocolate cake.

This airy bouquet of tiny yellow orchids (Oncidium flexuosum?) was given to me for my birthday by my pal Penny Arthurs. They sparkle like little rays of sunshine on my dining room table.

Speaking of sunshine, I must confess that I can also chortle about February because in a few days’ time, I will be heading for Australia, where it’s summer. Naturally, I’ll be visiting several botanical gardens and will update you on my adventures in a few weeks. So for now I’ll just say “g’day, cobber” and hope that I manager to arrive Down Under without a blunder!

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