Aldona at Large: In the Bleak Midwinter…

…Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone…

From In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti, c1872

Oh, never mind the dreary dirge. Your faithful scribbler has been out and about at meetings, conferences and symposia, and hosting fun-filled luncheons on her days off.

Along the way, I’ve been amazed and inspired by lovely places and new ideas. Let me share some of my recent diary with you.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove out to Oshawa to the Parkwood Estate (a National Historic site, and once home to R. Samuel McLaughlin, founder of General Motors of Canada) for the inaugural meeting of the Historic Gardens Steering Committee. Now, I’ve been to the Parkwood gardens a number of times, and they are stunning. But winter is the time to visit the mansion, the main portion of which was designed in the early 20th century by Darling & Pearson in the Beaux-Arts style, with all the accoutrements, embellishments and luxurious details that befit the home of a captain of industry who entertained illustrious personages and heads of state. This sweeping staircase, which incorporates acoustics for the organ, is just one feature. Over the years, many films and television shows have been shot at Parkwood–currently, some of the interiors of the new show “Bomb Girls” are being filmed there (and take note of filming on January 24 and 25, so it’ll be closed to the public).

Of course, the beautiful conservatory made my eyes water with lust. Wow. Check out this multi-coloured hibiscus flower, which likes the warmth and light there, thank you very much.

Best of all, you can enjoy a winter tea in the Greenhouse Tearoom right in the conservatory! Now there’s a treat to savour on a “bleak midwinter” kind of day when you’re laid low by floral famine. Parkwood is open Tuesday through Sunday from 1:30 to 4 pm—you can make a reservation for afternoon tea with your Mansion Tour. To find out more, visit

Early last week, I zoomed off the the Toronto Congress Centre (which I reckon is located in some sort of local Bermuda triangle as I keep getting lost enroute) for the Landscape Ontario Congress. It’s an event where those of us in the gardening biz can see what’s new and notable in the landscape industry, bump into and catch up with old pals, and perhaps take in some talks designed to help landscape professionals up their game. I always make a beeline for the New Products Showcase. This year, my eye was caught by the beautiful miniature pine you see above. This is Pinus parv. Gyoku sho hime from Connon Nurseries.

Last weekend, the TBG played host to the Toronto Master Gardeners’ Technical Update, which this year focused on theme of  “The Practical Gardener.” Well over 200 Master Gardeners from all over Ontario attended this day-long seminar, where we sharpened our winter tree identification skills thanks to a terrific talk given by our Director of Education Liz Hood, (augmented by some excellent specimens gathered by Alan Malcomson). Hmm…I have some serious homework to do there. We also learned about Sonia Day’s favourite and least-favourite perennials and Darrell Bley gave the keynote presentation on “The Importance of Soil: Getting It Right.”

At the end of the day, the presenters got together for a panel discussion, moderated by Joe Delarge of eco/stems, on “Debunking the Myths.” My head was stuffed full of new information. Congratulations to Susan Lipchak and her team for a great day.

Then this week, the lovely members of the Milne House Garden Club got together to work on what must be the perfect winter project: creating fascinators! The image above is just one of many fanciful, colourful and fun designs they made.

Things that make me happy

And what do gardeners, designers and garden scribblers do while our gardens sleep? Sometimes we get together for lunch. Have you ever noticed how most gardeners also enjoy cooking, reading, traveling and a nice glass of wine! Let’s just call ourselves sensualists and be done with it.

Finally, I’d like to thank the many members and supporters who have responded so promptly and generously to our year-end fundraising appeal, which to date has raised more than twice as much money as last year’s. That’s terrific, and such a big help. We are very, very grateful for your support.

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