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Aldona at Large: It’s Good News Week

The redbud in this photo may be weeping, but I’m all smiles: the City parking lot in front of our building is finally open. Hallelujah! All of us can now breathe a sigh of relief and put seven long months of inconvenience, mess and disruption behind us as we revel not only in the luxury of plentiful parking, but also in the beautiful new plantings in the island beds. If that isn’t enough, the TBG Garden Café in the nearby historic barn has just reopened for the season, which means that visitors, volunteers and staff can enjoy fresh, wholesome, tasty, moderately priced lunches and treats—along with good coffee and tea—prepared by our talented friends at À La Carte Kitchen Inc.  Truly, my cup of happiness runneth over (yes, I am a simple woman).

In spring, the TBG becomes a hive of activity. Literally. We recently welcomed a fresh influx of beekeepers-in-training, and we will be getting a third beehive this year. Our gentle Italian honeybees are fascinating creatures. Thanks to Cathy Kozma, Oliver Couto and Mylee Nordin of the Toronto Beekeepers Cooperative for their wonderful, ongoing guidance and support.

The cooler weather of the past few weeks has meant an extended blooming period for flowering trees, forsythia and spring ephemerals, and the TBG gardens look absolutely glorious. Kudos to Sandra and Anastasia and a great team of volunteer KOGs (Keepers of the Garden) for getting everything cleaned up and shipshape. I was surprised to see this bearded iris already in bloom on the wall near the knot garden, though—there must be a little heat pocket there.

Most mornings, you can see a small group of people practicing tai chi at the TBG. One day, we were treated to a more formal presentation, complete with music.

At the second-last class of the Special Occasion Florals course, Margaret Taylor had us making centerpieces like this one—a modified take on a modern mass arrangement. I chose different shades of yellow and cream, relying on varying textures to add interest. Groupings of protea, roses, hypericum berries, goldenrod and gerbera daisies (unseen in this photo as they’re on the other side) were anchored in a presoaked brick of oasis floral foam. I promise you that this was easy and quick to put together, and I must admit that I was pleased at how professional it looked.

The final week of the course was the best one of all, as Margaret showed us how to make not one but two types of arrangements. This is an oasis “cake”—super-simple to put together, and a great centrepiece for a buffet or a party. The base is three presoaked oasis floral foam bricks—two laid side by side, and a third cut in half lengthways (to make two thinner pieces) and laid crossways overtop the first two (this is messy, and you need to work on a tray or a plate to catch the drips). You then place a medium-sized plate on top of the floral foam and cut around it with a long, sharp knife to create a cake shape (you can save and freeze the cut bits of oasis for smaller arrangements). The sides of the “cake” are covered with large, wide leaves, such as aspidistra or cordyline, and held in place with long corsage pins. I decorated mine with a beaded wire from Garden Shop. You can cover the top with the same leaves, then poke holes through them for the flowers. This creates a neater base, but being a bit fumble-fingered, I decided to skip that step and simply put flowers and greens directly into the oasis, covering it completely. It worked just fine.

When Margaret said we’d be creating pew ends, not being a church-goer I thought to myself, “huh. Where would I use that?” The answer is, anywhere. These arrangements can be hung on a door or a chair, or a number of them grouped or joined to create a mass over a doorway or along a railing. They’re lovely for weddings, anniversaries, or any other special occasion. Margaret bought special hanging plastic oasis holders at Hoflands, but you can also use a wire coat hanger pulled into shape. (The holders are the easier option, because when using a coat hanger, you have to place the flowers in small test tubes of water, and wire everything into place.)  Start with the greens, pushing them into the oasis,  and build up. I used a few stems of lilies, a few inexpensive orchids, white chrystanthemums and baby’s breath. Corsage pins were placed in the open lily for sparkle, with a narrow, translucent white ribbon is the finishing touch. This was pulled together in about ten minutes, and wasn’t terribly expensive. If I can do it, you can too. I do recommend taking some of the floral design courses, though, which are great fun and will arm you with lots of empowering tips and information. If you’re interested in flower arranging, don’t miss the last Edwards Lecture of the season on May 31, featuring world-renowned British designer Judith Blacklock.

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