Pot up a movable feast of floral colour and fragrance
Judging by the swarms (and I don’t use that term lightly) of visitors to this year’s Canada Blooms and International Home And Garden show, I’d say Torontonians are ready for greenery, flowers, shrubs, bulbs and fresh dirt. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say seedlings might just move us to tears at this point. Yes indeed, sludgy sidewalks, bleak, grey skies and blowing snow couldn’t keep a lid on the sheer giddiness exploding among attendees at these two shows. “Bring it on, Mother Nature!” seemed to be the unofficial motto. There’s plenty of information out there in the media, including tips and how-to seminars for gardeners of the usual sort, but what about those urbanites who don’t have gardens? Let’s not forget about apartment dwellers, condo-ites and lofters with nothing but terraces and balconies; they deserve some guidance, too. Fear not, budding green thumbs – container gardening has officially sprouted. (I promise to swear off all gardening puns from here on). The first order of business is picking the right container. Not only does it have to be aesthetically pleasing, but you also have to consider its height, depth, weight (depending on your space and its environment) and seasonality. “Container gardening isn’t just for summer any more,” says Home Depot garden expert Dan Blair. “It’s important to always create welcoming views from whatever vantage point you’re looking from,” he adds, and urges readers to think about containers year round. Of course, Home Depot has your gardenvariety black urns (okay, I lied) but also offers materials and tips on how to build your own. Blair easily rhymes off names of plants that thrive in summer, in shade, require more water, less water, climb, trail… you get the picture. He’s more than happy to answer questions and offer direction for would-be gardeners, and encourages people to attend one of Home Depot’s upcoming container gardening seminars this spring. He swears herb gardens are easy to do, and says it’s a great place to start. Some of his other favourites for summer include nasturtium, lamium, helichrysum and thunbergia. If that doesn’t spook you and you’re ready to get your hands dirty, check out Casalife (37 Hanna, 416-922-2785) for great teak, metal and ceramic containers. Located in the newly created Liberty Village, Casalife has containers large enough to hold trees for those who really want to bring it on. Another great resource for pots of all shapes and colours is Ikea (15 Provost, 416-2224532, and others). Its garden centre is bursting with giant glazed ceramic pots, smaller metal containers, baskets and the like. Containers made of fiberglass have made huge strides this year and are advantageous for their lightness and resemblance to real stone. Via Verde (939 Eglinton E., 416-421-5552) is a great resource for all kinds of containers, including those made of fiberglass. And not only does this store carry gorgeous leafy plants and Willy Wonka-ish hydrangeas and such, but the staff will even plant your containers for you. Via Verde is one of the few garden shops that offer consulting, planting and yearround container services for those who don’t have the time or wish to do so. It offers how-to classes, too. OK, so you don’t need a year-round planting service but you still manage to kill off most of your plants. What to do? One product many gardeners are talking about this year is Soil-Sponge. It’s an allnatural material that you add directly to your plant soil. It extends days between watering by absorbing and then slowly releasing water over a seven-to-10-day period. If you’re forgetful and only water your plants once their leaves start to shrivel, this is an absolute must. “Did I mention adequate drainage?” repeats Dan Blair. “Honestly, a few shards of glass or a few rocks at the bottom of a pot are all you need.” He also suggests drilling a few holes in the bottom of any container (with a ceramic drill bit, of course). A few gimmicky doodads on the market, like Electronic Cry, can also help in the gardening process. Just stick one of these pick-like objects in your container and it will actually cry out loud when your plants need water. Be warned, though: it’s annoying as hell and could possibly lead to late-night plant raids. Assuming you can handle watering duty on your own, April 15 is officially when most gardeners get out and start digging. It’s time, my friends. Go forth and plant!