CON­TAINER GAR­DEN­ING

Pot up a mov­able feast of flo­ral colour and fragrance

NOW Magazine - Toronto Living - - Front Page - By Meaghan Clark

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!

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