Building Canada Blooms

[attach]6814[/attach]It may look like winter, but the magnolias are already warming up for their dazzling display at Canada Blooms. At about this time, horticultural director Charlie Dobbin begins turning up the heat in the greenhouses where the flowering trees and shrubs that are some of the stars of the Canada Blooms Flower and Garden Festival have spent a coddled winter.

“One year, we lost 90 percent of the woody plants during a sudden cold snap,” Dobbin says.

Since then, she has perfected the science — and art — of forcing plants to bloom before their time. Trees that otherwise would grow through the protective plastic roof of their temporary winter greenhouses lie on their sides and are rolled regularly to expose their dormant sides to the sun. Enough fans to form a wind farm circulate the air, evenly distributing it throughout the greenhouse and moderating temperatures. Colour-coded ribbons hang from branches to indicate where they’ll be placed on the show floor.

That’s just a fraction of the preparation that goes on before the 10-day show opens at the Direct Energy Centre on March 15. By now, landscapers have decided on their show garden designs, ordered the plants and materials they need and assembled a team to build the more than 25 innovative gardens at this year’s show.

This year, garden designs range from fitness-friendly “Otium”, which incorporates an exercise circuit within a natural setting, and “Body and Soul”, a garden that’s the perfect outdoor yoga space, to gardens that celebrate the freshness of spring with greenery, the sounds and scents of spring and the magic of spring, which is this year’s show theme.

The hellebore, this year’s poster plant, is the perfect representative of springtime gardens. Nodding flower buds appear as the snow melts, breaking through icy crusts to show the world that spring is not far away. Although it looks delicate, the hellebore is a tough plant that thrives in shade. The blooms last right through to early summer when the foliage takes over to provide lots of textural interest. Hellebores make terrific plants for spring containers, too, looking exotic and cheerful by the doorstep. You’ll see plenty of them at the show, along with last year’s “it” plant, the pink-flowered Medinilla, back by popular demand.

As always, there’s lots of advice from gardening experts at this year’s Canada Blooms. The Toronto Botanical Garden’s Sandra Pella will be speaking about spring perennials and offering ideas for small gardens. Nova Scotia gardening authority and author Nikki Jabbour talks about the year-round vegetable garden. And Marjorie Mason tempts us with gardens that look and taste great. Master gardeners will be on-hand, too, giving presentations, offering gardening advice and reprising last year’s popular Sit Down Sundays, an opportunity to talk one-on-one with a knowledgeable master gardener.

One of my favourite areas of Canada Blooms is the Garden Club of Toronto’s flower show. And oh my, they’re all set to put on another great display celebrating the magic of spring with floral exhibits in classes such as Abracadabra, Presto and Wizard and Bewitching and Spellbinding.

Full details about this year’s show, including speaker schedules, is available online at [url=http://www.canadablooms.com]canadablooms.com[/url].

Don’t wait for spring, find it at Canada Blooms.

Donning her hard hat and steel-toed boots for her volunteer stint at Canada Blooms, Lorraine Flanigan writes from her home in the South Eglinton neighbourhood of Toronto.