It’s blooming time

[attach]5590[/attach]The plants are in the greenhouses, the gardens designed, the speakers lined up and the Garden Hall prepped to showcase its fabulous floral exhibits. This year, Canada Blooms is co-locating with the National Home Show at the Direct Energy Centre to gear up for an extra special 10-day run from March 16 to 25 — five days longer than ever before. Woo-hoo! That means double the garden-ogling, floral-gazing, note-taking and horticultural shopping opportunities!

To make sure the plants are ready for the main event, Charlie Dobbin, the show’s horticultural director, spends months, starting in August, selecting and checking on the progress of the plants you’ll see at the show. She’s so dedicated to making them look their best, she spent Valentine’s Day visiting them to see how they were doing in the greenhouses around town.

“We have so many amazing plants,” Dobbin says. “Flowering trees like crabapples, ivory silk lilacs and some interesting native plants, too.”

The daffodil is the show’s poster flower this year, so the beds surrounding the Unilock Celebrity Stage will be filled with yellow and white daffodils.

“And we’re growing lots of veggies, too, like lettuces — all frilly and multi-coloured,” she says.

These will find homes in the display gardens as well as in planters of ornamental edibles placed throughout the show.

“Canada Blooms invites some of the most innovative and cutting-edge landscape designers to take part in the show,” Dobbin says.

[attach]5589[/attach]This year’s City Culture theme has given them lots of scope to be creative.

“You’ll see green walls and interesting ways of using small, narrow and vertical spaces,” she says.

For instance, Bsq Design Group’s Plug and Play garden incorporates recycled wooden pallets. And landscape architect Victoria Taylor teams up with Eco-Man Jonas Spring in a design called Concrete Blooms Bursts to illustrate the creative energy that can be found even amidst the rubble of berms of concrete boulders.

Nor is city culture confined to North America. The city of Taipei is mounting an exhibit featuring bamboo, lotus flowers and pink and fuchsia shrubs, including pink rhododendrons, Taipei’s official flower.

On the Unilock Celebrity Stage, Canada Blooms shares the spotlight with top home improvement experts, presenting an impressive roster of speakers on a wide range of gardening topics, from getting back to basics and selecting the best perennials to hilarious Reach for the Treetops Gardener Trivia Tournaments featuring master gardeners from all over the province. And starting at 1 p.m. in Blooms Garden Solutions Room 103, Sit Down Sundays offers a unique opportunity to talk one-on-one with a master gardener about your gardening challenges — so bring along photos of the problem spots in your garden.

The Canada Blooms Marketplace is always an essential stop-and-shop area where the season’s newest gardening gear, garb and gadgets are available. This year, the Toronto Botanical Garden is the show’s official bookseller, and along with hot-off-the-press titles, shopTBG will feature plenty of horticultural paraphernalia. Don’t miss GardenMaking magazine either, where you’ll see 15 of this year’s best new plant introductions showcased in a gardenesque setting full of colour and glam. And, as ever, GardenImport’s Dugald Cameron will be on hand to tempt us all with delectable bulbs, perennials and seeds.

For complete show information, including garden descriptions and speaker schedules, visit canadablooms.com. Oh, and did I mention I’ll be talking about the gardens of Thailand at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21? Drop by and say, “Hi.”

Planning her visits to Canada Blooms, Lorraine Flanigan writes from her home in the South Eglinton neighbourhood of Toronto.