The weather in Toronto in winter is a big tease. One day it’s a balmy 12 degrees and the next we’re plunged into nose-nipping minus temperatures. Brrrr. It’s enough to make a person long for greener gardens. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks; I’ve been planning my next trip.
While most folks head for the languor of a Caribbean island, perhaps not surprisingly, I look to where there are lots of gardens. And because garden travel seems to have grown in popularity faster than dandelions in a lawn, I don’t have to look very far for inspiration, and neither do you.
Are the gardens of Italy calling out to you? Then, take a trip hosted by gardening guru Marjorie Harris. Always wanted to check out the Chelsea Flower Show? You’re in luck, because this is the show’s centenary year and there’s a veritable cornucopia of trips lined up, including one by local landscape designerSara Katz, icangarden.com’s Donna Dawson and Kitchener/Waterloo gardening columnist David Hobson. Heck, even I can’t resist hosting a garden tour (Watch out, here comes the shameless plug…). Next January, I’m leading a trip to visit the many beautiful gardens of New Zealand.
No matter where you decide to travel, take it from a globe-trotting garden-gazer. To get the most out of the trip, you’ll want to be prepared. Here are some garden travel must-dos and don’ts.
1. Check the fine print. Not all tours are created equal, so ask for and comb through the day-by-day itinerary to see if meals are included, transportation to and from airports etc. And visit the websites of the hotels to get a good idea of the class, level of comfort and amenities.
2. If you travel with electronics (and who doesn’t these days?) bring any converters, adaptors and chargers you might need. If you’re carrying iPods, iPads, smartphones or tablets, be sure WiFi is available at your hotel or nearby. Charge all devices nightly — there’s nothing worse than running out of power when you need it most. (And bring extra memory cards for cameras — I always take more photos than I think I will.)
3. Serious photographers use a tripod, but the professionals know how to get around plant material safely. Instead of chancing any damage, steady your camera with a uni-pod (it’s easier to pack than a tripod, too), and better yet, perch the camera on a nearby wall or rock or simply brace it in your hands by bending your elbows and hugging them into your waist.
4. Pack a sun hat that folds easily; rain gear (skip the fashion outfits in favour of warm and waterproof); vest or pants with plenty of pockets for batteries, notebooks, pencils etc.; a few photos of your own garden (to show your travel companions as well as homeowners of the gardens you’re visiting — gardeners love to see the gardens of others); a collapsible day pack — you’d be surprised how heavy your handbag, camera and other paraphernalia become by mid-day.
1. Step into the flowerbeds: This seems like such a common sense rule, but it’s often too tempting to try to get a closer look at a beguiling plant. Instead of trampling the flowers, though, use your digital camera’s viewer and zoom lens for a close-up or to hone in on a label bearing the plant’s name. Better yet, ask your guide or the garden owner for the name of the plant — in many cases you’ll be rewarded not only with the name, but tips on how to grow it, too.
2. Peer into windows: It’s a privilege to be invited into a private garden. Respect the owner’s privacy and curb your curiosity. You’re there to admire the garden, not the living room furniture.
3. Set up a tripod in the flowerbeds: Yes, you might think you’re carefully positioning the legs of the tripod in bare patches, but there may be some preciously rare ephemeral plants lurking beneath the soil in a dormant stage.
Now, the hard part begins — deciding where in the world you want to go!
Consulting 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die, Lorraine Flanigan writes from her home in the South Eglinton neighborhood of Toronto.
Garden travel fair
The Toronto Botanical Garden is hosting a Garden Travel Fair on Feb. 7. You’ll be able to chat with tour operators and gardening hosts, pick up brochures and even take in a lecture by gallivanting gardener, Lorraine Flanigan who will highlight 60 gardens in 60 minutes. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; light meals available, lecture at 7:30.
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