Best in Show

Old Man Cactus

Well actually this “l’il fella” only took second prize in its category in the Garden Club of Toronto’s horticultural competition at Canada Blooms, but it stole top prize in my heart. What I like is how it was just sitting there so unassuming. Sure there were lots of spring smells and pretty flowers but it’s just so encouraging to see that the stereotypically prim and proper garden-club set have a baudy sense of humor. I’m almost considering getting myself a ridiculously big hat (I want one regardless) and a membership.

Old Man Cactus

Did I mention that the common name of Cephalocereus senillis is ‘Old Man Cactus’? Enough said.


Here I am signing books after my talk on growing food in the city. I cropped out the volunteer fast asleep on a chair behind me. Also not shown, an unnamed garden-world famous certain someone totally bogarting the book signing table.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla

7 thoughts on “Best in Show

  1. Gayla, do you share my opinion that the Garden Club – and their weird competitions (whoo hoo: you grew an ivy. Here’s a blue ribbon!) take up too much square footage at Blooms? To my mind, that’s a separate show.

  2. I don’t completely agree. I have always enjoyed this aspect of just looking at pretty average plants in pots. In recent years the display gardens have left me cold. I miss the days when the Montreal Botanical Gardens would create something exciting and contemporary. I like the Garden Club section merely because I can sort-of relate to those containers of rosemary and ivy.

    I believe they have actually downsized that portion significantly over the years. I used to spend a lot of time just looking at the cactus and succulents. I suppose it is that over-the-top wierdness that I like about it. In fact I wish they included judges notes with the actual potted plants… that would be far more entertaining! Plus I love seeing the ridiculous concepts people come up with for the theme competitions. Oregano growing in a hollowed out bread — so, ummmm…. avant garde!

    Now they seem to devote more space to the floral arrangements and whatnot — I can not relate to that stuff. It reminds me so much of the parents in Beetlejuice and their harsh, cold, and wacky 80s decor. It’s trying so damn hard I instantly lose any fun in making light of it.

    My real criticism is with the show overall. Canada Blooms used to present much more with the gardener in mind but it has been shifting in the past years more and more towards industry people and ultra bourgeoisie trends…. My friend Sarah aptly refers to it as “The Festival of Sheds”. This year it was “The Festival of Walls.” I am finding myself walking away feeling increasingly disappointed every year.

    This is why I promote Seedy Saturday so heavily. It may be small and can’t offer lots of flowers and displays but everyone there is a gardener and the vibe that comes off as a result is fun, lively and relaxed. I always leave Seedy Saturday with that excitment to start my seeds and with a good feeling about gardeners and the future of gardening as a whole.

    My other major and most important criticism is in how behind the times they are in even beginning to address organic gardening, sustainability…. any environmental concerns whatsoever. There are basically a few speakers talking about gardening organically and a small sprinkling of garden displays and vendors… but overall I think they are far too dependant on sponsors like Miracle Gro to make that leap to bringing these ideas to the foreground where they have to be… The show is an opportunity to educate homeowners, new gardeners, and possibly present some new ideas to long-term gardeners. These ideas can’t be passed off as marginal or hippie nonsense anymore. It’s irresponsible and lame really to only make small nods to environmental concerns in this day and age. The show presents itself as a forerunner in what’s happening in gardening but the reality is that it is very behind the times and embarrassingly so.

  3. Oh and I forgot to mention that since the show is put on by The Garden Club they kinda have to get their piece of the pie so-to-speak.

  4. I had similar sentiments about the Victoria Home and Garden Show last weekend. After attending our Seedy Saturday a few weeks before, I felt that the Home and Garden Show left a lot to be desired by the activists and the dreamers. It seemed to radiate a lot more commercial spirit than community spirit. On the other hand, it never hurts to get the business community all in one room together. . .

  5. I will preface this by saying that I can only speak to the Toronto Seedy Saturday…. That said I have found it to be a very balanced blend of both commerce and community. Ultimately almost everyone there is selling something — whether it be a product line or an organization. I believe only one table is dedicated to trading. But what’s different is what they’re selling and how they’re selling it.

  6. I share many of Gayla’s thoughts on Canada Blooms and would love to hear comments from other attendees.

    Until recently I worked in a very elegant gardening/giftware store in the GTA and the staff often joked that our average customer was 80 years ago. And white. And affluent. As a woman of a “certain age” – somewhere between Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren – even I can see that Blooms needs a strong dose of youthful vigor and rebellion.

    And don’t get me started on those Red Hat ladies……..

  7. LOL!

    I’m with ya gals- me & my brother went, with expections a little high-it may as well be a vendor trade show. Gayla- Beetleguese- that’s exactly it! I remember a comment on one of the cards from a judge “styrofoam is dominant-!”(Glad you got a shot of the “old Man Cactus”)

    The area we really liked were the “outcasts”- the community groups, clubs and government agencies around the stairs, and not in the hall proper. We were quite happy to come home with so many free seeds!

    The two of us were really looking for more ‘alternative’ gardening ideas, especially for the land-lacking, Christine- count me in on your rebellion!

Comments are closed.