I took this photo of a field of Gaillardia growing on a hillside on the Leslie Spit back in July before The Worst Drought in Fifty Years took a hold and sent lots of plants into hiatus on a short term or permanent basis. On a return visit in late August I found only a few blanket flowers blooming and many of the plants looking half baked. Gaillardia are an excellent drought tolerant flower but even the heavy hitters have their limit.
We went back to this spot yesterday afternoon on what is reported to be the warmest Canadian Thanksgiving on record reaching over 30 degrees C here in Toronto. In fact we’ve had an amazing Fall overall with plenty of sunshine, warm temperatures, and enough rain to bring our gardens out of the late summer’s drought-induced coma. Evidence of this turnaround is everywhere. The Gaillardia, among other flowers at The Leslie Street Spit have made a turnaround with a second coming of colourful blooms and lots of fresh new growth.
I’ve still got basil and other tender plants in-ground and producing new growth in both my community garden plot and out on the roof. Amazingly, I haven’t even brought my citrus trees indoors to overwinter and they are both still producing tiny fruit.
While I am enjoying a delay in putting my summer gear away I have to admit that I do find the warm temperatures a little bit disturbing since it is a continuation of a trend we saw last year with winter staying mild and rather un-winter-like until well into January. From another vantage point I am fascinated by the way the plants are adapting (or not) to a warmer Fall — instead of going dormant as many of them would at this time of year, plenty of plants just keep keeping on. And some, like the tomatoes and curcubits have either prematurely succumbed to poor conditions early on or are experiencing a second wind after a short break. The sole surviving zucchini plant living in a pot on my rooftop deck has started making flowers again. I have never had a zucchini plant shut down for a while and then come back with a brand new set of leaves and another harvest! As bad as this warm weather may be for the long term, I am learning a lot from really getting first-hand experience of how an extended growing season works in warmer climates. While I have done my homework and know what to expect and I have even experienced second harvests from some early-producing plants in the past, this whole experience is quite different and has been really educational.
This shifting nature of… well… nature is one of those things that makes gardening so interesting and challenging — no matter how much you know you can never know everything. And just when you think you’ve working things out and have got the perfect system in place, nature throws in a curveball or two. Gardening from year-to-year is never, ever the same. As intimidating as that can be, knowing perfection is unattainable is also very freeing and the unpredictability is certainly never boring.
We went out on Saturday night to explore the art and art events taking place across Toronto as a part of Nuit Blanche. While we left the house by choice, I will add that should we have preferred to stay in and nap, watch a movie, or simply try to have a conversation these options would have been out since a full band stage was erected directly across the street. If the sound check was any indication, life at home would not have been pleasant. We live in a high-traffic zone for loud, seasonal events including the zoom zoom of the Indy and the sonic boom of the Air Show. It’s things like this that make city living at once both surprisingly awesome and horrific depending on which way you’re looking at it. On the one hand we can watch beautiful fireworks from our bedroom window! But have you ever lived with dancing jets flying overhead every few minutes?
But I’m not writing about this on a garden site to complain about loud noises or tell you about good art, bad art, crowds of people, taking night time Polaroids, the gluttony of eating Vietnamese food at midnight and then bad Chinese at 1:30, the headache I had the next day, or how I have concluded through the pain of experience that I am too old to stay out until 4am… Instead I want to tell you about some of my favourite parts of Nuit Blanche and how they had nothing to do with art at all but were, of course, about plants. One of the highlights of our jaunt around town was a visit to 401 Richmond where I finally got the opportunity to go onto the roof and experience the magnificent rooftop garden. Countless people have been telling me for years that I have got to go and check out the rooftop garden. I don’t know what’s been stopping me but now that I’ve seen it at night I am thoroughly convinced that I have got to go see it during the day. I probably only saw half of the roof. The side I saw was lined with lots of really large planter boxes, each one containing trees and bushes. Pergolas were constructed for shade in some areas with lush, over-filled baskets of greenery dripping down from above. What an inspiration! Now that I’ve got proof that Dogwood will survive in a large planter box there is nothing stopping me from growing one in my own large box.
Here I am sitting beside a large, variegated Dogwood with a Fuchsia hanging above my head. I am sorry that the flash makes me look wide-eyed and crazy. Do not be afraid.
It was really dark (the flash on my camera could pick up more detail than I could with my eyes) but this undecked portion of the roof seems to have been covered with some kind of grass.
Later in the evening, while walking north to China Town we happened upon the Living Wall built just inside the foyer of the Centre for Social Innovation at 215 Spadina Ave. Apparently the building also houses a rooftop container garden and a green roof.
This city has got so much going on as far as green roofs and gardens, I have got to get out more!
I received the following update on the Scotts Miracle-Gro versus TerraCycle lawsuit from Scotts over a week ago but was a little freaked that the Scotts PR team would be so eager to get the facts of the settlement out into the world as soon as the verdict came through. Regardless, I figure I may as well mention the outcome given I wrote about the initial lawsuit. The following is a copy of the letter in their own words:
“With your previous interest and coverage of The Scotts Company and TerraCycle litigation, I wanted to bring to your attention todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s settlement announcement, which is detailed in the following news release.
TerraCycle has agreed that it no longer will make advertising claims of product superiority to Miracle-Gro products to ensure accuracy in its advertising. More specifically, TerraCycle has agreed that it will not claim that its products are better than, or more effective than, or as good as Miracle-Gro products. In addition, TerraCycle may not claim that any independent tests or university studies were conducted to support any such claims.
TerraCycle has also agreed to change its packaging so it will not use a green and yellow color combination, for which Miracle-Gro owns a trademark registration. This change will be made to avoid any possible confusion with Miracle-GroÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s trade dress.
The court order and the settlement agreement will be posted on TerraCycleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s www.suedbyscotts.com Web page. TerraCycle also agreed to phase out this site after three months.”
The email sent to me also included this statement from Scotts spokesperson, Jim King:
“Scotts is pleased to resolve this case and believes that the settlement serves the public’s interest in ensuring the accuracy of advertising claims, as well as protection of the valuable Miracle-Gro brand.“
Phew. [Wiping tears of relief from eyes] Thankfully the public’s interest has been served. Oh how I do enjoy the delightful spinning.
The website has indeed been updated including the details of the 29-page settlement agreement. Why not brew yourself up a cup of relaxing chamomile tea and settle under the covers tonight with a copy of that little ditty for an evening of good reading? You do not have to thank me.
In a recent New York Magazine feature entitled “My Empire of Dirt“, writer Manny Howard takes on the arduous task of growing a farm, complete with flora and fauna in his Brooklyn backyard to explore just what is involved in trying to feed himself locally for one month. The results are a humorous and slightly demoralizing mixed bag of mishaps, small rewards, freakish weather, and rabbit and chicken cannibalism which certainly makes for an interesting and sometimes horrifying read.
“Eating local is expensive and time-consuming, which is why this consumerist movement will not easily trickle down into mass society. It requires a willful abstinence from convenience and plenty, a core promise of the modern world. Our bountiful era is predicated on the division of labor: We donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sew our own clothes, we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t build our own housesÃ¢â‚¬â€and we certainly donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t farmÃ¢â‚¬â€because weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re too busy doing whatever it is we do for everyone else.”
The ensuing drama and general naivetÃƒÂ© of the author would have left me rolling my eyes skeptically (it seems like every paper and magazine has a writer on board trying out these kinds of food-related ‘experiments’ lately) if he had not captured my heart just a little with his stubborn determination. In the end, the intensity of the experience left both he and his family with a hard won lesson in the value of good food and resolve to buy responsibly.
“It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just a matter of buying regionally, or seasonally, or organicallyÃ¢â‚¬â€the important thing was to consume responsibly.”
I somehow doubt he will keep The Farm up at its current pace but I wonder if he will continue with the garden.
Let’s all agree right now to stop pretending to hate cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) and (Cosmos sulphureus). Let’s agree to stop telling ourselves we are too good for it. Or that it’s too easy. Let’s agree to admit right here, right now that we think it’s a pretty flower. Let’s stop telling ourselves it doesn’t have delicate, ferny foliage and soft petals. Let’s put the breaks on our own inner elitist whispering in our ear that a plant that can come up from a sidewalk crack and still put on a show is too embarrassing to grow.
Can we all just agree right now that we are in fact delighted to find one of these tough, resilient flowers dancing on a thin and graceful stem in a light late summer breeze with a puffy bee set on top busily enjoying its pollen?