Monty Don & the TBG

30 June 2014 — English garden writer & broadcaster Monty Don has probably never heard of the Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG) — but there is a link nonetheless.

My partner & I are hooked on the engaging, informative Monty Don TV gardening series, so whenever one is available here, we watch. Friday night we watched the last in his French Gardens series, being shown on TV Ontario; Saturday I took myself off to the TBG, determined to channel my inner Monty Don & soak up the delights.

detail of "This Garden Grows Love" in TBG

And yes, I loved it.

This one word from “This garden grows love” — spelled out across some hedges — sums up my own feelings quite nicely. The TBG isn’t large (at 4 acres, it is apparently the smallest botanical garden in North America), but it has impact. It has been extensively enhanced & upgraded within the last decade, and has become a very 21st-c. place to seek gardening information & education.

Or just to have a happy wander. And, since it sits within a City park (Edwards Gardens) that flows into two other City parks (Wilket Creek & Sunnybrook), you can wander forever. I choose to wander … but I have my eye out for some information as well.

I park near the Demonstration Courtyard, with its straw bale storage shed, topped by a green roof that is rapidly greening & growing in the summer heat. (How quickly we rocket from winter to summer!)

straw ale shed, TBG

In along the Entry Garden Walk, created by Dutch designer Piet Oudolf in New Wave style, with its waves of grasses, shrubs & trees to create a “sophisticated meadow.” More sophistication: the stainless steel sculpture by Canadian artist Ron Baird.

Entry Walk to TBG, sculpture by Ron Baird

And behind all that, a glimpse of the angular George and Kathy Dembroski Centre for Horticulture (a LEED Silver-certified building), with its own Green Roof. At 223 sq metres, rather larger  than the one on the storage shed!

I’m headed into the building, but first I tuck into the Floral Hall Couryard for just a moment. In this heat, the sight & sound of water cascading down that steel mesh curtain is a joy. I read the labels for the Colorado Spruce this side of the water curtain & the Hyde Hall clematis on the far side — it would be ungrateful not to, with so many labels fulfilling the educational mandate everywhere you look, so much of it the work of volunteers.

I see chairs & tables being set out for a wedding reception later today. Saturday in late June, every pretty site in town must be chock-a-block with weddings!

What snags my eye the longest, though, is — I learn, as I stoop to the label — the Anemone blanda “White Splendour.”

Windflower clump in TBG

Windflower is its common name, & though I’m sharing the image with you, it’s really for me. I’m embarking on some back yard garden work of my own, so I’m looking for ideas.

Into the Centre, past the tempting gift shop (I am so strong), past a sign for the upcoming wedding and another for a workshop on “Horticulture as Therapy,” and right into the Weston Family Library for a handful of pamphlets and a closer look at some lovely horticulture-related artwork on the walls.

Then I look out the window & do a small double-take.

TBG beehive seen from library

It’s a real bee hive. The signs on the sliding doors politely tell you NOT to slide them open. “Bees at work.”

Back outside, into the Beryl Ivey Knot Garden, where I look up and see the much-reworked, restored, reborn Spiral Mound.

Spiral Mound, from TBG Knot Garden

It looks rather like fluffy green twirls of soft ice cream, and has proved just as tempting. Which is fine, they always did want people to climb it — but not criss-cross it every which way, and trample it to death! Problem now solved, it seems. The narrow path is bricked, delicate little chains block potential short-cuts, and frequent notices ask us to stay on the path.

I climb — staying on the path — and look back down at the Knot Garden, and one face of the Terrace Garden beyond.

TBG Knot Garden, from Spiral Mound

Looking the other way, I see the whole Garden Hall Courtyard, used for outdoor gatherings in season. It’s so appealing with its waterfall and water channel that I go straight to it once I’ve spiralled my way back down the Mound.

First the waterfall , with its related plantings …

waterfall in TBG Garden Hall Courtyard

… and then the channel, planted with (labels & a pamphlet tell me) acid-loving perennials, trees & shrubs. It is very refreshing here, in the heat.

water channel through TBG Garden Hall Courtyard

I linger; I see another couple finally shake themselves into action again with an agreed “¡Vamenos!”; I watch a Japanese couple pause, murmuring softly to each other as the wife drops to her knees for some close-up photography.

Next a swing through the Kitchen Garden — all produce donated to a food bank, says a sign — with its raised demonstration beds of good companion plantings for Toronto conditions.

3 beds in the TBG Kitchen Garden

Here’s a trio, with the Catchiest Title Award going to the one in front, no contest. “Fig-Pig Patio,” it says, followed by “Beat the Grocery Bill” and “Fall & Winter Vegetables.”

These 4 acres pack an extraordinary range of themes, conditions, looks. Out of the Kitchen Garden enclave, and into Nature’s Garden, which uses its trails to replicate two distinct Ontario native-plant habitats: Toronto ravine-system conditions in the western portion, which lies in the Wilket Creek ravine; and in the eastern part, a recreation of Canadian Shield conditions, found north of the city.

in Nature's Garden, TBG

A rock, some daisies, & the nodding red bells of Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). Such contrast to, for example, the Knot Garden!

By now I’m walking myself out of the TBG site, moving seamlessly into Edwards Gardens, which borders Wilket Creek here just south of Lawrence Ave. East. Just before I hit the wooded slopes, some Dancing Fool Trees, caught unawares.

installation in Edwards Gardens

No, you’re right, it’s an installation. I wish I had found artist credit somewhere, but no luck…

I start down a trail through woods, dropping into the ravine toward the creek, and pause for a moment in the deep shade. Every nook has its wedding party taking photos!

a bridal party in Edwards Gardens

They leave, I scramble on down, then walk back along the creek through the rhododendron gardens, past mounds of hostas large enough to hide an elephant, and eye yet another wedding party, this one perching on a narrow little pathway in the terraced rock gardens on one creek slope. I sit & glug some water from my Royal Australian Navy water bottle, which comes into its own again every summer. (Thank you Alan, the gift that keeps on giving!)

Across a little footbridge over Wilket Creek, climb up through the rock gardens, enjoy seeing how many people are enjoying the parks and the TBG … and then I swerve so as not to disturb another very common site visitor.

This one as ubiquitous as the wedding parties, and to be found — like the wedding parties — in clusters all over the grounds.

Canada Goose

The Canada Goose is a noble bird. I mourn its descent, in popular opinion, to that of pest. It truly is a victim of loss of habitat. What can it do?

I’m cheered to see that someone has taken a quill, and tucked it upright among some impatiens.

goose quill among the impatiens, TBG

A tribute, I hope.

I pass a policeman, taking a short break in the shade & listening to baseball game play-by-play, thoughtfully dialled so low as to be almost inaudible. “Who’s winning?” I ask. “Blue Jays are now,” he says happily, “just hit a home run.” I quip, “It’s because of you! You have to keep listening!”

We both laugh, and I’m still smiling a bit as I cross the parking lot to collect the car & head home.

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Love it!

    Reply
  2. Perfect tour for hot weather! Enjoyed every step and photo and what a nice anecdote to end with… Thanks for the refreshing read.

    Reply

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