Small Mercies: Denizens of the Woodland Floor

Out of nowhere, the ice storm hit. Freezing rain for two days straight in late March that encased entire forests in an icy prison of frozen glass, well over an inch thick.

Legions of ice-laden trees were toppled, crushed, and tossed about like the toys of an impudent child – leaving a scene of devastation as deathly as it was beautiful.

How strange then to hike into the forest a few weeks later and looking beneath the battlefield of shattered branches and limbs, find the forest floor surging back to life.
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Meetings w/ Remarkable Plantsmen: Piet Oudolf & Roy Diblik

I’ve been doubly spoiled over the past month by inspiring encounters with exceptional plantsmen.

First up, I reconnected with über designer, Piet Oudolf in the form of a two-hour transatlantic Skype call to Hummelo, which turned into a one-on-one masterclass in planting design.

This was followed by a three-day visit from American plantsman, writer, and prairie whisperer Roy Diblik, who came up from Northwind Perennial Farm to speak to the Canadian chapter of the Garden Writers Association at our annual meeting here in Toronto.

I’ve learned to never quarrel with serendipity. Continue reading

Winter Sowing: Visitations & Workshops

Yoo-hoo winter. Where are you? Can you come out to play?

Here in Toronto, you’ve been pretty much a no-show. Temperatures yesterday shot up to a record-breaking 15.5C for this date in February. The only snow in town are Snowdrops (Galanthus), which are strangely starting to bloom– months ahead of schedule.

For gardeners, winter is anything but dormant. It’s a season to dream, learn, think, and plan. Literally sowing the seeds for a new season of possibility. Continue reading

Hello and Goodbye: Agents of Change

What a week.

Like so many others, I’m devastated by the death of cultural lodestar, David Bowie. So much more than a pop icon, he sparked a generational spirit of transformation that inspired and dared us to experiment with a whole new sense of self and the possibilities of life.

He exerted a special power among outliers, artists, androgynes, and the demimonde. There was always a dark side to the soundtrack.

What does this have to do with a planting design blog? Well, perhaps more than I first realized. Continue reading

Sleeping Beauties: In Search of Spring Ephemerals

It’s become a first rite of spring: after the eternity of a northern winter, I head to the woods to find the first sleeping beauties that awake from the forest floor.

To chance upon the powder-soft buds of purple liverworts (Hepatica nobilis) fluttering their long white lashes into flower; or to marvel at the tightly-wrapped cones of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) that unscroll their virgin-white blooms; or to wander through vast carpets of mottle-leafed trout lily (Erythronium americanum) with downward-cast yellow trumpets as poised as any orchid.

And then, there’s the familiar sight of trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) raising their white tricorn hats in unison to follow the arc of the sun across the sky.

It’s love at first sight—all over again. Continue reading