Designing with Remarkable Plantsmen: Piet Oudolf & Roy Diblik

Over the past six months, I’ve been utterly absorbed in the making of a woodland garden on the edge of our one-acre pond in the rolling hills of Mono, Ontario.

Early in the process, I was doubly fortunate to get advice on my plans from two maestros of modern planting design, Piet Oudolf and Roy Diblik.

My last post on this topic introduced them as plantsmen and people. This time, it’s about the design process and how they helped push my ideas forward with some stellar advice and insights. Continue reading

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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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

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

The Field Trip: A Perennial Summer Adventure

A friend once told me over a beer and frog legs in Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Travel is not about the places – it’s about the people you meet.

So true.

Now home after several whirlwind weeks on the road, I’m taking a breather to retrace my steps.

It all started with a visit to Baltimore, Maryland in late July for my first annual Perennial Plant Association (PPA) Symposium.

Next, my partner Troy and I buckled up for a 10-day road trip to Québec driving out along the silver-laced shores of the St. Lawrence Seaway to visit a pair of much revered gardens: Les Jardins de Métis and Les Quatre Vents. Continue reading