Friday, September 26, 2008

My Five Gardens: The TBG

On a cold April morning this spring, I showed up at The Toronto Botanical Garden with trowel in hand ready to do what was asked of me. Well, with 12 theme gardens spanning nearly four acres, there was lots to do. At the top of the list: weeding. The garlic mustard alone could take a lifetime to eradicate. Weeding at the TBG really made me appreciate how little weeding there is do in my own garden. I'll never complain about pulling a bushel of dandelions from the yard again because that ain't nothing! Leading the charge against the weeds were three staff gardeners and a core group of volunteers known as the KOGs: the Keepers of the Garden. The KOGs each put in more than 100 volunteer hours per season at the TBG. Now that's dedication and it really shows: the gardens are beautiful, and yes, relatively weed free.

I love the TBG because everywhere you look there is inspiration. I planted my first hellebores last year and witnessed them bloom this spring. I have three plants. One of the first things to greet me at the TBG was a small field of hellebores. Oh the possibilities! These were planted brilliantly in a raised area of the garden surrounding a courtyard. No need to bend down to see the blooms. You could simply stand in the courtyard and look up for a most impressive view.

One of my first jobs was to cut some massive stands of grass down to the ground. Those grasses are now once again almost twice as tall as me and are starting to fade to their familiar golden fall colours. Mornings in the garden were peaceful and often misty thanks to an unusually wet spring and summer. Just a few volunteers with their buckets weeding, fertilizing, transplanting, mulching and chatting about gardens. At the end of the day, I'd stroll casually through the gardens absorbing the atmosphere and making mental notes about beautiful plant combinations. I loved those quiet mornings.

Then just last week, I had a chance to visit the garden on a sunny Saturday afternoon. What a difference from my mornings in the garden. The place was abuzz with activity. There were bus tours coming through, at least three wedding parties posing for pictures, parents chasing their butterfly-chasing children, and gardeners pouring over a big garden book sale (I picked up few great bargains). While I have always enjoyed gardening for personal reasons, seeing so many people enjoying the garden made me realize how important it is to have beautiful spaces that everyone can enjoy. It really invigorates the spirit.

I had great aspirations of taking a million plus pictures at the TBG this summer. As it turns out, I have only a handful. I guess some job or other always got in the way. You can get your fill of eye candy at the TBG Photo Gallery.

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