Monday, January 31, 2011

A few highlights from the Interior Design Show in Toronto

What happens when you pair talented design siblings and ask them to create a space? You get fun, colorful and creative rooms. Take a peak at these rooms from the 2011 Interior Design Show in Toronto which were created by the talented design teams of: Thien & My Ta Trung, David & Glenn Dixon, Sarah & Theo Richardson and Jason & Lars Dressler.

Interior design by David and Glen Dixon.

The shadows cast on the interior walls were created by hundreds of white paper cranes which were 
suspended from the ceiling.

Interior design by David and Glen Dixon.

There were beautiful flowers everywhere at the show.

As well as the Sibling Revelry spaces, there were many other beautiful displays. 

I love the graphic appeal of using a flag as artwork. The crystal chandelier, white flowers and green Fireking china in this display were a perfect counterpoint to the oversized red, white and blue flag. British designer Timothy Oulton for UpCountry.

This is where my photography gets a bit sketchy, but I had to show you this Ikea kitchen because it was such a standout for its clever use of inexpensive lighting. Above the dark wood-toned Ikea kitchen, the designer hung a large collection of white paper shades to great effect.

There was everything from china to pillows at the show. Pillows: Lily Yung

This display was part of the Style at Home magazine booth. 

On the left is a detail of a beautiful desk by talented Jodi Racicot, partner to Marguerite of the blog Canoe CornerRight blankets from Norway, distributed in Canada by Julia Manitius, Vancouver.

For more information about the show, design and products shown visit: 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Taking it Out Front: Gardening in the Public Eye

Gardening in the relative seclusion of the backyard is one thing. Taking gardening out front is sometimes a brave act of self-expression that is not for the faint of heart!

One bright, sunny day in early summer, I was out in my front garden attempting to prune a wildly overgrown forsythia into submission. The afternoon was hot with the first flush of summer humidity. Without much thought beyond comfort, I had dressed in navy shorts and an old worn tank top.

As the story unfolds you will see, that this was perhaps shortsighted for a number of reasons. First among them: the branches of the uncooperative bush was fighting back by poking and scratching my bare arms and legs.

When I paused for a breather, I looked over to see a compact car packed with teenage boys had come to stop at the red light at the corner. Through the car's open window I could hear their boisterous laughter and fragments of conversation overtop of some rather loud music. While stopped for the light, there was little to occupy their attention, so their gaze turned in my direction. Then one of them, no doubt egged on by the society of his peers, yelled out a very rude comment, the kind of demeaning observation that only a cocky teenage boy would dare say in public.

How does one respond to such a brazen remark without endangering one's dignity even further? Even if you are quick enough to fire-off a sharp tongued zinger, it would probably only up the anti and escalate an already unpleasant situation. After all it doesn't take much mental agility to be cruel.

Mid-summer Tiger lily

Let's face it, as a society we take particular interest in not only making judgements, but sharing our observations, however impolite. Wether its tuning in to see who will be voted off the island this week or calling in to vote for your favorite singer or dancer on this season's latest slate of reality TV, we love to participate in passing judgement.

You would think that one's home and garden would be an oasis from the mad world of snap judgements. Certainly this may be true for a secluded back garden, but take it out front on to a very busy street corner like mine and you quickly discover that you are the unwilling center of attention for every bored motorist passing by.

Gardening is my escape from day to day concerns. Though I regard it as my own personal oasis, when walking into my garden on our busy corner, I sometimes feel as if I have just stepped on to a theatrical stage.

I don't want to worry about clothes, hair and makeup when I garden, but it is hard not to be self-conscious when people gawk and stare as if the simple act of deadheading a rose bush was the most fascinating thing they ever saw.

God forbid you forget yourself for a moment and bend over to pull out a weed without having carefully considered the view you might be presenting to the world!

Now you may respond that I should be flattered by all this attention. No, not really! Just imagine if you could ask an animal at the zoo if he is flattered by all the gawkers. If he doesn't eat you for the sheer audacity of your question, he would tell you that there is nothing flattering about being watched.

Sometimes as the only sentinel at a busy intersection, I also find that motorists expect you to be freely willing to dispense driving directions. When I car slows, I now find myself preparing a mental map of local roads and calling up the addresses of popular destinations like the discount chicken outlet several streets over.

Seriously, it is beyond me how someone can leave the house with no idea whatsoever of how to get to their destination. How many times have I had to deal with a motorist on Venus who wants to get to Pluto. So often, I have been tempted to say impatiently to the lost motorist, "It's hopeless! Retrace your steps and go home. Then start over, this time with a map!" It has gotten to the point that, in order to deal with the litany of lost souls, we have begun to store local street maps in a wicker basket on the front porch. Believe you me, I have considered sending an invoice the local tourist authority for services rendered!

Late summer bloomer.

There are also garden questions from passing motorists. One woman, a local school bus driver who had stopped for the red light called out to ask the name of one of my roses. With the seconds clicking rapidly by before the light went green, I felt like I was on a game show: Name that Rose!  With the panic of the contestant knowing the buzzer was about to ring, I quickly replied that I had forgotten the name and would have to dig out my plant list and look it up. In the seconds before the light turned green, I did manage to give her the name of the nursery, hoping that she might look up the rose herself. Well the very next day, didn't she roll down her window again and ask to know if I had looked up the rose's name. Of course I was polite, but I felt like replying that I had no idea I was working to a deadline.

Fall mums in the front garden.

Not only am I expected to dispense free gardening advice, I am also expected to be willing to hand out free stuff. By way of example, one woman after a few brief pleasantries, practically demanded to know if I had any "suckers". Another woman, who saw me moving a large perennial clump, stopped her car to ask me if I was throwing the plant out and could she have it?

For me, generosity is not something you ask for or expect, it is something you receive.

Frost crystals on one of the roses.

Now, I have to balance this long rant to say, that I have also had wonderful feedback on my garden. There has been so many times when I have been favored with the ultimate comment. Motorists have taken the time to pull their car to the side of the road and have crossed the busy street just to tell me how much they enjoyed seeing the garden's parade of summer flowers. In particular, I remember one older gentleman who wanted to shake my hand and tell me that my garden brought him "great joy" every time he passed by. I was very touched and flattered.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hyacinth, the Love of the God Apollo

We had extreme cold weather warnings on the weekend. It was the kind of brutal cold that stings your face, thumbs your fingertips and quickly penetrates even an extra thick layer of wool socks. The frigid temperatures definitely left me pining for spring.

I always save a walk past the floral department for the end of a trip to the grocery store. Even if I don't purchase anything, it is a treat to see cellophane wrapped bouquets of fresh flowers and displays of spring bulbs. On Saturday, there were orchids for the bargain price and pots of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths to temp me. After much humming and hawing, I chose the hyacinths.

The death of Hyacinth by Merry-Joseph Blondel

This is a rather theatrical depiction of Apollo bent in grief over the body of his lover Hyacinth. According to Greek mythology, Hyacinth, the handsome son of a Spartan king, made the fatal error of rejecting the affections of the Zephyrus, god of the west wind. In a fit of jealousy, Zephyrus blew Apollo's discus against the boy's head mortally wounding him. A purple hyacinth flower sprang from the young boy's spilled blood. 

Hyacinth was also a martyred Christian saint who starved to death when he refused to eat meat that had been blessed in a sacrifice to pagan gods. 

Wild Hyacinth, a native of Turkey and the Middle East, was introduced to Europe in the 16th century.

According to the Victorian language of flowers, the hyacinth flower symbolizes sport or play. A blue hyacinth signifies sincerity.

Hyacinth bulbs have been cultivated commercially since the second half of the 16th century. As well as being grown for their flowers, hyacinths are also cultivated in the Netherlands for the perfume trade. Most hyacinth perfume sold however is actually synthetic.

Not everyone likes the rich, spicy scent of hyacinth flowers. Certainly their fragrance can overpower a small room. Myself, I like the heady fragrance and the waxy, bell shaped flowers.

I put the pink and white hyacinth flowers into two of my favorite containers. I hope they brighten the start of your work week.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Color Essay Number 5: It's a Pink Extravaganza of Peonies and Roses

It seems to me, that nature must love the color pink, because she dresses some of her most beautiful flowers in pink. 

I am embarrassed to admit that I do little to deserve the beautiful peonies that grow in my garden. A generous helping of mulch and an application standard fertilizer seems to prompt repayment well beyond what is owed for such a minimal amount of effort. 

I don't even stake the big floppy blooms. When they droop with the weight of early summer rains, I ruthlessly cut them instead. I bring the flowers inside, fill many wide mouthed vases and shamelessly enjoy the very subtle fragrance drifts up from each cluster of flowers.

This is a Cora Stubbs Peony that I saw at the Royal Botanical Gardens last 
summer. I have been thinking that it would be a nice addition to my family of peonies.

The forgiving ways of peonies do however have their limits. I have found out the hard way, that once established and comfortable in a garden spot, they do not like to be moved. There was a single petalled, pink peony in my back garden that pouted and refused to bloom for two years after I moved it. That will teach you, it taunted me every time I looked in its direction!

Peonies also demand full sun. I have put this to the test and can tell you that they protest a less than ideal location by not only going about the business of growing at a tortuously slow rate, they utterly refuse to be generous in their production of blooms.

I like to mix in flowers  like roses, weigela and spirea into my casual arrangements of peonies.

If the peonies in my garden are undemanding, my roses all but make more than up for it. They need winter protection, copious amounts of water, regular applications of fertilizer, and protection from insects and disease. Though I love the my David Austin roses they are the worst offenders. Despite the fact that I cover them during the winter months, these particular roses suffer through the cold Canadian winter only to emerge in spring looking defeated and forlorn. With a good deal of fussing on my part, they limp back into flower. Frankly, there has been many a spring when I have thought of ending this dependent relationship once and for all. Then when the roses open, all is forgiven.

I have been keeping my eyes open and my ears to the ground on the lookout for more hardy, battle ready roses. In a summer trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, I made mental notes on roses I might want to consider adding next spring. I figure, if they can make it through winter in this open park, maybe they would make good replacements for their more finicky cousins.

Here are some of my favorite rose pictures from last summer.

The Royal Botanical Gardens(RBG) in Hamilton has a large rose garden that is encircled by 
weathered grey arbors.

A hybrid tea called "Gemini" at the RBG in Hamilton.

A beauty from the Lucy Maud Montgomery garden. Sorry, we were unable to find an identifier. The David Austin rose "The Mary Rose" is very similar.

Planting more than one shrub rose can make for a spectacular display. RBG, Hamilton.

 This Hybrid Musk Rose called "Belinda"at the RBG was growing in part shade. I plan to order one from Pickering Nurseries for my own garden.

I like nontraditional roses that look like apple blossoms.

The "Alchymist"from the RBG in Hamilton.

Marjorie Fair Rose

I get more questions from passersby about this rose than any other in my garden. People usually think that it is some kind of new variety of hydrangea.

David Austin's Mary Rose

A great repeat bloomer this delicate pink groundcover rose is aptly named the Fairy.