Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2010 Symposium on Sustainable Horticulture

Canadian Institute for Sustainable Biodiversity
February 16th through 19th, 2010

Join experts and specialists from all over Ontario and further abroad for our three-day symposium on sustainable horticulture.

What part does horticulture play in making urban Canada a healthy, productive place to live?

How does our urban landscape - gardens, parks, lawns, ecologically designed hardscapes, green roofs and other innovations - ensure that well-being and biodiversity are supported and enhanced?

What steps can all practitioners of horticulture - from the trades to home gardeners and plant breeders - take to issues like invasive species, pest management and urban biodiversity?

The symposium will explore these and many other questions, Wednesday February 17th through Friday February 19th, 2010 (with a day of workshops on Tuesday February 16th).

  • Hands-on workshops one day only, Tuesday, February 16: plant identification, seed saving, cooking with local produce
  • Multidisciplinary panels, keynotes, presentations and poster sessions
  • Sessions: Sustainable Sites Initiative, water features, climate change, urban agriculture, native plants, green roof technologies and more
  • Keynote presentations: Dr. Jennifer Sumner, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Dr. David Galbraith, Royal Botanical Gardens, and Dr. Steve Windhager, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas
Register on-line

Information on volunteering

Download a flyer for the 2010 Patrick Colgan Lecture, “Climate Change and Horticulture through Mid-Century” by Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon, on Wednesday 17 February 2010 at 7:00 PM

Roses I have Known

Morden Sunrise
Parkland series, hardy shrub rose
Introduced in 1999
Blooms appear in a combination of yellow, orange, and pink, against dark green, shiny foliage.

Morden Blush 
Parkland series, hardy shrub rose
Introduced in 1988
Pale pink blooms in cooler temperatures, turn creamy white in warmer weather.

John Davis
Explorer shrub / climber
Introduced in 1986
Medium pink double flowers in clusters. 

J.P. Connell 
Ottawa Breeding Program
Introduced in 1987
Lemon yellow blooms look a lot like a hybrid tea rose open to look more like a floribunda in creamy white.
  • I still have my John Davis rose, who has faithfully bloomed year after year since 2001, moved three times, and has lived in a bucket for months at a time.


 "By a Lady"
Elizabeth Washington Gamble Wirt, 1784-1857
Originally published in Baltimore by Fielding Lucas, June 1829.
This first dictionary of flower meanings can be viewed in full (scanned version) (or downloaded to your Kindle) thanks to the contribution from the University of California Libraries to the Internet Archive.

My appreciation grows for these scanned copies of treasured books for the sake availability and record, but oh how I'd appreciate even more being able to hold an original copy.

Ms Wirt's floral dictionary was one of a number published during the Victorian Age; when gardening for leisure flourished, and propriety meant constraint, the symbolic use of flowers was a means of expression. Floriography, or the meaning of flowers, has continued to serve as a instrument of the romantic gesture. What I adore about Flora's Dictionary is the combination of science and folklore. The book begins by setting the stage for a botanist's study, but the references aren't direct and are quoted from literature, namely poetry - the songs of the heart.

Often the message is as much about the colour of the flower as the flower itself. Over time, the language of  these emblems of emotion has been reconstructed; for instance Ms Wirt's yellow Tulip symbolized hopeless love, while now is commonly known to speak for cheerfulness. Innocent Daisies stand over time, but the Foxglove Digitalis evolves from "a wish" according to Flora's Dictionary to being known as "dead man's bells" or "witches gloves" due to the potency of the plant's chemicals.
Whatever their meaning, flower symbolism continues to satisfy the human psyche, and the heart. With Valentine's Day quickly approaching I'm quite certain the florists will be busy interpreting the language of flowers.

A Contemplation upon Flowers: Garden Plants in Myth and LiteratureAs always, I recommend reading A Contemplation Upon Flowers by Bobby J. Ward.


The Language of Flowers; With Illustrative Poetry by Frederic Shoberl
Lea & Blanchard, 1848

Flora Symbolica or, The Language and Sentiment of Flowers. Including floral poetry, original and selected.
by John Henry Ingram
Published in 1869, F. W. Warne and co. (London)
Flora Symbolica: Flowers in Pre-Raphaelite Art

Flora Symbolica: Flowers in Pre-Raphaelite Art by Debra Mancoff
Prestel, 2003



(JSTOR) Scientific Theory in Erasmus Darwin's "The Botanic Garden" (1789-91)
Clark Emery
Isis, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Sep., 1941), pp. 315-325
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Greenhouse Dreaming

six more weeks

Wiarton Willie saw his shadow this morning, and so we have six more weeks of winter. Shubenacadie Sam, and Punxsutawney Phil did, and I'm going to assume our furry little friends R.O.U.S.'s in the LU Garden have also seen their shadows.
This means six more weeks of winter reading, so I picked up a copy of The God of Small Things today from the university bookstore. Winner of the Booker Prize, I was sold by the description of being "lush and lyrical", and the first chapter title: PARADISE PICKLES & PRESERVES.
Roy begins with a description of Ayemenem, India in May; rich in red ripening bananas, and fruity air - just the sort of place I want to read myself into on this cold February. A little bit of travel writing to take me some place else.

Groundhogs are popping up all over the city, not only in the LU Garden. The courthouse on Court Street also boasts a groundhog, and I'm sure there are some living near the ridge of Hillcrest Park - near our garden. Luckily Claire and Gromit have little affection for large rodents, and will do well at keeping them at a distance. woof

The legend of the groundhog's forecasting powers, though up for discussion, dates back to the early days of Christianity in Europe when clear skies on the holiday Candlemas Day, celebrated on Feb. 2, meant an extended winter.
The tradition founds its way to Germany, altering so that that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas, a hedgehog would cast its shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of cold weather.
The Groundhog Day was then carried on in North America during the late 1800s thanks to a Pennsylvanian newspaper editor and publisher, who organized and popularized a yearly festival in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The festival featured a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil to foretell how long the winter would last.

A typical groundhog, or by its scientific name Marmota monax, weighs approximately 9.5 pounds with a body length reaching about 20 inches.
Groundhogs use their short, powerful legs, claws, and large teeth to dig underground living habitats, which can run quite extensively with as many as five entrances and various tunnels extending some 45 feet, and as deep underground as 5 feet.

"Shubenacadie Sam, Nova Scotia's furry season forecaster, spots his shadow as he emerges from his enclosure in Shubenacadie, N.S. on Monday, Feb. 2, 2009."
(Photo by Andrew Vaughan / 

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger

If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight

If Candlemas be cloud and snow
Winter will be gone and not come again

A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay.

On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop.


FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet.
Among several main characters, FRESH features urban farmer and activist, Will Allen, the recipient of MacArthur’s 2008 Genius Award; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma; and supermarket owner, David Ball, challenging our Wal-Mart dominated economy.

Establishing A Food Forest

Establishing A Food Forest
(The Permaculture Way Series)
by Geoff Lawton

Educator and Consultant Geoff Lawton discusses the principles of Permaculture and Agroforestry in his film on developing sustainable, ecological food systems. A review of the film can be read here, I can't describe it any better. Though the film features in Australia, the principles are globally relevant.
Consider how this theorum can be applied in our Boreal forest.

Order your own copy of the DVD from the
Permaculture Research Institute of Australia

The Permaculture Research Institute as a registered charity and global networking centre for Permaculture projects around the world.

Permaculture is a design system for sustainable human habitats that supply human needs in an environmentally sustainable way – an environment enhancing way. -- Geoff Lawton

OMAFRA factsheets

Why Farm Organically?

Factsheets from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs are a invaluable source of information. Though focused on commercial farming, the principles can be applied to any grower. The OMAFRA Vegetable Production Information page lists everything from soil science to seed companies, and homemade pesticides from Health Canada.

Season Extension Techniques for Vegetable Crops is a particularly relevant sheet to gardeners in our area.

Interim Report on Ontario's Biodiversity (a 66 page pdf document from the Ontario Biodiversity Council) discusses everything from native species, ecosystem diversity, sustainable use and Integrating Biodiversity Conservation into Land-Use Planning. The anecdotal (though fundamentally scientific) information in the document and links to further reading can keep a gardener well entertained on a rainy spring day.
The Ministry of Natural Resources extends to Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy and "seeks to engage more Ontarians in our efforts to achieve the goals of protecting biodiversity and ensuring the sustainable use of our biological assets."

Interested to know What's current in crops?


Pictured right is Marge Stadey of the Ogden-Simpson Veggie Garden Project showing some children her worm compost at the local food forum at the Lakehead University Agora in November 2008.

The Thunder Bay Vermicomposting Network was initiated by Dr. Brad Wilson and a number of his students of the Geography Department at Lakehead University.

Worm composting is an efficient way to deal with home kitchen food scraps, turning it into useful and nutrient rich compost for your garden. The process is simple; instructions can be found here, compiled by EcoSuperior.

Red worms (red wigglers) are the companions you want for your worm composting, and are available from Dr. Wilson's network.

City Farmer executive director Michael Levenston's posts in City Farmer News are some of my favourite to read. I've been subscribing to this journal for a long time, and am continually engaged with his historical Canadian gardening stories, along side the current movements City Farmer News follows on the west coast.

In a recent post, City Farmer News published the following video on worm composting which answers a lot of the questions people have, and with this video demonstrate the process.

To read the full article, please visit
City Farmer News Worm Composting Tips.

City Farmer’s main web site Urban Agriculture Notes (www.cityfarmer.org) has hundreds of pages of information about city farming. Published since 1994, it was the first web site on the Internet to promote urban farming.