18.11.12

November at the Toronto Botanical Garden


No "fall yard cleanup" here!


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Brown is a colour too!
Most of the leaves are off the trees in the city and as a result, the whine of gas-powered leaf blowers shatters any peace one seeks  in one of our public parks or our private yards. Not many seem to use rakes these days. Is such usage too low-tech and pedestrian? Where's the wow factor?

No leaf blowers at the TBG when I visited a couple days ago mercifully. No crowds either but hardly surprising.  The halcyon days of late spring and early summer are long gone when it seems everything is blooming its pretty head off. Gardens now emit a different level of energy which likely few find inspiring. 


Who finds brown interesting?


Well, I do!


Since we in Toronto aren't surrounded by pretty flowers for 5 or 6 months (holy moly, that's half the friggen year!), those who have an eye for things horticultural rely on the structure of, um, dead parts of perennials and dormant shrubs and trees to get us through the winter. "Winter interest" is an euphemism to describe our supposed appreciation of botanical brown bits like seedheads, tree bark, or dead grass stalks. I do believe it's a valid concept when choosing plants for a garden but on more than one occasion, a client/garden owner has looked at me with deeply distrustful eyes a I fawn over the virtues of a pagoda dogwood "holding" a fresh layer of snow as the sun rises on a crisp January morning, etc....

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I'm sure some viewers will take out their pruners right about now
Non-believers of the "winter interest" concept may experience a change of opinion if not a horti-religious conversion by visiting places like the TBG in which ornamental grasses and other "brown dead things" are not hacked to the ground the day after Halloween. I truly believe this "scorched earth" approach under the guise of a "fall cleanup" represents some deep psychological need to impose control and order on the external world.

Luckily, I haven't met many clients with such a neurosis but you see them removing every offending leaf from their front lawn, daily, with their blowers!


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As low(er) maintenance as you can get

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Backlit Miscanthus

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This will be even nicer once it snows
I don't want to give the impression that all things botanical were shades of brown, tan, wheat, khaki, etc. I saw this nice composition of fall beauty- and winterberries (Callicarpa and Ilex) which my crappy camera doesn't do justice to. The red (more scarlet) and purple really grab you visually. Alas, it lasts 2 weeks a year like magnolias, rhodos, etc., but what a two weeks!

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A montage of Beautyberry, Winterberry and a Thuja

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When nothing else is flowering, depend on Colchicum

Nestled among some bearberry  (I think), some autumn crocus were in full bloom. This was a nice way to end my visit, don't you think?


By Paul Jung, author of "garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog"
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