June 10, 2015

Ten Takeaways From the Garden Bloggers' Fling

entry

Recently, I attended the Garden Bloggers' Fling in Toronto. It was great fun! Bloggers from around the world converged on the city to share camaraderie, information, ideas, and garden tours.

I hope to post in-depth coverage of several individual gardens in the weeks ahead, but for now I thought I'd share a few takeaways--simple observations that come to mind as I sift through the multisensory experience.

TAKEAWAY #1:

strawberries

If you don't have a rabbit problem like I do, Strawberries can be planted just about anywhere as a great groundcover, with the added benefit of fresh, sweet fruit, in season. I was excited to try this, and then I realized rabbits in my garden would eat them. Maybe I'll try this in a section of my fenced-in potager.

TAKEAWAY #2:

ninebark

I'm hankering for Ninebark (Physocarpus spp.). I didn't even realize this desire until I got home and started reviewing the plethora of photos I snapped of this lovely shrub. If you have a Ninebark, you probably realize its appeal in all seasons, not to mention the value to pollinators and wildlife. It's a great substitute for Barberry (Berberis spp.) which is invasive in North America.

TAKEAWAY #3:

pots

I have many unmatched pots. I have many overgrown perennials. I have potting soil. I don't have to spend big bucks on new "matching" pots and plants. I can divide what I have now and stuff odds and ends of perennials (and annuals) in said pots of various shapes and sizes. Big plants spill over the sides of the pots anyway, and the colorful combinations are whimsical and welcoming.

TAKEAWAY #4:

japanese maple

Speaking of pots, they're perfect for small Japanese Maples. (Many ideas on this subject are forming in my brain. Hehe.)

TAKEAWAY #5:

tomato cages

Tomato cages can be turned on their sides as structure and climbing support for plants like squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, and many other edibles. I've never tried this, but when/if I have a bigger vegetable garden, I will.

TAKEAWAY #6:

vessels

Just about any vessel with a cavity that will hold soil can be used as a container for plants. Sometimes, they can even be mounted on fences and other structures. (Time to investigate the "treasures" in my garage.)

TAKEAWAY #7:

scale1
A small section of the incredibly wonderful overflowing garden of Marion Jarvie, which is open
to the public several times per year.

Sometimes the scale and richness of a large, diverse garden can be overwhelming when looking at the big picture.

scale2

Equally mind-boggling is the small scale of tiny seedlings, purposefully placed together in close quarters, like a fairy garden within a big garden. (How many tiny plants can you find in this one small area?)

TAKEAWAY #8:

sculpture1

Metal sculpture and earthy elements, combined with colorful plants can create movement and whimsical eye appeal.

sculpture2

Here, metal sculpture combines with rock, metalized pots, and plants for a simple, yet elegant combination.

TAKEAWAY #9:

skyline
Toronto skyline as a backdrop, as viewed from Toronto Island gardens.

The Toronto skyline is stunning. It pops into view at various locations around the city, and is especially dramatic when clouds, rain, and stormy weather are imminent.

TAKEAWAY #10:

bloggers

Garden bloggers, like most gardeners, are welcoming people. This was my first Garden Bloggers' Fling, and I was a little nervous about circulating with people who've known each other from previous flings. But there were other newbies, too, and the veterans shared tips, tricks, and fun to make the conference a truly rewarding and enjoyable experience.

graffiti
Several of us grabbed chalk at the Evergreen Brick Works to add our mark to the graffiti-
decorated floor.

I'm already looking forward to next year's Fling in Minneapolis/St. Paul, to reconnect, and to meet new garden-blogging friends!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There's still time to participate in the "Garden Lessons Learned" meme. Feel free to write a post or share one you've already written about your "Lessons Learned" during the past season. Then share your links or simple observations in the comments at: Garden Lessons Learned, Quarter 2, 2015. The link will be available always under the "Lessons Learned" tab at the top of this blog.

Please also join in Donna's Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View! You can join in with a post that fits both memes, or separate posts for one or both of them. I'll include wrap-ups on PlantPostings' Facebook page as we approach the solstice.

54 comments:

  1. Love these Beth....Hopefully I can get to next year's Fling....I love the tomato cage idea and I just figured out how I can use mine. I have the rabbit problem too so I have a new bed I am installing just for them so I can keep the rabbits out and Donna can finally get a strawberry! I love my ninebark and recommend it to others....Oh and yes Toronto is a stunning spot. Looking forward to seeing what I missed....

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    1. I hope you can come to next year's Fling, too! I grew strawberries in a whiskey barrel with holes in the side at our old house. It worked pretty well. Maybe I'll try that again. You would have loved all the edible and cut flower ideas, Donna.

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  2. I enjoyed this post. I have read so much about the fling, but no accounts of how it went. Yours is the first. The format is like appetizers. Whetting the appetite for what is to come.

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    1. Hi Jane: It amazes me how so many people can visit the same gardens, and yet we all have different impressions and viewpoints. The reporting has been refreshing to me, as I realize different perspectives, plants, and designs that I didn't notice. Sifting through the photos will reveal the ones that are usable and that match the thoughts. ;-)

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  3. the weather smiled on the Fling!

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    1. Yes, for the most part that is true, Diana. We had some rain just as we were leaving the Toronto Islands on the ferry, but it was a fun adventure! Fortunately most of us were prepared with umbrellas and rain gear. As long as I was able to protect the camera, all was fine. :)

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  4. I am so glad to have met you Beth. Flings are lots of fun and oh, the gardens we see are so varied and so wonderful. Love your take-aways from your first Fling. I have four ninebark and absolutely LOVE them. Great plant. I have 'Coppertina' and 'Lemon Candy'. 'Coppertina' is a cross between 'Diablo' and 'Dart's Gold' which were some of the ones we saw this weekend.

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    1. It was great to meet you, too, Janet. This Fling definitely exceeded my expectations and helps me to see that I've really missed out over the years. It's tough when there are conflicts. I'm hoping it will be smooth sailing for Minneapolis next year, and I'll look forward to seeing you again. Thanks for the info about the Ninebarks. I think I might go with a dwarf variety in a couple of spots, but Coppertina sounds perfect for some other areas in the garden. Thanks!

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  5. You saw a number of things I missed. The metal sculpture is unique. Nice selection of finds.

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    1. The display of the sculptor's work in one of the Swansea gardens really caught my eye, and then I started noticing other examples in other gardens. So much to see in each garden--that's the only difficult part. Could have spent hours in each garden.

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  6. So glad to hear you had such a good time at the Fling. I've been to two -- Seattle and San Francisco -- and enjoyed both very much. Garden bloggers are friendly people. Your photo in Takeaway #9 of the Toronto skyline looks like a painting -- beautiful shot!

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    1. Hi Alison: Perhaps we'll meet at the next one! Yes, it was a great event. I've never wanted to go back to a conference before (or should I say, I really didn't want to leave...) Yes, garden bloggers are great. The Toronto skyline was incredible all over the city, but nowhere was it more dramatic than when viewed from the islands with stormy skies.

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  7. Sounds like you had a worthwhile trip. Like all of your photos, but especially the one with Toronto skyline in the background.

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    1. Yes, absolutely! Thanks! The skyline was really amazing. It seemed like we could reach out and touch the buildings.

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  8. I really like ninebark!

    So I added some to my garden this spring.

    I discovered the deer 'like' it too... (in their mouths, that is)

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    1. Yikes! I'm glad I don't have deer here. I suppose the rabbits would nibble at the bottom, like they do with my hostas and other plants. So, if I do add Ninebarks, I'll probably have to wrap them in chicken wire to start. Thanks for the info!

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  9. Wonderful you got to go ~ I hope someday I can too. I *had* strawberries planted among the pavers on my front patio but now that there's a bunny problem in our neighborhood too, they are gone. :(
    I have one Ninebark ('Coppertina') but it's never bloomed? I think it's my fault, I have been keeping it pruned in a smaller shape ~ maybe I'm cutting off the buds? Anyway good takeaways. Glad you had fun & traveled to & from safely.

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    1. I hope you can go, too, Kathleen. I would like to meet you! I thought it was such a brilliant idea to use strawberries as ground cover, but I temporarily forgot about the rabbits. I guess there must not be many rabbits in the Toronto gardens we visited. Other people have recommended 'Coppertina,' too, so I'll check it out. Thanks!

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  10. Such meetings are certainly very nice and most importantly giving knowledge to gardeners. Beautifully in the garden. Regards.

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    1. Hi Giga: Yes, that's true! The knowledge and the idea-sharing are wonderful. Plus, it's great to make new friends who have similar interests.

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  11. Now I'm really sad I don't have a garden of my own to pay with some of your takeaways! anyway I will save them who knows what the future will bring! Thanks.

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    1. Lula: You seem to have a very exciting life--moving around and always new adventures. I hope you'll have a garden of your own soon, if that is what you desire. Thanks for sharing your amazing photographs!

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  12. Hi Beth, so lovely to stroll around the gardens with you this w/e. You'll adore those Ninebarks - all they need is lots of light and elbow room. I've done the small woodies in pots and have to put them in the garage late in the fall after they've gone dormant - both for the pot and the plant. Thanks for your great takeaways - such a good idea to consider a top-ten after such an avalanche of gardens. Will give me something to do as I put my "shower curtain" back in its little pouch for next year! http://barbarasgardenchronicles.blogspot.ca

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    1. Hi Barbara: Thanks for being the fearless leader on the Toronto Islands tour. And it was fun to view several of the other gardens with you, too. LOL about the shower curtain! It's a good thing we both had rain gear to protect our cameras and keep us from getting too soggy. I can hardly wait to plant up some additional pots with some of my overgrown cuttings.

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  13. I'm glad you had such a great time, Beth! From the few Flings I've attended, I've always come away with sensory overload but at the same time lots of great ideas. And of course, the whole experience of meeting so many wonderful people--gardeners are never strangers! Thanks for sharing some of these impressions; you've already given me some ideas--I never thought about putting a Japanese Maple in a pot!

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    1. Yes, it was great fun, Rose! I hope we both can make it to the Twin Cities next year. Sensory overload is right! I'm still trying to adjust. It just seemed like a wonderful dream. :)

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  14. Hi Beth - What a fabulous post! It was wonderful meeting you and chatting on the Fling - I'm so glad you plan to go next year!

    I'll chime in that I love Ninebark as well - I have a "Diablo Ninebark" and it is stunning. One thing that we didn't see are the seed pods, which develop later in the season - they are beautiful & so different from anything else I've ever seen.

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    1. Hi Margaret: Thanks! It was fun being your bus buddy and getting to know you. How's the veg garden doing after your week away? We have Ninebarks in the area and at the botanical gardens and the arboretum. So I'm familiar with them, but just haven't gotten around to adding them to my garden. I hope to add at least a couple of them yet this summer before it gets too hot--or maybe next fall.

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  15. Cool idea about turning cages on their sides for lower-growing plants. Love that wall in #6.

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    1. Yes, we were surprised to see that tomato-cage trick. If I ever have a large veg garden again, I'll try it. I really like that wall with the pots, too. :)

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  16. Loved reading about your takeaways! It is taking me a while to process everything we saw. I too notice how much ninebark was used in gardens. I have two and will be adding more. They are an amazing shrub. I loved that pamphlet that the Ontario Invasive Plant Council put out with native alternatives to invasive plants. It was great to meet you Beth. I wish we had had more time to talk. Next year in Minneapolis!

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    1. Hi Karin: I hope we'll both be able to make it to Minneapolis next year! I had so much fun this time, and I think it would be so great to reconnect with all these new friends. Many of the invasive plants (and alternatives) are the same as the ones we battle here in Wisconsin. The Ninebarks are common and native here, too, and I've been thinking about them. I just didn't realize how much they were wooing me at The Fling! Must be time to plant them!

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  17. Went to the second one in Chicago in 2009. Was close to Toronto but timing off just enough to manage catching the Fling this time. Had fun at the one we went to but I write on too many other topics which the Flingers thought I should not do. They were about specialization and I am a generalist.

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    1. Linda, it would be great to get together sometime. Several of us are talking about organizing a Midwestern garden tour this summer, so I'll keep you posted. Plus, I would love to see your garden sometime.

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  18. How fun! One of these years I'll make it to a fling! That fence with all the whimsical planters looks so interesting and amazing in just that one picture. Can't wait to see more!

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    1. Hi Indie: I do hope you'll be able to make it, too. Maybe next year in the Twin Cities? The fence with all the pots is nifty, isn't it? I've recently been thinking I need to match all my pots, but The Fling made me realize I actually prefer the crafty mish-mash look. when done well.

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  19. It was great meeting you in person at the Fling. I really liked this overview - you got some great photographs and caught some details that I missed. Looking forward to seeing more!

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    1. It was great to meet you and Judy, Jason! Thanks--my head is too crammed to approach it any differently at this point. I need to seriously consider the photos and which ones (along with thoughts) would be worthwhile posts. I hope we can organize a Midwest garden tour this summer!

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  20. Wow, great tips. I like number 5!! I will be doing this.
    Thank you,
    Carla

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    1. Thank you, Carla! Isn't that a great idea? Tomato cages can be used in many ingenious ways. I don't have enough sunny space for vining veggies, but I am growing some cucumbers up through a tomato cage wrapped with chicken wire. It's always fun to try new approaches!

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  21. Fun reading through you visit to Toronto! Thank you for posting some of the inspiration that you gathered there. How nice to spend a weekend with like-minded gardeners :)

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    1. Thanks! Yes, it was a fabulous experience. I highly recommend it. I figured it would be fun, but The Fling greatly exceeded my expectations. I seriously wish I was back there now!

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  22. Nice sampler. I concur that the shot with Toronto in the background is what they call "the money shot" (ha ha).

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    1. Thanks, Ricki. The skyline was truly stunning when viewed from the Toronto Islands. It actually took my breath away. I should have taken more photos as the storm was rolling in. This photo was earlier when the sky was clouding up, but not yet ominous. Beautiful city!

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  23. Some lovely ideas here. Lucky you to go the fling, what fun it must be. I love the shot of Toronto.

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    1. Thanks, Chloris. Yes, it was great fun! Maybe you'll be able to attend sometime. It's become an international event! Toronto was beautiful and the gardens were impressive!

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  24. I've been excited to hear how the fling went. I have not seen many posts yet. Thank you for bringing back photos and thoughts. I hope someday to attend, but until then, I will satisfy my cravings with local walks and tours (local being my state of Illinois or any state that touches it!!)
    I have 'Center Glow' Ninebark, and I added it somewhat reluctantly based on advise from someone much more experienced. It's one of my stars and I truly enjoy it!

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    1. Thanks for the information on 'Center Glow.' I will research it. I hope you can attend the Fling someday, too. Next year it will be in Minneapolis, which isn't far for you or for me. Yay!

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  25. Takeaway #1- I have Alpine Strawberries that I grew from seed in several places unprotected from rabbits and they are left alone, though animals in different locations can behave differently, especially deer. Takeaway #2- deer supposedly eat Ninebark here, so I plant Spirea for the flowers, and Cotinus for the burgundy foliage here. The Fling looks like it was a lot of fun, I enjoyed your photos for a vicarious experience.

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    1. Lucky you about the Strawberries! The rabbits seem to eat so many plants around here--even plants like Lilacs and False Asters. I have one unprotected section of my garden planted exclusively with rabbit-repellent plants: Hellebores, Convallarias, Epimediums, and others. It's a pleasure not having to worry about that part of the garden. Funny that you mention Spirea--we pulled out lanky Spireas in the spot where I'm thinking about planting the Ninebarks. They were just too straggly and struggling, and it was time for a change. Hope you can attend The Fling sometime so I can meet you. :)

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  26. It's so interesting that we saw different things. :o) I really like the way you've broken this into 'takeaways'. Very useful. I had so much fun with you!!!!

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  27. Love the photo of the chalk work, I missed that! I'm happy to have met you, just wish we would have had more time to chat!

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  28. How cool that you got to go to the fling. Thanks for sharing the things you learned. I like the one about lying the tomato cage down.

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  29. Now that I have some quality time t read your blog, I see how much fun and great time you had in Toronto. I wish I can travel there some day. Thanks!

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