1 May 2011

Plant Geeks Gone Wild


Those familiar with Toronto Botanical Gardens will recognize this building, and it was here that the ORGHPS [Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society] held their third annual plant sale. As the title suggests, for the elite group who considers themselves ‘true’ plant geeks, this is THE sale of the season that must not be missed.

DSC_0578I was lucky to be travelling with three fellow geeks, though G would protest and say that he simply provided the transportation and vehicle with which the remaining ‘three musketeers’ would be able to haul back their stash of plants. J, D and myself had been planning this excursion for weeks and could hardly wait to disembark the vehicle and get inside – perhaps this explains why we were second through fifth in line! Past experience demands that you get there early!

So eager were we to get inside, I didn’t even stop to admire the wonderful containers flanking the entrance. I did manage to stop when I noticed a familiar shaped yellow flower outside the window.

DSC_0580An unidentified Erythronium [methinks perhaps E. Kondo] was blooming in what appeared to be a wonderful woodland bed – one that did not allow for access for further investigation. On the other side of the building I recognized two magnificent variegated Cornus alternifolia, whose buds were on the point of breaking. Helleborus, Trillium and Podophyllum were also present.

   While G, J and D reserved our place in line [what, did you think the one person ahead of us would buy the place out? Obviously you don’t know J very well, do you?] I decided to investigate the gardens surrounding the building. I spoke with a gentleman who had pots of Cypripedium in the back of his truck, but not trusting where they came from, I declined the offer to buy. Had they been inside, I would have reconsidered.

DSC_0582A delightful bright pink flowering Bergenia caught my attention. B. ‘Lunar Glow’ was one of the selections that were for sale, but this one, without the distinctive variegation that ‘Lunar Glow’ possesses, was still very attractive nonetheless!

DSC_0587  Had the sale been a week from today, chances are I would have been greeted with a carpet of wonderful pink and white spurred flowers of Epimedium x rubrum, which represents one of my favourite woodland genera. Epi’s were also on the agenda for the day as well! The anticipation was definitely building!


An absolutely fabulous Magnolia was in full flower just outside the window. It was hard not to forget why I remain envious of those who garden in Zone 6 – the Magnolia’s blooms back home are still protected in their fuzzy sheaths, and here they were strutting their stuff like Kate and Pippa! Even the crown imperial Frits were demanding my attention!

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I could have spent an hour in the gardens surrounding the building, but by this time the line was out the door, so I thought I’d better get back inside and mentally prepare myself. List in hand, plastic in the wallet, now all that remainder was for the doors to be thrust open before us!

And then the doors were thrown open! Which way do I go? Which way do I go? I decided to break way from the crowd and see where it took me! ‘Say, could you direct me to where one might find Thalictrum ichangense ‘Evening Star?’ Why thank you, thank you very much! One of the most talked about woodland plants over the past winter, ‘Evening Star’ was at the top of my MUST HAVE list. The woman at the table looked down at the display of plants in front of her, looking somewhat forlorn I might add, and then happened to look beneath the table! ‘Ah yes, I knew I had a few hiding for just this occasion! It’s been flying off the benches!’ One down, four or five to go. It didn’t take long for the aisles to fill. Luckily there were few carts, and most everyone was courteous and polite to their fellow shoppers. Still, on the odd occasion it reminded me of the 401 gridlock during rush-hour!

   DSC_0595It was at this table that I was able to locate the whipped buttery yellow flowering Roscoea cautleoides, a smashing Ginger relative that leaves visitors exclaiming with delight when they see it in my garden, ‘What is that delightful yellow flowered Orchid called!?!’ Thus, one can never have enough of them!

  Did I mention that their trees were priced ridiculously low? These Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ were $45 if memory serves correctly. A steal for what is a wonderful architectural centerpiece for the Asian themed garden. Were it not for the fact that I’ve already reserved a more rare and choice selection back at work, this ‘twisted baby’ just might have been coming home with me! I silently watched as a couple looked at Abies koreana ‘Silberlocke’ for three or four minutes, before commenting that at $33, they’d never see the likes of it again. I also spied a small [rather too small for my personal liking] Acer campestre ‘Carnival’ and was tempted to suggest it to this same couple as well, but at the last moment someone else picked it up. I could tell from their response that they had no idea what they were holding on to. I decided to continue along, hoping that someone familiar with its rarity in commerce would stumble upon it before the day was finished.

DSC_0597DSC_0599Mercy me! Now what do we have here? Those familiar with my penchant for all things blue will also know that this delightful beauty represents my true ‘signature’ plant. I had pondered adding the beautiful chartreuse foliage species ‘C.f. ‘Golden Panda’ but it would seem that a lot of other shade gardeners had the same idea! Such is life. I’ve grown it before, but found it to be somewhat temperamental, even with morning  and late afternoon sun only! This was the start of my collection. The wonderful pewter infused foliage to the right of Cory is the wonderful Thalictrum that I spoke of earlier! Exquisite!

DSC_0606It was over for us in just over an hour! I was gobsmacked to realize that we’d been in, found what we were looking for, found a few items that we hadn’t anticipated, and still I had enough for a coffee and cherry cheese danish were we to stop at Timmy’s. In the interim it had started to rain, and truth be told, our legs were getting ready to give out on us, so, foregoing the Tim’s stop, we headed for home. I always like to return home with a few dollars in my wallet. J had wanted Helleborus x hybridus ‘Winter Jewel Collection’ ‘Golden Lotus’ ever since seeing it at Canada Blooms. I had nabbed one for myself shortly after arriving, and was proudly preening over it when she happened to bump into me! ‘Where did you find that?!?’ Unfortunately by the time we’d re-traced our footsteps they were all sold out. For those who read my weblog, J is one of my most supportive friends, and it didn’t take long for me to decide that, while I too found it to be a delightful specimen, I had already added six new Helleborus species this Spring alone, so surely I wouldn’t miss one more double. Of course, I decided I’d make one more trek around the room just to make sure…..

DSC_0608        In my trek, in search of ‘Golden Lotus’, I stumbled upon Actaea pachypoda ‘Misty Blue’ – a new native selection of yet another of my favourite genera. Already courting controversy with a certain gardening voice on the other side of the Atlantic, I have been waiting with baited breath to this one’s release! Smashing blue-grey-green foliage, with a height of 1.5m, it is topped with white flower spikes that mature to berries that are often referred to as ‘Doll’s eyes’ in hort circles! Its wonderful when you find something that you weren’t even anticipating. When I crossed paths with J again, I mentioned that I’d be more than happy to swap out the Actaea for the Helleborus! We both came away happy and content!

DSC_0610 And now I have to wait for the weather to be more agreeable so that I can get my new treasures transplanted into their new home. Thanks to G for getting us there and home safely, and to J and D for providing such entertaining company. Its a rarity to find like minded plant people to peruse a sale of this magnitude with!


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CanadianGardenJoy said...

Dear Barry : )
Now that was a plant expedition I would have loved to see as well .. now we also share Golden Lotus and I am so happy to see that mine has good healthy foliage this year (not sure if it will flower but I am patient !) I actually had to cancel my special "Doll's Eye" I just don't have the room especially now trying to figure out a place for Chocoholic cimcifuga .. yes, the chococlate aspect won out over me ! haha
.. that was a great day, I wish I could have been there too : )
PS .. the weekend was wonderful weather and I accomplished a lot yesterday .. today is an "ouch" day though .. but it was worth it!!

Barry Parker said...

Hey Barry,
You should have let me know that you were attending the ORG&HPS Sale. I was there manning the Roscoea table along with David Leeman ( pictured in your photograph of that section). We must have walked right by each other!

The TBG Sale is this week and so is the Parkdale /Toronto Sale ( my local hort soc.). I have to try and keep my head at these events, otherwise I'll be penniless.