Becoming a Beekeeper:

Helping Pollinators Thrive and Reconnecting with Nature

Photo credit Jim

We are delighted to welcome our friend (and Catherine’s patient guitar teacher) as today’s guest blogger, sharing insights into his experiences and motivation to become a beekeeper, and in doing so becoming an important positive change agent for biodiversity and a sustainable Planet Earth for all.  Thank you, and welcome Brian!

Getting Inspired

“A few years ago my interest in keeping bees was sparked while I was working in a cafe in Toronto. A local beekeeper kept hives on the roof of the old two storey factory building turned cafe that sat next to the Don River in the city’s east end. By that point in my life I had already developed a taste and appreciation for local honey, as I would frequently pull over at roadside stands to buy a jar or two whenever I found myself driving through the greenbelt outside of the city.”


“When an online add for a beekeeping 101 workshop caught my attention I quickly signed up to learn more about these iconic insects. A one day workshop held annually by the Toronto Beekeepers Collective ( in the middle of winter offered an overview of a year in the life of a bee colony and how to care for that colony as a beekeeper. My desire to get more involved led to me joining their collective and excitedly setting off on my first season of hands-on experience keeping bees.”

Harvested Honey with Honeycomb Photo credit Brian

“The collective operates on a volunteer basis. It is run by two knowledgeable and experienced beekeepers. Members of the collective would join them on hive checks at the four beeyards around Toronto, help at educational events at the Ontario Science Centre and the Royal Winter Fair, and help plant pollinator gardens (St. John’s wart, northern wild raisin, low bush blueberry, elderberry, grey dogwood, and black chokeberry were among some of the pollinator friendly plants we planted in community gardens). We also helped build equipment, and my favourite part, helped with harvesting the golden yellow honey of the summer, and the darker honey in the fall. The darkness or lightness of any given honey all depends on the flowers and plants the bees have been collecting nectar and pollen from and what time of year they are in bloom.”

“The learning curve was steep that first year and I continue to learn and be fascinated by the lives and roles honeybees and native bees play in our ecosystem. Since that first year with the Toronto Beekeepers Collective I have branched out from the urban setting of Toronto to the more rural setting of Nova Scotia where I have set up hives of my own. Provinces in Canada have their own governing bodies when it comes to apiculture. The Ontario Beekeepers Association website is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more or find help with starting hives of their own ( “

Frame of Capped Brood. Photo credit Brian

Queen Bee and the Hive

The life of the hive centers around the Queen bee, who will go out on one mating flight in her lifetime and then proceed to lay over a thousand eggs per day. The majority of these new bees will be female worker bees who forage and collect nectar and pollen, as well as keep things within the hive orderly and running smoothly. The male drone bees are larger, don’t sting and only serve the purpose of mating with the virgin queen on her mating flight. In the fall the drones are unceremoniously kicked out of the hive and a number of heartier winter bees will hatch before they hunker down for the colder months. Bees don’t fully hibernate during the winter. Instead, they cluster together around the queen, live off of honey and pollen stores, and generate enough body heat to keep the colony warm. When a queen starts to get near the end of her productive life or if a colony starts to get too crowded, worker bees will start to raise a new queen as covertly as possible to succeed the current one. When the new queen hatches there can be a fight to the death or one of the queens will leave and half the hive will swarm with her in search of a new place to start a new colony. This is how a colony naturally replicates itself and continues the important work of pollination to the diversity of plants in our ecosystem. 

Why Bees Matter

One third of our food supply depends on the role bees play as pollinators and most larger beekeeping operations make more money providing pollination services to food producers by driving truckloads of bees from crop to crop over many kilometers during the growing season. One of the biggest existential threats that bees, other pollinators, insects, and some bird species face are the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. These pesticides are engineered directly into the seeds of certain crops, neurologically weakens bees, and eventually leads to colony collapse. This underlies the importance of supporting less industrialized and more natural systems, and local food economies like farmer’s markets and seasonal diets. Nature continues to be a gift and the cleanest and most sustainable system for us and all the creatures and plants we share the planet with to nourish ourselves and lead healthy, purposeful lives. The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollan) and A Buzz in the Meadow (Dave Goulson) are two books I’ve enjoyed that elaborate on the importance of biodiversity and nature’s incredible system of sustainability. 

Photo credit Lucy

Taking Care of the Bees and Ourselves

There is nothing quite as satisfying as opening up a healthy and thriving colony of bees. Hearing the buzz of thousands of bees working away, the smell of wax, honey, and nectar and pollen from local flowers and plants. It serves as a reminder that we are deeply connected to this ecosystem of tiny creatures, towering trees, and beautiful plants all around us. That we have a responsibility to care for and to ensure the survival and well being of these life forms, because it is also an act of caring towards ourselves and our own well being. In short, if the bees do well, we all do well!

Why Bees Matter – Part Two

We were inspired by Brian’s guest blog to learn more about bee-biodiversity-food-tree connections. website offers these sharp numbers on the “percent of crops we’d lose without bees,” to show just what’s at stake:

100%  Almonds. 90%  Apples 90%  Blueberries
90% Cucumbers. 80%  Cherries. 70% Watermelons

Bees Tending to Wax. Photo credit Brian

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), explains about bees as ‘tiny miracle workers’ and the vital importance of pollinators to life on our planet.

“Safeguarding bees safeguards biodiversity: the vast majority of pollinators are wild, including over 20 000 species of bees.”

“Pollination is vital to life on our planet. Bees and other pollinators have thrived for millions of years, ensuring food security and nutrition, and maintaining biodiversity and vibrant ecosystems for plants, humans and the bees themselves. Pollinators are essential to the production of many of the micronutrient rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and oils we eat. In fact, close to 75 percent of the world’s crops producing fruits and seeds for human consumption depend, at least in part, on pollinators for sustained production, yield and quality. The diversity of food available is largely owed to animal pollinators. But alarmingly, in a number of regions, pollination services are showing declining trends.”

Photo by Lucy

Threats to Our Pollinators

Bees and other pollinators are under threat. Present species extinction rates are 100 to 1 000 times higher than normal due to human impacts. Insects will likely make up the bulk of future biodiversity loss with 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species – particularly bees and butterflies – facing extinction. Though to a lesser degree, vertebrate pollinators (16.5 percent) are also threatened with extinction globally. Changes in land use and landscape structure, intensive agricultural practices, monocultures and use of pesticides have led to large-scale losses, fragmentation and degradation of their habitats. Pests and diseases resulting from reduced resistance of bee colonies and from globalization, which facilitates the transmission of pests and diseases over long distances, pose a special threat. Furthermore, climate change also has a negative impact. Higher temperatures, droughts, floods, other extreme climate events and changes of flowering time hinder pollination largely by desynchronizing the demand (flowers in bloom) with the supply of service providers (abundant and diverse populations of pollinators).”

Learn more from the FAO’s fact sheet on Why Bees Matter-

Photo credit Jim

Bee Laws

Catherine is pleased to learn that Ontario takes bee protection and bee health seriously. There is an Ontario Bees Act, “legislation that regulates honey bees and beekeeping in Ontario. The main purpose of the act is to protect the health of honey bees, particularly from pests and diseases.

The main requirements of the Ontario Bees Act, as well as requirements for the safe production of honey under the Food Safety and Quality Act, are summarized here for beekeepers’ convenience (see figure 1).”

She also is pleased to learn that her city – Toronto – is taking action for bees and biodiversity. 

 The Vision is: “Toronto is home to diverse pollinator communities that contribute to resilient ecosystems and enhance urban biodiversity.”

Photo credit Lucy

To achieve the vision, Toronto has adopted a Toronto Pollinator Protection Strategy and runs a Pollinate TO Community Grants Program. Aimed at “…the goal of protecting the more than 360 species of bees and more than 100 species of butterflies and other pollinators that call Toronto home, the City of Toronto has adopted a  Pollinator Protection Strategy. The Strategy identifies a set of guiding principles, six priorities and 30 actions that the City and community can take to protect our diverse native pollinator community.” 

“Grants of up to $5,000 are available (to create neighbourhood pollinator habitats) through the PollinateTO Community Grants program.”

Learn more at

Here are three of the Success Stories you will find there:

Success Story: Parkland Naturalization Program

“The City works with community groups and funding partners to restore degraded natural landscapes and establish new natural areas to create forest, wetland, and meadow habitats. More than 60,000 native trees and shrubs have been planted, as well as more than 50,000 wildflowers, herbaceous and aquatic plants.”

Photo credit Jim

Success Story: “Tickle Bees” and City Staff

“In the spring of 2015, thousands of gentle, ground-nesting native bees emerged with the warm weather in a City park. Being in close proximity to a playground, members of the public voiced their concern to the Park supervisor. City staff, having recently completed training on pollinators as part of the Horticulture Program of Excellence, identified the bees as Mining bees, nicknamed the “Tickle Bee” by school children, as they don’t sting and are very gentle.”

“Staff installed educational signage about the “Tickle Bees” and the vital role they play in pollination. The community was thrilled to host these important pollinators and often stopped to observe their activity. Educating City staff about this important pollinator led to this educational opportunity for members of this community.”

Success story: Celebrating National Pollinator Week

“In June 2016, an event was organized to celebrate National Pollinator Week and Toronto’s status as the first Bee City in Canada. A mural of a green metallic sweat bee was unveiled at Bloor Street and Howland Avenue and a proclamation declaring “Pollinator Week” in Toronto was announced. The mural was the result of a partnership between Burt’s Bees and the City’s StreetARToronto and Live Green Toronto programs. Painted by Toronto artist Nick Sweetman, the mural is about 65′ long by 35′ high and serves as a stunning reminder of the importance of pollinators in our city.” To see and learn more about Toronto’s offical bee –

Bees and Trees

Photo credit Andrew website suggest 10 actions to help sustain bees, including idea number four – Provide Trees for Bees

Did you know that bees get most of their nectar from trees? When a tree blooms, it provides hundreds — if not thousands — of blossoms to feed from. Trees are not only a great food source for bees, but also an essential habitat. Tree leaves and resin provide nesting material for bees, while natural wood cavities make excellent shelters. With deforestation and development on the rise, you can help bolster bee habitats by caring for trees and joining tree-planting parties in your area.”

“Plant for Bees, Plant for Change”

In our August 13 blog, guest blogger Shanthi shared her experiencies, tips and joys in growing a dedicated cut flower garden. To those pleasures and benefits, we share another reason for flower planting and the case for planting for bees, as offered here by

“They say flowers that attract bees also bring good tidings for the gardener. Okay, maybe they don’t say that, but there’s something undoubtedly powerful about planting pollinator blooms. The art of gardening is not only a form of relaxation, but also of creating change. With every haven we create for bees, we make clear our stance on their importance, we designate ourselves as their allies, and we become leaders in the movement to create a world that is nourishing to the very creatures that nourish us too. Gardening is no longer a hobby – it is a grassroots movement.”

Even as Lucy and Catherine are enjoying the summer harvest from this year’s novice efforts at vegetable gardening, our thoughts are turning already with excitement to what to plant next year.  We definitely will be inspired by Shanthi’s, Audrey’s and Brian’s guest blogs as we make our plans for gardening season 2021 – thank you. We have taken note of Brian’s list of pollinator-friendly plants. We are growing our awareness about the flowers bees love, informed by lists such as this one from website:

21 Flowers Bees Love

Early Spring

Pansies, Pussy willows, Siberian Squill, Snowdrops, Spring-Summer, Peony

Milkweed, Bee Balm, Lavender, Phlox, Zinnias, Marigolds, Goldenrod, Sage

Chives, Liatris, Mint, Nasturtium, Black-eyed Susans, Borage,

Thyme and Oregano

LCBO and The Buzz on Honey

“Even the LCBO is enamoured of bees and honey!
The summer issue of Food and Wine is now available – check out page 26 to learn the answer to questions such as: “How many bees does it take to make a jar of honey?” and, “How to use honey in cocktails?”.  Find the online version of this issue at

Photo credit Lucy

Community Gardening and CSAs

Community Gardening in Pickering Ontario

Thank you to guest blogger Audrey for sharing this Ontario perspective on community gardens, and information on community gardens in this time of COVID.

  • Over the last 20 years, the non-profit community garden association in Pickering has grown to 103 garden plots on Ontario Hydro land in the middle of the city. Membership is $20 annually and there is always a waiting list of people who wish to join. It usually takes a year or two before applicants on the waiting list are able to get a plot.
  • Early in each new year, members agree on the seeds that will be ordered in bulk for the next growing season. Upon paying the membership fee in the spring, each member receives approximately 20 packages of different vegetable seeds including beets, carrots, green and yellow beans, radishes, turnip, and lettuce. Members are not required to use these seeds but they do help reduce the cost. Members usually buy pepper and tomato plants and onions; and several gardens include perennial crops like asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberries.  
  • Members are required to keep their garden and the pathways around their garden free of weeds. Unfortunately every year several gardeners lose their plots for this reason. No pesticides are allowed. 
  • Dozens of members volunteer for the various jobs that are necessary to keep the garden association running smoothly. These roles include filling water barrels daily, managing compost bins, and tending the food bank plots. These jobs require significant time commitments from the volunteers.
  • A few of the plots are used for growing produce for the local food bank. Twice a week, a volunteer takes extra vegetables that members have grown to the food bank. 

Community gardening in the time of Co-Vid 

  • In May, the province of Ontario approved the opening of community gardens. Until then, the garden area was cordoned off with yellow tape and orange pylons, similar to park playgrounds. 
  • Although the province had declared community gardens open, the city’s Department of Health had to approve a set of Co-Vid protocols that would ensure members’ safety. 
  • Once the set of protocols was approved by the city, every member had to sign agreeing to them. Anyone in violation would lose access to his/her garden. Each gardener had to agree to:
    • attend only on even or odd calendar days that coincided with the odd or even number of his/her plot. This would reduce the number of gardeners there each day by half;
    • leave a tag each time they visited the garden with date and time in and out so that contact info would be available if another gardener contacted the virus;
    • use a newly constructed hand washing station and hand sanitizer;
    • bring his/her own equipment as the tool sheds remain locked; and
    • work alone in the plot, no guests allowed.

Community Gardening in Edmonton Alberta

Photo from the Royal Gardens Community Garden by Lucy

The city of Edmonton has 80 community gardens, and the city has put out a brochure on how to set one up. As well, this year there is a pilot project of “pop up community gardens” that are portable and watered for you. Lucy assumed that garden plots would be very difficult to access, but in fact, you often do not have to wait more than a year to get a spot as many people give them up because they did not appreciate the time and effort to tend to a plot. So if you are interested for next year, now is a good time to ask. 

The Local Good Blog and Newsletter “Edmonton’s Hub For Green and Local Living” writes:

“Gardening is a rewarding hobby. Getting your hands dirty, understanding the work and patience that goes into food production, and tasting the difference in homegrown produce is both a humbling and gratifying experience. Plus, you can’t get food more local than your own backyard.

Shared garden spaces cultivate stronger relationships between neighbours, instill pride and ownership in communities, and inspire people to learn new, rewarding skills. They also promote biodiversity, create habitat for pollinators and support healthy, sustainable lifestyles. Not bad for a bit of dirt!

Finding the Right Space for You

In Edmonton, we are lucky to have multiple styles of shared gardens that you may join as a novice or expert. Choosing the right space for you will depend on what sort of gardening experience you’re looking for, so here are a few points to consider before exploring the options:

  • Size: How much do you want to grow? What is your commitment level or time budget for gardening or volunteer hours? Do you need to have your very own space, or is sharing an option?
  • Location: Is the space easily accessible for you to maintain a watering and maintenance schedule? Can you get to the garden on foot or bike, or will you need to use a vehicle or public transit?
  • Access: Does the garden supply tools, water and storage space? Can you freely access the garden on your own time or is there a schedule? What other resources may be available (books, people, etc.)?”

 Shared Garden Options in Edmonton

” Community Gardens: There are over 80 community gardens in the Capital Region co-ordinated and supported by Sustainable Food Edmonton (SFE) and the City of Edmonton. Finding the site nearest you is super simple on the SFE Community Gardens Map, where you’ll also find information like membership fees and requirements, plot size, tool availability and gardening style. In most cases, you will have your own plot or portion of a bed to plant what you wish, and will be responsible for maintaining it on your own (though other members may be happy to help, if you ask). Contact garden co-ordinators to inquire about becoming a member, or if the opportunity is right, blaze a trail and start your own garden with your neighbours!

 Yard Sharing: Everyone loves homegrown produce, but not everyone has the time, ability or desire to get their hands dirty and sow the earth. The Yard Share program, facilitated by SFE, matches up registered land owners and gardeners for communal gardening projects. This mutually beneficial system gives gardeners space to work and land owners a beautiful yard (and likely a sample of the rewards!). Keep in mind that there are at least two sets of wants, opinions and feelings to consider when using this shared yard approach. Make sure you and your partners are on common ground when it comes to accessing and transforming the space, using water, bringing guests, etc. (SFE has some useful templates to help guide your agreement)

 Volunteering: Volunteering is a fantastic option if you’re new to the world of gardening or want to get more involved in the community. Learn the basics of planting, fertilizing, maintenance and harvest from experienced gardeners and farmers, then later apply it to your own plot. Check out the University of Alberta’s Green and Gold Community Garden, the Edmonton Horticultural Society, Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, Prairie Urban Farm or Sustainable Food Edmonton for opportunities to get involved year-round. 

No matter what path you choose, participating in a shared garden space is sure to improve your season. Set yourself a new goal this summer (maybe planting something you’ve never tried or going organic?), and let your fellow gardeners help you reach it. Get to know your neighbours, share produce and teach each other. After all, it’s not just vegetables growing in these shared garden spaces.”

Food Edmonton’s Golden Wheelbarrow Awards:

Nominee & WINNER for 2019: Strathcona Rail Community Garden

“This side-south garden’s mission is “to provide gardening opportunities and education for members committed to the work and enjoyment involved by providing support, structure and governance.” They state cooperation is a big part of group — sharing resources and knowledge; working together for common benefit, while also empowering people to be self sufficient”. 

Nominee: Urban Eden Community Garden

“This organic downtown garden, working with the Partners in Parks program, have a mission to: (1) build a sense of community among downtown neighbours, (2) use and enhance vacant land within the downtown core, and (3) allow people to produce their own food. Additionally, UECG hosts community events including potluck suppers, group visits, walking tours, cycling tours, meditation groups, and an annual open house.”

Photo credit Janet

Nominee: Dovercourt Community Garden

“This north-west garden, is constantly working to improve their space, increase food security, and improve community building through events like their annual Harvest Fair, photo contests, perennial exchanges, etc”.

Veg in Yeg

This unique community garden run by Nicole, Felicity, and Kay caught our attention. This is how they describe their venture:

“We are a social enterprise currently based in Garneau, Edmonton, and at Grant MacEwan University. We use underutilized spaces to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers for local consumption. We don’t want anyone to miss out on this fresh, local goodness, so all of our products are priced as “pay what you want”. Our unique pricing model is designed to help community members help each other. If you can afford to pay our suggested price (or even more!): your $$$ go directly to helping the community members who perhaps need to pay a lower price (or nothing at all) to access our fresh veg, judgement free. Income from sales goes toward paying a part-time, living wage to your farmers, and is invested back into improving Veg in Yeg.

Our motivation:

Increase accessibility to local food, create alternative food systems and work towards food sovereignty.
Grow healthy communities and promote neighbourliness.
Reduce waste and CO2 outputs of our food system – address food mileage, packaging waste, and food waste. 
Create a thriving environment for nature and ourselves.”

Contact: 1-780-914-8889.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

What is a CSA? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a growing movement where consumers can purchase a share in a farm in order to get their food direct from the farmer over the growing season. It’s an awesome way to ensure that you are supporting your local economy, and cut out the middle man to ensure your money is going to the right place! There is nothing more local than using a CSA to get your vegetables besides growing them in your own back yard. CSAs connect people with the food they eat, the land it comes from and the frmer who grows it. It supports small scale farmers by guaranteeing a market for their produce, build s a direct relationship between families and the farm, and allows supporters to receve a remium selection of local naturally grown farm produce throughour the growing season. Thanks to the assistance of blog by here is information of CSAs available in Edmonton and how they work:

Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm

This CSA offers 7-10 vegetables and can be picked up at Get Cooking on Thursdays from 4-6 pm, or for an additional $50 will be deliviered. A small box for a couple is $550 for the season of 15 weeks. Registration is in May. You can now sign up for a 12 month CSA option for pick up Thursdays from 4-5 pm at Get Cooing. Families in their CSA program can also get passes to their many festivals throughout the year – cool perk!

Riverbend Gardens

This CSA is 15 weeks as well starting July 2, and currently sold out. Again it comes in 2 sizes priced $300-$430 or biweekly for $273.60. There are several convenient pick up locations in the city. They are also at the Strathcona Farmers Market, City Market Downtown, and Southwest Edmonton Farmers Market, the St. Albert Farmers Market, Ft. Saskatchewan Farmers Market, and Beverly Towne Market.

Fresh Roots

This CSA does from BC and can be picked up at the Italian Centre on Thursdays from 7-8 pm. It is 20 weeks from June 30Oct 14 or 9 weeks from July 1-Aug16.

The Organic Box

Running for 10 years, this food box offers “organic, ethical, sustainable and locally made groceries delivered to your door. It is Alberta’s online grocery store with no delivery fee or subscription”. It is not just vegetables and you can order as much or as little as you want each week.

Billyco Junction Gardens

Located in the County of Lacombe, this family farm grows produce, berries and more. They offer CSA shares as well as u-pick, and all their veggies and fruit are grown spray free. They also have farm fresh egg shares available.

Sparrow’s Nest Organics

This farm in Opal offers certified organic produce, and a share includes 2 days of help at the farm so you can take part in the growing and harvesting process. (They do offer non-working shares as well, if that’s not your thing!) They also supply vendors in Edmonton like the restaurants Culina, Corso 32, Elm Cafe, Noorish, Prairie Bistro at the Enjoy Centre, as well as Earth’s General Store.

Tipi Creek Farm

Located near Villeneuve (northwest of St. Albert), this family farm uses sustainable farming practices to grow organic vegetables and herbs.

Norbuck Farms

4th generation farm near Winfield using organic processes to grow a wide selection of vegetables. Members get deliveries weekly to Northgate on Sundays, including a dozen eggs for a 12 week growing season. Note: They won’t be running the CSA program for 2016, but will be posting what vegetables they have available in Edmonton on a biweekly basis, along with eggs and lamb.

Meadow Creek Farms

They have an organic vegetable operation that includes potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, squash, onions, garlic, peas, beans, kale, rhubarb, and raspberries. They also offer weekly deliveries in Edmonton for chickens, turkeys, and pork raised outside with handmade feed

Will you join a CSA this year?

join a CSA in Edmonton YEG juicygreenmom landscape

Shop Local

Catherine shares with me this reminder that we try to be conscious to shop local. Check out this link for the Canada United movement. When I get a book for book club, I try to buy from a local business if it is not available at my public library.

Growing Cut Flowers

We are excited to welcome back our friend and guest blogger, Shanthi, to continuing sharing her wealth of gardening experience and knowledge with us, this time on the topic of growing cut flowers in your garden.

Welcome back, Shanthi!

Photo Credit: Shanthi

Selecting a Garden Area

“Consider a dedicated section of the garden to grow flowers for the sole purpose of being able to cut them for floral arrangements. We hesitate to cut from our usual flower beds, so having a dedicated space allows us to grow and cut without cringing! Also, commercial flowers are expensive and lack the variety and fragrance of locally grown flowers.”

“As with vegetable plots, start off with choosing a suitable site:

  • At least 6 hours of sun. dappled shade in sections is also good for those plants that prefer some shade.
  • Fertile and well-draining soil.”
Photo Credit: Shanthi

Choosing What to Grow

  • “Floral arrangements look simple enough on the surface but a lot of thought process and planning is involved.
    • Bouquets or arrangements require various types of flowers and foliage and so one needs to ensure that there is a variety of each in the garden. Keep in mind that the blooming times differ too and so there needs to be a variety of plants and flowers in bloom at any given time (e.g. spring, summer, fall).
    • Choose flowers with long and sturdy stems and with long vase life.
    • There is a wide range of plants to choose from – Can be annuals, perennials, shrubs, tubers, bulbs etc.
    • Foliage can be picked from other parts of the garden or plants/shrubs with attractive foliage can be incorporated into the main landscape to serve a dual purpose.”
  • Popular plantings:
    • Tulips, Alliums and Daffodils make excellent cut flowers and are available in unusual shades and shapes. These can be obtained and planted in the Fall from local or online nurseries for beautiful blooms the following spring. Critters stay away from daffodil bulbs but love the tasty tulip ones so lay down chicken wire over bulbs when planting or hide them in between less tasty ones.
    • Dahlias are striking and take center stage in arrangements. They are started off as shriveled up tubers that look like something for the compost bin but then can turn into plants as high as 5 feet in no time. Dahlias are not winter hardy and must be dug up and stored until the next year. Proper harvesting and storage is needed but there are many resources on the web to take you through the step by step processes.
    • A whole range of perennials that you can plant and then forget about. These will yield armloads of cut flower year after year. Examples include Yarrow, Asters, echinaceas, Heleniums, delphiniums, black eyed Susan, roses, Iris, lilacs, Baby’s breath, hydrangeas, peonies and the list goes on and on.
  • Equally expansive are annualsgladiolas, Zinnia, celosia, love-in-a-mist, sweet peas, bells of Ireland.
    • Sources of foliage/stems include Ninebark, cedar, holly, bridal wreath, horsetail plant, ferns, curly willow, ornamental grasses etc. Some of these change colour over the seasons and some even flower for a double bonus.
    • Branches or stems with berries add to the visual interest. Crab apples, hypericum, holly, honeysuckle, even cherry tomatoes are some examples.
    • Other: forage and incorporate what you think may work such as raspberry stems, pokeweed, seedheads etc.”
Photo Credit: Shanthi

Harvesting and Arranging

  • “Once the hard work is done, then comes the fun part – harvesting and arranging.
    • Cut stems early in the morning as they are most hydrated then. Use sharp shears and place directly into a bucket with water. Strip off lower leaves so you have less cleaning up to do indoors.
    • Bring indoors and let sit in a cool place with floral food in the water. There are tricks to follow for some flowers, for example dahlias have to sit in hot water for an hour, poppies have to have their stems burnt, hydrangeas have to be immersed in water or dipped in alum powder. Again, lots of information and tips on the web.”
  • Arrangements:
    • “Whether making bouquets or arranging in vases, there are again a few rules to follow if you want the professional look.           
      • Structural foliage, supporting ingredient, and textural ingredient form the base of an arrangement.
      • Then supporting flowers, focal flowers and airy accents provide the eye catching details.
      • Each has its own purpose and if you are able to collect ingredients from all six categories, your end product will be stunning
      • Also, try to follow the colour wheel so there is some harmony in the colours used (e.g. monochromatic, complementary etc.)
  • Mostly and realistically though, any armful of flowers and especially those from your own garden will look stunning no matter how you arrange them.
  • For vase arrangements, choose colours and shapes to complement your arrangement
  • There are other supplies you may want to invest in such as floral wrappers, flower frogs to hold arrangements in place, flower food packets etc. It all depends on how far you want to go.”
Photo Credit: Shanthi

Closing Thoughts

  • “You can go all out and aim for professional results or simply be fully content with informal arrangements. Either way, seeing a tiny seed or shriveled up tuber turn into a centerpiece is very rewarding. You learn about putting the needs of other living things before yours when you learn to store, take care, and raise your garden. You get to learn from your trials (and mistakes!) and plan for another fresh season come next spring. You get to research and explore on varieties that you all of a sudden crave and cannot stop thinking about. Along the way, you help the environment and pollinators.  Finally, you get to see the smile on peoples’ faces when you present them with a heavenly fragrant lush bouquet!”
photo Credit: Shanthi

Canadian Arboretums and Botanical Gardens

Tree Trips?

Travel within Canada is all the more appealing this summer given concerns about minimizing health risks during the pandemic.

We are privileged to live in a country renowned for its stunning natural beauty and welcoming diverse citizenry.  What better time than now to explore and get to know Canada’s riches better, whether on a short day trip or by going farther afield, perhaps to holiday in another province or territory?

Don’t forget the trees in your travel and sightseeing plans!

To help in this regard, our post this week profiles noteworthy botanical gardens and arboretums from coast to coast.

photo credit Andrew

The Huffington Post puts this “List of Canada’s best botanical gardens, arboretums and parks,” on the radar, which it introduces this way, “Canada is a country of wide open spaces. That means a lot of green space (and ice, but we digress) for gardens, arboretums, and straight up dazzling natural vistas. You could plan an entire vacation just visiting some of the best botanical gardens, arboretums, and parks across the country. There are hundreds of gardens across the country and we chose just a few that you really can’t miss.” 

Nova Scotia

Point Pleasant Park, Halifax

Harriet Irving Botanical Garden, Wolfville

The Historic Gardens, Annapolis Royal


Allan Gardens Conservatory, Toronto

High Park, Toronto

Royal Botannical Gardens, Burlington

Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, Niagara Region

High Park Toronto Cherry Blossoms


Mount Royal Park, Montreal

British Columbia

Stanley Park, Vancouver

Butchart Gardens, Victoria


Photo Credit Alberta Travel Magazine

Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, Lethbridge

Muttart Conservatory, Edmonton

Banff National Park,  Banff

Jasper National Park, Jasper

Here is a link to the photo gallery and article which offers a brief paragraph on each garden and park: 

Here are just a few of their descriptions you will find there, to help wet the appetite for  “staycation” itinerary planning-

Butchart Gardens (Victoria, BC) – “If you’re in Victoria, rent a car and go to Butchart Gardens. It’s worth the drive. The stunning Japanese maples, the roses; it’s hard to believe that Butchart Gardens started off as a limestone quarry. Thanks to Jennie Butchart, this garden has been around for 100 years. If you go in summer, you can listen to concerts in simply stunning surroundings.”

Royal Botanical Gardens (Burlington, ON) – “These gardens have 27 kilometres of trails which take you through wetlands where you can observe fish, birds, and other wildlife. They also maintain 50 collections of wild plants as part of their research.”

Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden (Lethbridge, AB) – “It’s not Japan, but it’s very, very close. It’s one of the newer gardens, built in 1967 to recognize the contributions made by Canadians of Japanese ancestry. The goal, according to the park’s website, was to create a Japanese-styled garden that reflected the stunning Alberta scenery. Japanese architects, landscapers, and tradesmen created many of the features in Nikka Yuko and shipped them to Canada.”

The Historic Gardens (Anapolis Royal, NS) – “The Historic Gardens is the place to go if you love roses. It has hundreds of roses, and the caretakers even put out a bloom report so you can go when the flowers are at their best. The gardens also have a reconstructed Acadian house, based (as they say) on the pre-deportation 1671 time period.”

Wikipedia offers another list of “Botanical Gardens in Canada,” organized by province: 

Devonian Botanical Gardens, Alberta Photo credit: Lucy

We found casting an eye down this list to be an invitation to find out more about our country’s vast geography, with intriguing location names such as Kakebeka Falls, Boissevain, Summerland, Ladysmith, Otter Lake, and more! (

Ottawa Gardens

The Gardens Ottawa website includes a map profiling more than 140 community gardens across the Nation’s capital: 

The web-site also profiles the Community Garden Network, hosted by JustFoods, which promotes sustainable  development of community gardens within Ottawa —

Village Green Rockcliffe, Ottawa. Photo Credit Andrew

Central Experimental Farm 

Check this Parks Canada website to learn more about Ottawa’s  Central Experimental Farm, “…an agricultural research facility and a working farm located in the heart of Ottawa,” and why it is a National Historic Site of Canada: 

The Friends of the Farm website adds additional information, including the COVID-19 update that the Farm has re-opened, and, that “The Arboretum and Ornamental Gardens are free and open to the public from dawn to dusk, and there is free parking. Most areas are accessible for those with physical limitations.”

Arboreta Levels and ArbNet

The world of things to learn about trees is seemingly endless we are discovering since starting this Blog.  It is one thing to learn about different arboretums across Canada through garden lists such as those above. But, did you know that the plural of aboretum is ‘arboreta,’ and, that apparently there are four levels of aboreta accreditation? This we learned from ArbNet, launched in 2011 to foster, “a global network for tree-focused professionals”. According to its web-site, to-date ArbNet has accredited over 300 arboretums across 28 countries.

Canada’s list on ArbNet includes 41 aboretums. You may want to check to see if there is one near you:

Catherine is fortunate to be able to stroll through and enjoy the beauty of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery Arboretum in her neighbourhood – a level II accredited arboretum that has “over 600 species of shrubs and trees that span more than 120 genus, situated on over 200 acres.”  The criteria for ArbNet level II arboreta are they must “have at least 100 species of woody plants, employ paid staff, and have enhanced public education programs and a documented collections policy.” (

Photo credit Andrew

Toronto Green Community, and Lost River Walks describes this arboretum in these glowing terms:

“One of the finest tree collections in North America is to be found in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. The landscaping at Mount Pleasant follows a plan developed in the late nineteenth century to provide an arboretum for public enjoyment. Practically every tree that will grow in this climate is found here. Many trees bear small signs with their names. There are hundreds of varieties of trees in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, ranging from rare introduced trees to oak trees that were mature when Mount Pleasant Cemetery was founded in 1873. Many specimens have been named Heritage Trees because of their fine condition and venerable age. Over the years, many varieties of fruit and nut trees have been planted, attracting many birds and small animals. Along with its treasure- trove of trees, Mount Pleasant has a vast range of flowering shrubs and herbaceous perennials. An arboretum guide with alphabetical index and map is available at the Cemetery headquarters.” 

This informative Arboretum Guide flipbook provides photos and a brief description of many of its trees:

Nature Sanctuaries Near Edmonton

This long weekend Lucy visited two nature sanctuaries within 30 minutes of her home in Edmonton. The first going SW was the Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary. It has an extensive boardwalk over wetlands as well as forested areas and lots of families were there. We found it to be very serene.

Photo Credit Lucy

The second one Lucy visited was the Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park in St. Albert. It connects to the Sturgeon River where we saw many people leisurely kayaking through the river and wetlands. The park is also the site of the John E. Poole Interpretive Wetland facility which includes a Ducks Unlimited trail and boardwalk with interpretive signs. Abundant with diverse bird populations, especially waterfowl and shorebirds, the park is a favourite for walkers, hikers and bird watchers. It was hard to find the entrance as it was under construction and Lucy would love to know the best place to launch a kayak. There was not a lot of shade cover.

Photo Credit Lucy

The Great Green Wall Project

For those who want to travel further afield to the African Sahel, Catherine recommends this 90-minute virtual trip via the documentary The Great Green Belt. It is currently streaming via the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto for $9.99 admission ticket– a unique pandemic opportunity for cross-Canada viewing, as the theatre has pivoted online during COVID-19.  Here’s the Hot Docs film descriptor:

“Embark on a music-filled journey across The Great Green Wall—an ambitious initiative to restore 8000 km track of land across the African continent—in this cinematic gift of hope from the director of City of God. Guided by Malian activist-musician Inna Modja, and a dazzling array of African artists, the film takes you through the wall’s scenic route in Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Niger and Ethiopia, sharing the communal dream it represents in the stand against climate change. An unforgettable exploration of a modern ecological marvel, The Great Green Wall celebrates the role of music, culture and resilience in the collective task of reshaping our planet.”

It is a hugely ambitious project, as the project’s website describes –“Growing a World Wonder…Once complete, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet, 3 times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.”

“The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa. 

“A decade in and roughly 15% underway, the initiative is already bringing life back to Africa’s degraded landscapes at an unprecedented scale, providing food security, jobs and a reason to stay for the millions who live along its path.”

“The Great Green Wall isn’t just for the Sahel. It is a global symbol for humanity overcoming its biggest threat – our rapidly degrading environment.”

photo credit Lucy

“It shows that if we can work with nature, even in challenging places like the Sahel, we can overcome adversity, and build a better world for generations to come.”

Here is a two-minute YouTube trailer for this film of resilience and hope:

And finally, to learn more, here is the link to the official project website for The Great Green Wall Project

Here’s to our Readers’ happy “tree trips” –whether virtual or otherwise!

Podcasts: Lucy has been listening to the CBC Podcasts What On Earth series. They are exceptionally well done and each about 30 minutes long. Something to listen to while walking or when cooking or when bored!