Sunday, 23 February 2014

Stratford Garden Festival

The 10 gardens at the Stratford Garden Festival will be a welcome taste of spring for winter-weary gardeners

By Geoff Dale, Special to QMI Agency

STRATFORD - Navigating treacherous icy roads through mountains of snow to an idyllic garden landscape dotted by cedar trees, multi-stemmed dogwood and a tranquil cascading waterfall may not be the daunting challenge it sounds.
That’s exactly what Matthew Morris, a Guelph-based garden designer and owner of Nature’s Palette, wants to achieve with his first exhibit at the 14th Stratford Garden Festival (Feb. 27-March 2). The event’s seasonably tempting theme is Beyond The Garden Gate.
“I’ve tried to create an oasis within a forested area through a mixture of modern techniques and design placed in a natural setting,” Morris said. “Once you get through the specially made garden gate and along the cobbled pathway, you discover the dogwood, cedar and a simple tricking waterfall.
“It’s a new old world concept.”
Promising some new visual treats among the 10 gardens this year, Lung Association area manager and festival spokesperson Deedee Herman said the festival should provide “the much-needed hint of spring we’ve all been craving.
“At the opening garden party, we’re having local artists and Stratford Festival folks decorating and painting garden gnomes. The concept is to get people imagining what lies beyond the garden gate, tempting and inviting you to explore along their journey.”
In addition to Morris, another first-time entrant is the brother team of Garnet and Dave Drummond, who will be following in the footsteps of their father John (Greenbelt Farm) with their Drummond Brothers Landscaping and Property Services, just outside Mitchell.
“They were following their dad around at the show since the age of about eight,” Herman said. “Now the two boys have their own business, and we were delighted to find a spot for them.”
From Day 1, Orr Insurance has sponsored the event, raising more than $700,000 for the Lung Association for its medical research commitments and lung care initiatives such as asthma and obstructive pulmonary disease.
“There are so many reasons that draw me back every year,” said Johan Bossers of A Touch of Dutch Landscaping and Garden Services.
“It’s an important fundraiser, and everything at the show is garden related, no sign of vacuum cleaners or home windows, the kind of things you often see at home and garden events.”
Bossers and fellow garden designers David Lara and Eric Brouwer created an exhibit called Imagination: Beyond A Touch of Dutch Garden Gate.
Anchored by pillars of cascading water, the route follows the curving pathways of interlocking brick pavers and patterns to flowerbeds mulched with differing sizes and texture of river rock, boundaries made of armour stone and a centre garden filled with spring flowers.
Meanwhile Steve and Susan Coxon of Sebringville Garden Centre, participants for the past decade, are showcasing their magical theme Where Fairies Dance — a pleasant stroll through a fairy glen of cool moss, lacy ferns and possibly a glimpse of an inhabitant or two greeting spring.
“We tend to be more on the theatrical side,” Susan said. “The theme we are exploring this year is huge in the U.S. and just making its way to Canada. We sell the necessary products so basically anyone can build their own special magical garden.”
Vendors such as Shirley and Alan Roch of Riverbend Gardens and Nursery in Wroxeter, sell a wide range of items from daylilies and hostas to pussy willows and curly willow stems and relish the opportunity to showcase a new product or two along the way.
“This year we’re going to have hascap or honey berries,” she said. “Originally from Russia, it is a very dark blue berry, tasty and healthy.”
Dirk Berghout of Florabunda Seeds is enthusiastic about the heirloom vegetables he added to his product line in the last couple of years. For the festival he also will highlight new items, among them black-eyed Susan, bells of Ireland, sunflower (Dwarf Incredible) and flowering maple.
“The gardens at the Stratford show are the most beautiful anywhere, bar none,” he said. “The beauty is that they can be done by everyone.”
For Suzanne Steed of Steed & Co. Lavender in Sparta, the festival gives her the chance every year to demonstrate the versatility of her ever-growing product line.
“This year I’ll be showcasing our new honey dijon lavender mustard,” she said. “It has those lovely sweet characteristics but there is also a nip to it, so get your palettes ready for a zingy taste treat.”
“This is going to be an exciting show with many favourites returning and plenty of new vendors,” Herman said. “There will be displays of dry stone walls and another one focusing on ironwork. Also the folks from Big Ass Garlic in Baysville will be along for the first time. It’s a wonderful way to greet spring.”
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What: 14th annual Stratford Garden Festival
When: Thurs. Feb. 27, noon-5 p.m., Fri. Feb. 28, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat. March 1, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday March 2, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Stratford Rotary Complex, 353 McCarthy Rd., Stratford. Directions can be found on website
Why: Presented by the Lung Association and sponsored by Orr Insurance, funds are raised to support the association in its medical research commitments and lung health initiatives focusing on asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Tickets: $9 at the door. Children 12 and younger free. Pre-arranged groups of 15 or more, $7 a person
Theme: Beyond the Garden Gate

This piece appears here in the London Free Press Home section.

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