Edgy, eco garden trends at Canada Blooms

In its best show to date, Canada Blooms (March 11 – 20, 2016) is bigger, bolder and filled with more ideas than ever. This event, Canada’s largest flower and garden festival, has finally embraced the fact that it’s smack in the heart of a young, innovative, and very urban environment. Here are my votes (from wood scrap dome to retreat with a fireman’s pole) for the top 9 hottest garden design and decor trends and one for the wish list. Click on any image to get more details.

#1: Disruption is good.

From riotous plantings to a piano-turned-water feature to Christine De Beer’s award winning floral design of white orchids suspended amidst clear pipes of burbling water, the overriding mood at the show is about busting up design processes with new, inclusive approaches to landscaping and floral design even the un-gardener will get, no, love.

#2: Get all personal with your gabions

In the You-Can-Do-This-Too! department, Neil Jacob Obach of Jacob’s Gardenscape shows some clever uses for gabions (rock-filled wire cages often used for erosion control). His “Garden Celebration” exhibit features a row of gabions (below) edging a stone pathway and giving the adjacent entertaining area an eye-catching frame that nicely merges natural and urban. Adding a pot of blooming bulbs to each cage is a nice touch, too. In a quick phone chat with Neil earlier in the show, he pointed out that “We need to recycle stuff!” And who doesn’t have a bunch of rocks left over after digging up their back garden? “Any homeowner can actually do it. You don’t need any machinery.” And edging is just the beginning. Double-stack some gabions, suggests Neil, to use as year-round table bases. They can also be used to make a raised vegetable garden, he added.

The stylish outdoor fencing panels (also shown below) that surrounded his exhibit are actually tall, one-inch-thick gabions filled with pea gravel and translucent beads. This kind of fence panelling is quite popular in Germany and Holland and “great for breaking up the monotony of wooden fencing” said Neil. You can order the gabion fence panels through Jacob’s Gardenscape, then fill them with pebbles, pea gravel, marbles, or beads in whatever colours and as many layers as you want. “It becomes an art piece,” he said. And a very personal one at that.

#3: Think waaaay outside the (elevated) box.

The exhibit sign for “Nest”, designed and built by BSQ Design Studio Inc., reads that the stunning aerial wooden cube you see is “a modernist elevated room, a playhouse, an urban retreat, an elegant shed, a studio, a sanctuary reading nook or….” You’re left to consider your own possibilities. The chic drip waterfall feature (seen as a transparent panel to the left of the support wall in the photo below right), the flat screen TV, and the recessed lighting are nice touches but I have to admit, it had me with the blue fireman’s pole.

#4 Go bright or go home

Pools can’t be just big tanks of water any more. Now pools have to be entertainment centers that glow in the dark with a rainbow intensity that would rival the Niagara Falls lighting spectacular. Design elements like waterfalls and glass windows make this round-the-clock attraction as alluring to the grown-ups as to the kids.

#5 Landscaping design just keeps on getting greener

I think Landscape Ontario‘s exhibit, designed by Brydges Landscape Architecture Inc., highlighted two things very well. The first was the many career opportunities (which keep on growing) in the “green professions”. The intriguing display, which featured a structure that could easily pass for a human-sized hobbit dwelling, albeit with a square rather than circular entranceway, showed off the Envirolok System, the second really cool thing. These vegetated retaining walls help stabilize shorelines, riverbanks and steep slopes, eliminate erosion, and manage stormwater flow. If this display inspires landscape designers to stop using natural stone, pulled from quarries all over the Bruce Peninsula, for their designs of sloped urban gardens, I would be very happy.

#6 Reusing/recycling goes glam

Some spectacular uses of recycled materials shown at this show were beyond the scope of a backyard DIY project (see hot trend #8). But there were plenty of style savvy ideas that could easily be done by gardener or non-gardener. The photo, below left, shows part of the “Do Up The Doorsteps” display by Smallscapes, with an idea so simple and yet genius. If you’ve got a glass-topped side table, why not pop it over top of a container filled with low growing plants. Think trailing succulents or ivies. You instantly have a terrarium/hosting table that’ll turn heads. It’s a great space-saving idea for balcony gardeners. A glass jar filled with a string of mini-lights, part of the Landscape Ontario exhibit, is another idea that’s so easy yet never fails to look glamorous.

#7 Garden decor doesn’t have to be big to make a big impact

Sure, there are plenty of spectacular water features complete with wide bridges over rushing waterfalls at this year’s Canada Blooms, but I was really taken by the number of fountains and other garden decorations sized perfectly for the smaller garden or a small space tucked away within a larger garden. The striking sculpture shown at far right, in an exhibit by Near North Hardscapes Ltd. and Landscape Designs by Jodie Munshaw is diminutive compared to most garden art these days (the height of the hellebores gives its size away) but it’s just right for this tiny bed within a patio.

#8 Forget the fountain. Water goes ‘natural’.

Genoscape’s Joe Genovese is catching a lot of attention for his exhibit featuring an “igloo” constructed from old wood pallets. But while all eyes seemed to be focused on this spectacular pergola, the exhibit’s title, “H20 Yeah!” referred to the naturalistic water feature that visitors walked around, beside and over. That the water feature integrates so well into the garden design in ways both subtle and encompassing should come as no surprise. The multiple-award winning landscape designer is known for waterscaping designs. His services also include landscape designs for rainwater harvesting systems combined with decorative water features.

#9 Outdoors is indoors is outdoors.

Gone is the patio table with a big umbrella stuck through a hole in its top. In the desire to stretch our living spaces, more of us want patios, porches or decks that not only function as an extension of our homes, they really do look like any other room in the house. Modular sofas, coffeetables, chandeliers, wall insert fireplaces, and flat screen TVs are all part of the plush padding for our outdoor nests.

And one for the wish list: Green walls–the best may yet to come.

Living walls were everywhere at the last couple of Canada Blooms events but there was only one big display this year. The wall by Exotic Garden Landscaping (below) seemed conspicuous by its lack of competitors. Does that mean that green walls are on the wane? I don’t think so. A big, lush wall dripping with exotic plants like this one isn’t cheap, for sure. But companies such as Exotic Garden Landscaping are touting greater ease of design, build and maintenance. I’m betting vertical gardens will have another turn in the spotlight if/once they merge with the one big hot trend I didn’t see at this show: foodscaping. Can you see a wall of herbs, lettuces, onions, radishes, peppers, and mini tomatoes? I can.

Plants in a vertical garden.

7 thoughts on “Edgy, eco garden trends at Canada Blooms

  1. Pingback: Growing a cooler backyard | Ministry of the fence

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    • The show’s theme is “It’s a Party” so there were lots of exhibits showing entertainment areas and such. I’d argue that a living wall filled to bursting with various fruits and vegetables could make for a very festive atmosphere. You could encourage your guests to pluck their Bloody Mary garnishes from the walls as they mingle, for instance. But I also think there may be a practical reason. All the flowers at the show had been forced, of course. I wonder if the landscaping companies and garden designers who created most of the exhibits would have the means or the suppliers to incorporate mass plantings of fully-grown-but-still-rooted-and-in-the-ground vegetables in late winter here in Canada. Still, some token signs of the huge foodscaping trend would have been timely, for sure.

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