Bus to Canada Blooms

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Culture Tillsonburg presents Celebrate Spring! on Friday, March 20, with a bus tour to Canada Blooms – Flower and Garden Festival at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto.

This year's theme is Let's Play.

"It's an event for the entire community," said Marie Blake, Culture and Program Coordinator at ANHS. "And it's happening on the very first day of spring."

Departing Tillsonburg at 8 a.m. (expect a two-hour bus ride), the group will return to Tillsonburg at 5:30 p.m. Parking, pick up and drop off is behind Avondale United Church (across from the Upper Deck).

"It's a lovely (coach) bus, not a school bus," Blake noted.

Tickets are $60 plus HST, open to anyone from the community. Tickets for members of the CIA (Cultural Improvement Alliance), which includes Station Arts Centre and Tillsonburg Historical Society, are only $50 plus HST. That price includes bus fee and admission to the Canada Blooms festival.

Participants can bring their own lunch or

Contact Annandale National Historic Site at 519-842-2294 for tickets which can be purchased at 30 Tillson Ave, or over the phone with VISA or Mastercard, or more information.

"It's kind of a nice way to celebrate spring," said Blake. "See some beautiful flowers... kind of a nice little diversion after all the weather we've had, too. We can start thinking we might actually have some spring, too."

* * * * *

Forget the groundhog. The best sign spring is nearing is Canada Blooms, the largest flower and garden festival in the country. It takes place March 13 to 22 at Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre.

Featuring gardens, products, services and presentations by some of Canada’s leading floral and horticultural experts, it’s a great place to learn, discover and be wowed by the array of colour and scents.

“I’m hoping visitors find something that is personal to them, whether it’s a unique plant at the Pick Ontario display, a seminar on choosing a garden builder, or just relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere in the lounge,” said Terry Caddo, general manager.

Let’s Play

“Every year the design committee of volunteers determines the theme,” Caddo said. “Let’s Play was chosen to complement the 2015 Pan Am Games. Garden builders incorporate that into their designs, an example is Parklane Gardens’ the rain game and Vaughan Landscaping’s Tic Tac Toe.”

Denis Flanagan, director of public relations for Landscape Ontario, said landscape designers have incorporated sport themes, games and exercise into many gardens. “Some of the gardens will be interactive, a great chance for visitors to have some hands-on fun.”

New venue

Moving to Hall G in the Direct Energy Centre provides new opportunities for the show.

“The hall has no floor weight restrictions, which allows for large rock displays (look for the 10-tonne inukshuk this year) and a lower ceiling that allows us to darken the building and install new dramatic landscape and theatrical lighting,” Caddo said.

Let’s Learn

“A must-see for visitors are the hands-on demonstrations and advice clinics,” Flanagan said. “Gardeners will leave with lots of new ideas that can be applied in their own gardens.”

Students from Humber College participate in Canada Blooms each year. At this show, three groups are designing and building gardens.

“The process allows them real-world experience, ranging from working with peers, developing teamwork, and all elements with dealing with a client (Canada Blooms) and staying within a budget,” Caddo said.

How It Comes Together

Planning for the next year begins almost immediately after the show closes.

“My favourite part is the first 10 minutes when the doors open on the first day,” Caddo said. “Knowing that 10 months of planning and days of building has come together to produce such an incredible festival. The most challenging part is the first 10 minutes after closing on the final day when you realize the clock is ticking to make next year’s event better.”

In between, a lot of people, both professional and amateur, provide time and expertise.

Landscape Ontario garden builder group reviews applications and approves the builders selected to ensure the highest industry standards are met.

A volunteer committee representing the industry constantly looks for developing trends and new speakers.

“We will have approximately 200 speakers and seminars at Canada Blooms that should cover anything that is of interest,” Caddo said. “The speakers, from Mark Cullen to Frank Ferragine, are not paid and provide their time to support the gardening community.”

During the show, volunteers are key to its success.

“We have over 2,000 volunteer shifts (usually four hours each) that are critical to make Canada Blooms a success,” Caddo said. “These range from members of Landscape Ontario who help with the build, members of the Garden Club of Toronto who put on the Toronto Flower Show to high school students looking for community service hours.”

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Founded in 1996 by the Garden Club of Toronto and Landscape Ontario.

Promotes the awareness of horticulture and supports community projects.

More than 70,000 visitors attended first show in 1997.

More than 200,000 visitors expected this year.

-- with files from Janis Wallace




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