Spring Flower and Garden Shows

Posted March 2013 by Helen Blakey Flowers

Here in Toronto, on this grey snowy day, it’s hard to believe it’s the 1st day of spring 2013.   I know I’m growing impatient for the snow and ice to vanish, the ground to thaw and the trees to bud.  That’s why Garden and Flower shows are a welcome diversion this time of year. Many impatient gardeners sought out the spring vibes and gardening inspiration at Canada Blooms last week.

Indoor Garden Show

There are many regional garden shows around the world. I have always dreamed of making it to the elegant and refined Chelsea Garden Show on the banks of the Thames in London. While 11 acres of show gardens sounds spectacular in comparison to our now combined Garden and “Home Show”, it is dwarfed compared to the 33 acres of exhibits and major display gardens of the Grand daddy of Garden shows,

the Philadelphia Flower Show.

2013 Philadelphia Flower Show

Billed as the oldest and largest indoor garden show, for 182 years, the Philadelphia Flower Show has enthralled visitors from around the globe with stunning displays celebrating the beauty of plants and the art of gardening.

2013 celebrates the theme “Brilliant”, capturing the majestic beauty and creative inspiration of Great Britain. Displays at this year’s Flower Show will pay tribute to centuries of inspiring, influential design of London.

Visitors will be greeted by the scent of thousands of English roses at the Royal palace gates, which open to the show’s grand centerpiece: a sculptural, digitally enhanced rendition of Big Ben, complete with an hourly light and sound show.

The main exhibits will focus on Britain’s heritage and culture including Royal events, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, foggy London street scapes, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes and Beatles inspired Gardens. Also on offer are internationally renowned speakers, informative demonstrations, music and dance performances, wine and spirits tastings and more than 150 vendors.

This spectacular event has definitely been added to my bucket list.

Flower growers and Importers

One of our most commonly asked questions at the flower shop is “Where do all the flowers we sell come from?”  Helen Blakey Flowers.com

Helen Blakey Flowers

The answer is too lengthy to properly cover but I’ll touch on some of the more interesting points. The flower growing industry has changed quite a bit in the past 30 years that I have been in the flower business.  While Holland is still the major supplier worldwide of cut flowers, there are new countries entering the market or increasing their share of it.

A shipment of fresh roses from Ecuador.

When I started most of the roses sold in Ontario were locally grown, now the vast majority come from Columbia and Ecuador with Africa starting to break into our market as well. The shift was mostly due to the expense of heating and cooling local greenhouses and the less than ideal quality of sunlight here. The result is that our roses now have much larger blooms and stronger stems producing a longer vase life.

In the 70’s Columbia was Ontario’s supplier of carnations, now they provide a selection of several other flowers as well. While it’s still a developing industry Columbia and Ecuador have benefited from assistance and investment from experienced growers in Holland. This has increased employment, especially for women, and most farms are trying quite hard to build, develop and invest in schools, daycare and health programs for their employees and their families and communities. Many have attained “fair trade” and sustainable practices accreditation.





Flowers arriving from Staalduinen

There is still a strong grower industry in Ontario. Our flower shop’s mandate is to buy local whenever a local product is available. We carry local gerberas, alstromeria, chrysanthemums and different types of lilies year round as well as many other seasonal flowers through out the year. We always carry locally grown tropical and flowering plants to support local growers and avoid problems caused by acclimatization.

Flowers arrive every Tues. and Fri. from Dick Ormel Inc.

You’ll find the growers who supply our shop in the Niagara, Grimsby and Vineland areas.




Many florists in the Toronto area shop at “the clock” in Mississauga .http://www.ontarioflowergrowers.ca   It is a much smaller version of the Aalsmeer flower auction in Holland. Local growers and importers sell their stock to florists at a reverse auction where the price goes down during bidding instead of up.

Receiving flowers from Dick Ormel Inc.

Our flower shop instead purchases our flowers from a variety of suppliers during the week. Debrimex, Staalduinen, Dick Ormel Inc, Vanderhout and Midland Flowers . We have standing orders with each supplier and can fill in with assorted other flowers as needed. Our shop chose this supply method because we can buy in more frequent, smaller batches, ensuring the freshest possible stock at all times. Having 2-3 different wholesalers delivering to our store every day provides the advantage of being able to get different flowers and colours throughout the day to fill last minute requests. The hard part is not buying too much, the selection is amazing, I wish we could buy them all.


Wild flower, Solidago or Goldenrod


One of my all time favourite accent flowers is the wildflower golden rod or, as most florists call It, solidago. Though it brings with it a bit of a feeling of fall approaching all too soon, I love seeing fields and wild areas currently covered in this bright yellow flower. I’m not the only one who enjoys seeing solidago on the horizon, this flower has been adopted as the state flower by Nebraska and Kentucky as well as the state wildflower for South Carolina. While solidago is considered a wildflower or even a weed by many in North America, it is actually a favourite garden flower in Europe.

Outdoors,  Goldenrods are also an attractive source of nectar for bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies.

Golden Rod Allergy Myth

Many people shy away from this particular flower because of its bad reputation of causing hay fever and other allergies, but actually ragweed is the culprit with a similar blooming time to solidago (golden rod). The pollen of solidago is too heavy to be wind-pollinated and must be carried by insects from plant to plant. Handling solidago may still cause problems to those with allergies, however.

Use In Floral Design 

Did you know golden rods (solidago) are a common filler flower used by florists? That’s right, in many designs florists use a hybrid version of the common golden rod to add bright yellow color and interest to a flower arrangement. They have been hybridized to bring out all the best qualities of solidago. Though now available year round, this fall-bloomer is a great addition to your seasonal decor.

Marion, Helen Blakey Flowers.


Orchids are still misunderstood

Phalaenopsis orchid plant

In spite of their new level of popularity, homegrown orchids are still misunderstood. The major misunderstanding is that orchids are difficult to grow, but this is not necessarily so.

The orchid family is the largest in the plant world. Most people who are just starting out with orchids are looking for a long flowering, easy to care for plant with exotic flowers that rebloom without much fuss. If you enjoy ignoring your indoor plants, allowing them to go dry for long periods of time, I have the answer for you. Orchids. The availability of orchids today is a testament to advances made in plant breeding.

Most orchids sold for use in the home are members of these three families: Phalaenopsis, Paphioprdilum and Dendrobium. They are reliable indoor performers that tolerate our dry air in the winter, the low light of our northern latitude and their limited root mass makes for the perfect window sill plant.

The Phalaenopsis is the most popular of orchids for the home gardener. They are epiphytic, which means that they grow on trees and rocks in the tropics. When the bloom fades, cut the stem below the last flower and just above a node (where the leaf meets the stem). In most cases a new stem will develop and it will reflower. Place in a warm area in your home. No direct sun. Prefers  an east facing window but also does well with a north facing one. Mist leaves with tepid water often including the exposed roots. In winter, reduce the watering frequency. Fertilize half strength with a good quality orchid fertilizer.

There are many websites where you can access information on growing orchids and most florists carry a steady supply of orchids for sale all year long. To get the real scoop, visit the Southern Ontario Orchid Society website www.soos.ca for more details.

You can visit our website to view some of the options available of orchids for delivery.