Digging in the digital dirt

Pssst … Wanna find some dirty stuff on the Web? When a gardener says that, you pretty much know what to expect.

When the world outside is green and lovely, I can hardly sit still at a keyboard. But when it’s white and cold outdoors, I retreat to the digital world. Lately, I’ve been tap-tapping through the megabytes, discovering new online gardening adventures and visiting old favourites.

Some of these are respectable websites, some are blogs and some – the horror! – are Facebook pages and groups. Yes, Facebook has a bad reputation for being the stomping ground of bullies and self-centred twits. But an amazing amount of gardening activity takes place there, too.

Ready to expand your digital horizons? Try some of these:

Richters.com is a treasure trove of information on just about any herb you can think of. Click on ‘News & Info’ and settle back to explore. This internationally-known family business located in Greenwood, ON, has its catalogue posted here, too.

Wildflowerfarm.com is another local favourite where you can order packs of seeds of wonderful wildflowers grown by Miriam Goldberger and Paul Jenkins in their wide fields near Coldwater, ON. Don’t miss Miriam’s blog, which covers everything a new wildflower grower needs to know.

Abouthyme.com calls itself the “home of the China Bayles mysteries, celebrating the mysteries,  magic and myths of herbs.” I love herbs and mystery books, so this site makes my list. It’s mainly about author Susan Wittig Albert’s mystery series, but there’s a sizeable section where you can find herbal recipes, profiles and lore. (Wittig’s fictional herbal heroine, China Bayles, also has her own Facebook page where she shares herbal info.)

Landscapeontario.com is the trade association for the landscape industry in this province. Its website, however, has useful information for home gardeners on plants, garden design and hiring a contractor.

iCanGarden.com, founded 20 years ago, has become a huge community of gardeners sharing information via articles, forums, a calendar of events, notice boards and more.

Fleamarketgardening.org is a quirky website highlighting homemade garden art and décor created from, um, castoffs. No fine statuary here; instead, you’ll discover angels made from old shutters, sheds constructed from picturesque doors, funky galvanized containers, homemade wind chimes and more to delight creative flea marketers.

Torontogardens.blogspot.ca focuses on, well, Toronto gardens and gardening and is, above all, fun. Memorable for its photos and brisk, witty words, this comes from two gardening sisters who live on the same street not far from our own Beach neighbourhood.

Gardenrant.com is a legendary blog, probably one of the earliest to hit the Web. This one has almost too much for me to handle, with six writer/photographers pumping out content on everything from preserves to rock star landscape designers to personal views on trendy garden topics.

The Toronto Gardeners Facebook group describes itself as “an informal group of GTA garden enthusiasts” – sort of like a virtual garden club. Members share ideas, photos, questions and answers, generally with a large helping of humour. Occasional get-togethers are held to exchange seeds, plants, cuttings, gardening tales and jokes.

The Garden Professors Blog is actually a science-based discussion group on Facebook. It’s run by a group of professors who try to keep things focused on research-based gardening information (no “woo-woo” remedies, please). Questions are welcome, answered by plant scientists who are up-to-date on the latest findings on soil science, pests, fertilizers, etc.

Proven Winners Colorchoice Flowering Shrubs splashes all the latest introductions across its Facebook page. “Like” the page, and you’ll get posts with gorgeous photos and basic descriptions of some of the finest flowering shrubs on the market. Bonus: you can ask questions and get quick answers about featured plants, and links take you to detailed profiles of them.

We have weeks of winter left, so while you’re stuck inside and your hands are nice and clean, take to your keyboard or touchscreen and explore the online gardening world.


Mary Fran McQuade is a local writer specializing in gardening and lifestyle

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