3 spring gardening trends with Toronto Botanical Garden’s Paul Zammit

The director at the Toronto Botanical Garden sheds light on the benefits of gardening

It’s the time of year when nature is breathing life back into our trees and green spaces, and that means your green thumb needs to come out of hibernation. We chat with Paul Zammit, the Nancy Eaton director of horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Garden to get the inside scoop on 2018’s gardening trends. Turns out, it’s not all about flower beds and pristine lawns anymore.

Edible gardens  
“We continue to see food gardening be very strong,” says Zammit. As people become more conscious of their personal health and what they are eating, they are looking to grow more of their own food. Aside from standard garden items such as tomatoes, Zammit recommends branching out and planting some greens.

“Greens that continue to be popular are things like spinach, chard and kale. Particularly kale for its protein content. I saw a T-shirt that said ‘Kale is the new beef’ that I thought was quite funny,” he says.

Zammit also notes that edibles don’t just refer to vegetables. People are also plantings edible flowers and lots of herbs as well.

“My son and his wife don’t do an extensive amount of gardening, but I would say 95 per cent of what they grow is edible. She loves to cook, and she’ll go outside and snip a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”

Small green spaces 
“People have less green space. Houses become bigger or people have balconies or window sills, so miniature gardens and doing things on a smaller scale are both on the rise,” says Zammit.

Container gardening outside is becoming hugely popular, and is also being used to introduce indoor plants to the home. People are bringing the outdoors in due to the air-purifying properties of plants.

Also for beginners, starting with a relatively small garden is the best way to achieve success.

“We can quickly become overwhelmed if something doesn’t work, and then you get discouraged,” he says. “I hear everyone quickly say, ‘Oh I have a black thumb and I kill everything.’ Well let’s try again then!”

Planting for wellness
“There’s all sorts of evidence that shows that gardening is healthy for us. It’s good for peace of mind,” he says.

Zammit recommends looking at your outdoor space, whether it’s a balcony, windowsill or backyard garden, as a space to use for wellness for both yourself and for the environment.

Also, maintaining your garden is a great reason to spend more time outdoors, and will give you the inspiration to create that outdoor kitchen or patio or living space.

Zammit also mentions the continued rise in horticulture therapy. More and more people are recognizing the benefits of gardening and are getting more involved. For example, the bee program at the Toronto Botanical Garden is sold out with a long waiting list.

“People are interested in butterflies, bees and birds and planting for pollinators,” he says. “If you plant it, they will come. We see it with all the monarchs and it’s really encouraging.”

Zammit wants people to discover the power of gardening and the potential it has to benefit them, the environment and the community.

His tip to entice friends to get in the gardening groove?

“I make edible bouquets that I share with people if I’m coming to visit. I’ll cut you some rosemary and some thyme and some of my purple African blue basil and bring that over as a gift item with a bottle of wine.”

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO