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Navigating Garden Centres in COVID-19

It may be summer and most flowers may be in bloom, but we’re still in a pandemic.

Garden centres had a late start to their prime season in Ontario due to provincial COVID-19 restrictions. Many gardeners had been itching to get their supplies for the spring and summer when centres across the province opened up on May 8. I’d like to share with you my experiences of gathering plants, pots, soil and seeds. Filled with anxiety, I first made an online order with Bradford Greenhouses. This garden centre is where I have exclusively shopped for my gardening needs since the initial March lockdowns. I have now physically entered the greenhouse twice too.

girl with copper hair and white and black specked shirt wearing a light blue medical grade mask
Masked up and on a mission for plants!
An aside about my lifestyle since March:

During my quarantine, I have been hiding away in my parents basement from the outside world and sticking to my small subdivision for walks and bike rides. I have had high stress and am honestly terrified of everything that enters the house. We’ve probably gone through an overly excessive amount of soap and sanitizer due to my anxiety. I’ve made textile masks for my family, my dad’s co-workers and neighbours. I have been in school full-time and more recently started a remote part-time job as well. Luckily I’ve had my boyfriend, Angad, with me. He is also working from home, and he keeps us company. My family of three now can play board games in teams! My dad has been the primary errand runner for the family; he is an essential worker and is in town already. My mom has been going out when her hip is okay (she’s due for a replacement this month!).

I wanted to compare my three experiences for you. This will show the development of my trust, but also of how the world overall is also operating differently as time goes on.
Check out my video of planting the seeds from my first order. The transcript can be found here.

April 28 – Online Order

My mom and I submitted an order online for seeds and dirt. I’ve used curbside pickup for other businesses, but they had pre-Covid experience with this selling method. It was quite honestly a painful process to get our items from the ordering stage to the pickup time. I must give them credit, they’re dealing with live goods and did not have online ordering prior to April, 2020. There were growing pains. I’ve read many comments on Bradford Greenhouse’s socials, and it appears that they have become more efficient as they have gained more experience (and less people using curbside pickup overall). The site was originally incredibly glitchy – the search functions didn’t work well yet and the order was deleted multiple times before it was submitted.

When my mom and I arrived to collect our order, their signage in the parking lot was off and there was a lot of disorganization. There ended up being 40 cars sporadically parked in a side lot. Nobody seemed to know where exactly to go. It was potentially dangerous with staff scurrying between cars. I will say that their use of a QR code was convenient – once someone came to the driver’s window, they just scanned our emailed copy to locate our order. One staff member was “going hard”- he was running back and forth from the soil to the greenhouse to the customers. Many others were sauntering and chatting, which didn’t seem to help the speed of service. In total it took around 40 minutes to collect our order, even though we had been allocated specific timeslot.

One of the funniest things was that they pushed a huge garden cart over with only a paper bag of seeds inside for us to take and put in the trunk. They had helped other customers load their cars even with small items, but they left the cart for us at the back of the vehicle between other cars. They could have passed it through the window like they did with the receipt. The bag was smaller than a Wendy’s takeout bag!

Despite this discouraging experience, it doesn’t deter me from purchasing from Bradford Greenhouses – it’s still in my top greenhouses list.

June 1 – First Physical Shopping Experience

This was the first time I entered any store since March. It was a big step for me! As you can see above, they had a lot of health and well-being precautions in place. This made me feel more comfortable visiting the greenhouse. My boyfriend came along for the ride, but he stayed in the car. With my mask on, I went in (picture a superhero suiting up for battle). I also refrained from bringing a purse with me; I planned on just using my pockets so I could wash my clothes then shower as soon as I got back home.

At the entrance, they had an employee give me a sanitized cart and another put sanitizer on my hands – off to a good start! People were generally spread out and the carts helped people from getting too close to each other. I realized pretty quickly that couples were there together. Angad probably could have come inside, but at least he had some quiet time away from me for once!

Plants were well-stocked and they had their expected patio designs set up too with outdoor decor. The store was sectioned off more to direct people along. For example, their clothing area (Lilie’s Boutique) was closed and you could only move to the cashiers from the back of the main building. Typically, you can move freely and join a line after looking through the boutique or the tropicals section on the sides.

silver metal cart pushed down a garden centre aisle with purple and red plants
Inside Bradford Greenhouses

I picked up a variety of small purple plants for our patio planters and a large philodendron (a tropical plant). It took me about 30 minutes to shop then about 10 more to check out. They had many tills open, so that helped keep customers moving through. They had nicely branded circles to tell shoppers where to go or where to line up.

green philodendron plant with large curvy edged leaves
My new philodendron

At the tills you’d put your cart in an area near the cashier and then you stayed behind a divider cord. To pay, they would hold a debit/credit machine on a long stick over so you could reach it. The cashiers worked in teams of two. Both of the girls working to check me out were lovely – they even complimented my outfit. My skirt had pockets, so who would blame them?

Overall it was a good experience and I felt comfortable picking out my plants to make my purchase.

potted plants at a garden centre with green mounds and small round pink flowers
Inside Bradford Greenhouses

July 4 – Second In-Store Shopping Experience

I recently went in to pick up some items for my mother’s birthday. She turned 65 on July 4, and Angad and I went last minute to get her some more gift items. She recently repainted the bench on our front porch a light bluish grey colour. We got her some palm printed outdoor cushions that match our avocado-coloured front door. They have zippers and are washable, so they meet her requirements, and they look cute! Angad did a great job of picking them out.

Looking for other plant-related gifts?

mother and daughter wearing summer clothes sitting on blue bench with palm leaf printed photos
My mom, Deb, and I with her new pillows and repainted bench

We also picked up an insect hotel – I think this is Angad’s favourite gift out of everything we gave her. Hopefully it’ll help get bees, butterflies and other insects to come help the ecosystem of our home garden.

Something I noticed during this second trip was the loosening of COVID-19 protocol. At the entrance, there was no one greeting us. There was a small sign of where the “sanitized” carts were, but I totally saw a woman return a cart there though. I avoided that one and hoped for the best. Inside there was a table set up with a spray bottle that said “sanitizer” and there were a few rolls of paper towel. I wasn’t sure if it was safe to spray on hands and arms or if it was intended to clean your own cart. There wasn’t a staff member to ask at the table, but I just put my own sanitizer from my pocket bottle on and kept moving.

green tropical plants including palms and peace lilies
Tropicals in Bradford Greenhouses

There were many couples and small families inside. Less masks were worn – I’d estimate under half the people inside were wearing one. Angad and I wore masks I had made at home. The tills also had one person handling the processing, product sorting, bagging and payment. At the exit there were carts scattered around; a staff member had taken the cart from me to sanitize immediately during my first in-store visit. I wasn’t a fan of the relaxation of safety initiatives, but I made sure we took our own precautions still. Although the case count isn’t reported to be high in the Barrie area, there’s a lot of people coming through from the GTA (a hot spot for COVID-19) on their way to and from cottages, other outdoor spaces like beaches and various summer activities. People from Barrie might not have been tested and be secretly carrying the virus too.

purple plant on silver shopping cart in a garden centre tree aisle
Inside Bradford Greenhouses

Further Plant Needs

I’m pretty set for the season, so I probably won’t need to go back until mid-August. Luckily my houseplants are doing well and most of our outdoor plants at home are perennials (they regrow year after year). My mom also went a couple of times to Bradford Greenhouses and has picked up other supplies at the grocery store too like annuals for the big outdoor gardens. She had similar experiences. I know some other gardening businesses are selling online-only or closing in July once the big push of the season is over, like Belgian Nursery in Breslau.

I’d like to know what your experiences have been like! Comment or #wellgrownhome on social media to share your garden centre trips.

Stay safe and #wearamask!

The Magic of Making a Fairy Garden

Fairy gardens are wonderful miniature gardens that are also creative and cute! They make excellent homes and dwellings for fairies. Here you can learn how to make one and where they may have originated.

Spirits have been a part of many ancient cultural stories. Many scholars have identified a transition from spirits to fairies in European literature since the 12th century. Gervase of Tilbury was one of the first to mention fairies. There has always been a connection between fairies and nature, with legends and tales of them living in woodland areas.

While fairies have an overall positive yet mystical reputation today, they were actually blamed for the misfortunes of people such as deaths from illness or famine. These issues were not yet explainable by science, so something essentially needed to take the blame. By pleasing the fairies with places to live, people could bring their homes good fortune. They’d also plant certain plants that kept the evil spirits away.

Read more about the folklore of fairies and fairy gardens here.

If you’d like to see how I’ve created my most recent fairy garden, since moving to Barrie, then watch this tutorial-style video.

In my fairy garden, I have the following six plants:

Baby Tears

This lush plant will cascade beautifully over the sides of containers. It has a reddish purple stem and bold green leaves. They also apparently pair well with my next plant.

Asparagus Fern

This bright plant adds some height to my garden and livens it up too. It will need a lot of trimming – these plants can grow up to two feet high and six feet long according to The Spruce. Due to their feather-light, lacy foliage, they don’t propagate well but will take over if left unattended.

Pixie Fern

This fern will be very delicate with the sun and will need an extra drink of mist every once in a while. It will expand and hang over the side of the planter as it grows. Ferns are typically easy to grow, but like moist soil. As long as you don’t abandon your fern then you should be good.

Arrowhead Pixie

My arrowhead plant adds volume to my garden. It has larger light-toned leaves that will fill up more space as it grows. Mine also has variegated foliage with white patterns to make it more interesting and pretty! It has a light pink stem and matching leaf veins.

Purple Velvet Plant

A soft and colourful plant, this one might be the coolest plant in the container. It will be sensitive to watering and, therefore, one of the top two plants to watch! The other would be the pixie fern, but they would show warning signs for opposite issues so a balance between them will be key to identify over the next month. I typically like to wait until I see the leaves drooping for all my plants before I water. Root rot is the true enemy. I’ll also be looking for flower buds – which need to be snipped quickly to avoid an apparent ghastly odour.

Silver Sicilian

Also called Tradescantia or the Wandering Jew, this plant will likely need propagation the quickest. A propagated plant can make an easy, affordable and sweet gift! It will add bushy-ness and volume like the arrowhead plant. The Silver Sicilian has deep purple patterned leaves with a silvery glow.

All Together Now

All of these plants like medium levels of water and medium-bright light. I’ve kept my fairy garden by the glass door in my basement. It faces North so there isn’t any direct light that could burn the plants’ leaves and the air is more humid down there. Mischief always seems to happen in basements too… perfect for sassy fairies.

I tried to keep a colour theme of ruby tones and purples in my plants to add a bit more richness and vibrancy to my garden. It adds an extra flair and dimension, preventing my garden from being visually flat.

As these plants grow, I’ll try my best to propagate them to keep my garden growing and alive. Being small and somewhat fragile plants, they can die after only a few years. Changing up the soil to replenish nutrients and using tropical or all-purpose indoor fertilizers can help them stay as strong as can be.

I’ll leave you with an anecdote:

The Peter Pan story, concept, character or however you want to describe it is one of my favourites since childhood. In many Peter Pan plays, they say clap if you believe in fairies as a great audience interaction moment. In Peter Pan (2003), they shout it to the sky to revive tinkerbell after she takes a poison meant to kill Peter Pan. Here’s a clip sharing this iconic scene.

Personally, other than the Disney version from 1953 that I ironically “grew up” with, my favourite Peter Pan film is Hook (1991). After you tend to your plants, take a break and relax with a fairy film tonight!

Check out my list of great themes to inspire you in your own fairy garden creation.

Plants Should be your Next Best Friends

Video posted to YouTube

You can pick your friends, so why not pick a plant! I have personified some house plants. Which one will you choose?

– Sarah Tyler

Green, bright, cute, and even considered grown-up goals: houseplants should be your next best friends. 

Adding a houseplant to your living space can be a great step towards more responsibility. You will need to maintain a relationship with your houseplant and find a plant where you compliment each other’s lifestyles and needs.

Choosing a plant can be like choosing a friend. Your goals must align so you can support each other. 

You need to know how much time you’re able to put towards the relationship. Are you around frequently? Will your plant be sad and miss you? They might want to relax with a cool drink of water – but if you’re only planning to visit them every few weeks they might be better off with a different bestie. 

Georgiana Mirela

Succulents and cacti often want time to themselves. Let them rest by the window and check on them once or maybe twice a month (if they’ve come back from a vacation in the bright sun). 

Lum3n

Ivy are often casual friends. They’re loyal, and if you don’t see them often they’ll still continue the friendship right from when you left off then next time you meet.

Polka dot plants will be your dramatic friend. They’ll be fine for only a few days before they desperately want to catch up with you… and have another drink.

Chinese evergreens are vibrant… quite often the life of the party and will tickle you pink with their pink-toned leaves. They take up space in the room and conversations. They’ll always want a refill on drinks. 

Sometimes a friend can be overbearing; you need to know your limits. Philodendrons want to hang out every weekend but only at your small apartment. They take over and want to be the centre of attention.

Carolyn V.

Then there’s the beautiful African violets… they’ll want to be pampered. Think sips of champagne at the end of the day. They dress up often but only have a small closet of their favourite items. They’re a light packer and won’t bombard your apartment with a huge amount of stuff. 

Snake plants make you want to watch your back. They’ll say one thing, but mean another. They want to meet for coffee but then cancel after you’re already in the cafe. 

Severin Candrian

Finally, one of the easiest friends to have is the air plant. No fuss, no worries and always there to brighten your day. They’re a favourite friend of mine due to their reliability. 

Whatever plants you decide to bring into your life, know that it’ll be nice to not be lonely. Any plant friend can be a great one. Make the first move and just say hello!

Now that you have thought of adding a plant to your network, what do you think about naming your plants? I wrote some of my opinions on plant parenthood in a past post. Showcase your plant friends on Instagram! Don’t forget to tag #wellgrownhome so we can all see.

Find the Flower of your Birth Month

Flowers can convey a message and bring out emotions in almost anyone. They often have symbolism and meaning. They can be used as a communication tool! This makes my PR heart flutter; it combines two of my passions.

Did you know that there is a language of flowers? It’s called floriography! Although it was incredibly popular during the Victorian age in Europe, many meanings carry on through to today.

Here is a list of flowers representing the months of the year. What plant(s) are said to be for your birthday month?

pink birthday cake covered in rosy icing with floral centrepiece in background
Jill Wellington

January – Carnation and Snowdrop

Carnations are typically white, pink, purple, yellow or red. This beautiful flower symbolizes fascination, deep love and happiness. Snowdrops are white and represent hope. They both symbolize admiration and rebirth.

February – Violet and Primrose


Violets are various shades of purple, blue and white and they symbolize faithfulness, purity, young love and modesty. Primrose represents a yearning and the saying “I can’t live without you.”

March – Daffodil

yellow daffodils
David Jakab


Daffodils are yellow and they mean cheerfulness, respect, prosperity, new beginnings and wishes granted. However, they also may represent unrequited love.

April – Daisy and Sweet Pea

Daisies come in a variety of colors. This bright bloom stands for innocence, youth, gentleness, loyal love and purity. Sweet Pea means farewell in a gentle way. They both represent blissful pleasure.

May – Lily of the Valley and Hawthorn

The lily of the valley is white and it stands for fertility, humility and the return of happiness. Hawthorn trees have small white flowers and red berries; they represent hope.

June – Rose and Honeysuckle

Roses bloom in a variety of colors like pink, white, red or yellow. This classic flower means love and devoted affection. Honeysuckle symbolizes happiness, generosity and the saying, “I love you.”

July – Larkspur and Water Lily

This linear whimsical flower blooms in pink, blue, lavender or white. The larkspur stands for an open heart, good luck, positivity and laughter. Water Lilies represents purity of the heart.

August – Gladiolus and Poppy

The gladiolus flower blooms on long spikes in red, pink, white, yellow or purple. This flower symbolizes beauty, strength of character and family. Poppies represent eternal sleep and imagination.

September – Aster and Morning Glory

Aster blooms in a variety of colors and symbolizes daintiness, joy and life. On the contrary, morning glory flowers represent unrequited love and mortality. Both flowers represent affection.

October – Calendula and Cosmos

The calendula flower is light orange and symbolizes passion, excellence, grace and creativity. They are also called marigolds and are actually considered a sacred flower to some! Marigolds also have symbolism around grief and jealousy. Cosmos have small blooms and bright colouring. They represent peace and tranquility.

November  – Chrysanthemum

many light magenta purple chrysanthemum flowers with tiny petals
Nikolett

Chrysanthemum colors range from red, yellow, shades of pink, white and purple. This flower symbolizes has meanings based on colour, but all represent sensitivity, compassion, cheerfulness and rest. Also called mums, they all symbolize a wonderful friend. Red mean “I love you.” White represent truth, and yellow, unfortunately, represent a neglectful love.

December  – Poinsettia and Holly

Poinsettia flowers have large red petals with wide green leaves. This bloom symbolizes celebration, wealth, success and overall good cheer. Holly represents protection, foresight, domestic happiness and defense.

Loof and Timmy

When giving someone a plant for their birthday, you might opt for their favourites… maybe next time you can give them the flower of their birth month! Be careful though – some, such as snowdrops, are poisonous. Research is key to ensure the plant will fit their potential environment too. You can read this post to learn about why you should give others flowers and plants.

What do you think of the plant of your birth month? Are there any flowers you’d prefer instead? Let me know!

Sharing Kindness to Make a Soul Bloom

Every day we make decisions that have the potential to make someone else’s day. Acts of kindness may be extraordinary or straightforward, but still are meaningful to those on the receiving end. It can also make you feel good to be the reason for someone’s smile. We often give and receive flowers on important days, like graduations, recitals, weddings, funerals, birthdays, holidays, etc., but ordinary days lead to the flowers having a more substantial impact.

Girl in blue dress holding pink bouquet on lawn
Laurier Convocation Day Flowers from my Parents
The core result from performing acts of kindness is that someone is cared about and, ultimately, know that they matter.

Giving flowers is a common way (and a great way!) to spread some love. I recently received a bouquet of flowers unexpectedly, and they were so beautiful! It brightened my day when they arrived. It meant a lot that someone went out of their way to make sure I knew I was appreciated. Time, money and effort went into my flower delivery.

Girl holding bouquet of orange and purple flowers on deck.
AOAA Appreciation Flowers from Susan Fletcher

When giving flowers, some people opt for the cut varieties and bouquets. Others may choose to give someone a living plant. I believe it is important to think about the person who will be receiving the flowers. Will they have the energy and space to maintain a living plant? Will they have a party where they can display a bouquet on the table? If you’re sending them to a busy mother, maybe she would prefer the beauty of cut flowers without having to care for another tiny living being.

Here are some flower and plant gift suggestions if you know their birthday. It’s a fun way to make your kind act even more personal.

PSA: Be sure to check potted plants for pests before you buy them or give them away. One year for Valentine’s Day, my dad bought my mom a red rose bush and me a pink one. There were aphids galore!! They ended up destroying some other plants we had nearby in the house too. I still loved my roses for as long as I had the chance to appreciate them though!

Whatever choice you make, it still can make someone else have a more wonderful day. I think the best thing to do is to support a local business, but there are many ways to find and order flowers.

If you’re located near Barrie, check out any of these florist’s shops:
If you’re located in Kitchener/Waterloo, this is my top pick:

The best thing is that it is relatively easy to find flowers. If you don’t have time for delivery or want something quick without an order, you can find bouquets and small potted plants all over – even in the core of Toronto. Check out markets, grocery stores, convenience stores or home stores (think of The Home Depot, Canadian Tire or IKEA).

Flowers can act as a motivator to keep up the great work or to hold on when life gets extra tough. They act as a little boost that goes a long way! If you are able, I suggest you send some flowers this month to someone you care about and let them know that they are on your mind. Maybe, just maybe, they will pass along the kindness too.

Girl in pink dress holding pink and yellow flowers
Birthday Flowers from my Parents
This next piece is more of a P.S. or tidbit of the day:

An interesting perspective from Kimoni was shared to me through a message from one of my colleagues and friends, Orode Uwawah. I will warn you – his other posts are not related to plants and are NSFW. In this video, he compares having plants to being in relationships – both require care and dedication. While I agree with most of his points, I disagree with some. He starts the video talking about a woman who doesn’t want men to give her flowers because she doesn’t want to take care of them. Kimoni associates this statement with her not having time for him either. I think it’s valid for someone to not want plants depending on the effort they have to put in, but it would depend on the priorities of that individual. If they have a genuinely busy schedule and cannot handle sharing attention to anyone or thing other than themselves, then that would cause me concern as a potential suitor. However, if someone simply has no interest in plants, then that does not mean they can’t be a great romantic partner or friend.

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TAG SOMEBODY WHO NEEDS TO HEAR THIS

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Let me know what you think. Do you like receiving flowers? If so, do you prefer cut flowers or live plants?

Don’t forget to tag @wellgrownhome on Instagram or #wellgrownhome and #WGHlove on any socials. You can share with us your favourite bouquets!

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