April 6th edition

“Never, Never, Never, Never Give up” –  Winston Churchill, 1950

Since we are spending so much time indoors (when not out in the garden), this article by Ruth on growing these delightful indoor flowers might be just what is needed to cheer us up!

GLOXINIA (Sinningia speciosa)

Flowering pot plant usually bought in flower during spring or summer and will continue to bloom for 2 months or more. Place in bright light, away from direct sunlight, keep compost moist at all times using tepid water. Allow to dry out when leaves turn yellow. Store pot at about 50’ F. Repot tuber in fresh compost in spring.

On April 14th of last year I was at the Toronto African Violet and Gesneriad Society’s Show at the Toronto Botanical Garden, marvelling at the myriad of colours and variations. Gloxinias, belonging to the Gesneriad family, were in the show. I hadn’t had a Gloxinia since I was a kid, remembering lush foliage and large velvety blooms. And so I splurged on a single $4.50 leaf sitting in a tiny pot. The label read “Ruby Splashes”, with a photo of the flower, showing layers of petals resembling lace. Home I went with “Ruby Splashes” and set her on the light stand expecting to eventually see new little leaves emerging at the base of the single leaf. Days went by, and weeks, Summer turned into Fall, and still the single leaf sat alone in its pot, and in the late Fall when it wilted and drooped and died, I gave up the dream of beautiful “Ruby Splashes” and we headed for the compost heap… except, that when I tipped the pot to dump it, I found to my amazement, a lump about one inch in diameter. Sure enough that leaf had been working for the past 6 months producing a little tuber. So down in the cool of the cellar she went, to spend this past winter with the dahlia tubers and the Canna rhizomes. On the last day of February I rinsed off the little tuber, which resembled a tiny potato, potted her up, and placed her once again on the light stand, wondering if I was wasting my time. The weeks in March ticked by, I gave her bottom heat, I kept the potting mix moist with tepid water, but not too wet, Coronavirus took over our lives, and on a particularly depressing Friday evening, on March 27th, I peeked in the pot – and to my absolute delight a tiny velvety leaf had emerged, and since then, another and another- and so the dream of “Ruby Splashes” has started all over again.

Since it is impossible to tour garden shows or botanical gardens at this time, one might want to spend 20 minutes with a cup of coffee or tea and perhaps a treat and watch the New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show in the link below (thanks to Sharleen for the tip):


~!Not Springing Into Garden Centres!~

It will be a different spring ritual of visiting local nurseries and garden centres.  As of yet, it is unknown how retail stores like Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Walmart and the Superstore etc. will handle their garden centres – if they will even open.

Here is some current information on some of the local nurseries.  As more information and updates become available, that information will be posted in subsequent e-newsletters.

Horling’s is taking phone orders. 705 652-7979

You can search by specific plants or browse through the categories in this link below. Prices are not listed.


Johnson Greenhousesno special directions/instructions yet.

Griffins’ GreenhouseMarch 30th alert posted on their Facebook page. It appears the plants they will have to offer will be posted on Instagram and Facebook.

Sunnier days are ahead! Our main phone line is back in function, our website is getting a make-over to better accommodate a full online store with online payment options, the furnaces are all running smoothly (and not needed so much now that warmer weather is here). We are selling lots of seeds, dahlia bulbs and DIY Planting Kits to keep your hands busy and your spirits up during your time isolating at home. Until the website is finished, we do not have a “store” to buy from other than the posts we make on FACEBOOK and Instagram. We anticipate having the new website with basic buying options (soil, bulbs, some decor) up by this Friday and a wider selection next week, adding in pansy pans and Easter arrangements.   Take care, Vikki and the Griffin’s Gang
What does Contactless Pick Up and Contactless Delivery Look Like?   Contactless Pick Up– Right now: Upon arrival in our parking lot you will see one side of the gate is open. On warm days we set out your pre-paid order on a cart, name clearly visible, for you to pick it up, with no contact from us. We will plan a more sophisticated system in the coming days when orders are more plentiful.   Contactless Delivery: We will deliver, wearing gloves or having used hand sanitizer, to your front door or porch. We will ring the bell or knock and step away from the area.

Peterborough Landscape Supplies – March 29th post:

“We are now delivering all Landscape Supplies, give us a call to book your delivery. 705-749-1428”

Anna’s Perennials is closed at the moment and no information yet about ordering or visiting her nursery.

No special information/directions posted yet for Burley’s Gardens or Blossom Hill Nurseries or Keene on Gardens.

The Greenhouse on the River had planned to open on March 19, 2020 but is now closed. Their website does not contain a plant list;  it seems one should check their Facebook page for lists of available plants.

The health and wellness of our community are very important to us and thus we have decided to close our doors to the public starting immediately.
While we’ll miss seeing you in the greenhouse, we are still planting and will continue to take orders by phone 705-652-8154 or by email thegreenhouseontheriver@gmail.com

We appreciate your understanding in this difficult and confusing time and are trying to be cautious and supportive regarding the ongoing situation. Remember…as Canadians we are strong and united and we will come through this stronger together.

Peter & Elyn Green

Gardens Plus

For local pick up we will set up no-contact pick up if needed on those orders placed on the web site only.  You can reserve today.


Omemee Heights Greenhousesposting on Facebook:

We have been receiving a lot of inquiries about our plans for the greenhouse this spring, and with things changing daily over the last while, we had been wondering the same thing? Being a family-run business and living where we work, it has allowed us to continue what we had started growing here back in January. So we have decided that we will take orders by phone, and online, with scheduled pickup times allowing a ‘contactless’ sale. We will have a website store available with our inventory and a link to that will be posted on facebook soon (Orders to be picked up within two days of ordering).
We want to do it right to protect you and ourselves so we will be taking all precautions.
*So, starting April 16th, we will begin taking orders by phone and on our upcoming website store with scheduled pickups that will begin on April 18th.*

Thank-you. Stay safe everyone.

Baltimore Valley Gardensdetailed ordering and pick-up instructions on their website:

Rockford Forest Nurseries

Effective immediately, you can place orders by phone or email and schedule them for delivery or pick up at an assigned time. 

Call us to place your order at:
1-888-833-0473 or 1-705-374-4710 Or via email at: Infor@rockwoodforest.com

There are several catalogues  with available trees and perennials posted on their websitehttp://www.rockwoodforest.com/catalogues

Blue Frog Water Gardens  Closed during the month of April and working on a plan to assist customers in May.

Peterborough Ecology Garden  – the park and nursery is closed. Their annual plant sale was to be held on May 16th – but right now it seems unlikely it will go ahead.

Note: Lee Valley Tools is having a garden tool clearance sale right now with free shipping …. https://www.leevalley.com/en-ca/clearance

A sad notice – but a list of contacts for vendors can be found by clicking on this link – many are working to provide alternative services: http://millbrookfarmersmarket.weebly.com/

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Message from the Millbrook Farmers Market In the interests of the safety of all of our vendors, shoppers and community, we have cancelled our first market of the season on April 26. The good is that local food still accessed. Many online, email and farm gate sales. They have all put in place necessary physical distancing and other safety procedures as required by our health unit. Visit our website to see who's selling what and how. htp://.amrmewey.om'

Tomatoes, Tomatoes Tomatoes!


Unless one is allergic to, or they are one’s least favourite food item, tomatoes are a must have in any garden whether grown in a vegetable plot, sharing space in the flower garden, or in a pots on the patio or deck.  Because it might be a difficult, dangerous or an onerous process to obtain tomato plants this year, this is the perfect time to start tomato plants indoors.   “Essential service” hardware and grocery stores do carry seeds.  Locally, Millbrook Farm and Pet Supplies carries seeds but one needs to call first (705 932-2888) to place an order.  The Millbrook Home Hardware store is expected to re-open today and also carries seeds, but one must also pre-order by calling (705 932-2761). There are also many online seed catalogues that do offer seeds.

The plus in starting your own tomatoes from seeds…..there are hundreds of tomato varieties that are available as seed but rarely sold as plants!

Since there are hundreds of tomato varieties available as seed, choosing a few for your home garden can be a daunting task. Here are a few things to consider:

• Decide on the type of tomatoes you want; for example, cherry tomatoes, slicers or tomatoes for making sauce or paste.

Some suggestions:

Cherry tomatoes:  Sun Gold, Napa Grape and Pear Drops,  Supersweet 100, Sweet Million. One might want to try Italian Ice with its white cherry tomatoes as a novelty. Most cherry tomatoes are “indeterminate”and are the first tomatoes to mature.

Beefsteak tomatoes:  Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Purple, Glamour, Brandywine,  Black Krim, Mortgage Lifter, Lucky Cross, Big Rainbow  have big fruit and great ranges of flavor and form. They are commonly sliced for sandwiches and are delicious eaten fresh in the garden like an apple.

Sauce tomatoes:  Roma, Amish Paste, Big Mama,  Opalka, have a rich flavour and lower water content so they are the best ones for spaghetti sauce. Most varieties of paste tomatoes are “determinate”.

• Consider the size of the mature plants. Determinate tomatoes grow to about 3 feet tall and are the best choice for containers and small garden beds. Indeterminate tomatoes get very large –  6  to 10 feet tall is not unusual. Seed packets will have this information. However, all tomatoes benefit from supports such as cages or ladders.

NOTE:  Tomato plants have large hungry root systems so if planning to plant them in pots, make sure you have a large pot and choose determinate (bush) varieties, which are more compact. Consider varieties that have “patio,” “dwarf” or “mini” in the name, which means the plant is probably compact.  Some recommended varieties for pots include: Bushsteak, Marglobe, Sweet Baby Girl, Gardener’s Delight, Balcony, and Stupice.  There is an exception – cherry tomatoes , which are indeterminate, also seem to do well in large pots.

Heirloom, Open-Pollinated or Hybrid?

• If you want to save your own seeds from one year to the next, you should plant heirloom or open-pollinated varieties. Seeds collected from these plants will “come true”. This means they will grow into an identical plant the following year. Heirloom tomatoes, such as Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter and Arkansas Traveler, are open-pollinated varieties that have been passed on from one generation to the next.

• Hybrids are a cross between two genetically different varieties that have been selected for certain traits. Hybrid varieties often offer better disease resistance and sometimes higher yields. If you save the seeds from hybrids you will not get the same traits in the new plants – and can end up with something straight out of a horror flick! Seed packets will list whether the seeds come from open pollinated or hybrid plants.  

Hybrids are bred to resist disease and you might see abbreviations on these seed packets which indicate what diseases the plant is resistant to. Some heirloom tomatoes also are resistant to certain diseases.

Tomato Disease Resistance Codes

V Verticillium Wilt
F Fusarium Wilt
FF Fusarium, races 1 and 2
FFF Fusarium, races 1, 2, and 3
N Nematodes
A Alternaria
T Tobacco Mosaic Virus
St Stemphylium (Gray Leaf Spot)
TSWV Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus

This is a guide to diseases of tomatoes in Ontario posted by OMAFRA. One can click on each image for more information.


Seed packets will also carry an expiry date. Research has shown that seeds often germinate well up to about four years after their expiry date.

Seed Starting

‘Soilless’ potting mix is the medium of choice for sowing tomato seeds, though you can opt for the more expensive ‘seeding mix’ if you want. As for the container, cell packs (the tiny plastic pots grouped together in packs often used for flower and veggie seedlings) are okay for starting tomato seeds, but a better idea is to use a small pot or container at least 3 or 4 inches tall and wide so the seedlings can grow to a healthy size without their roots being constricted.  If using makeshift pots like yogurt containers, make sure to punch some drainage holes in the bottoms.  If you can do this outside on a lovely sunny spring day, it can be more efficient to dampen the potting mix before you pack it in the containers. Add some water and work it through the soil. Keep adding water until the mix stays compressed in your hand but is not dripping wet. It should break apart when you poke it with your finger.

Then, fill  containers with potting soil. Gently firm the soil, so it’s about an inch from the top. Sprinkle two to three seeds into the furrow, and cover them with a half inch of leftover potting mix. Gently pat down the mix, so the seeds make good contact with the soil. Good seed-to-soil contact is important for germination. Spray the surface with water if it doesn’t feel moist.

Place your containers or pots somewhere warm. Tomato seedlings need to be kept warm and moist. The warmer it is, the faster tomato seeds will germinate.  Check them daily to make sure the soil is moist—but not wet or the seeds could rot —and watch for germination. Tomato seed germination typically occurs in about five to 10 days.

Once the seeds have germinated provide the seedlings with light— grow lights if possible, but sunny windows can work well too. They need about 4 hours (or even more) of direct sunlight each day.  Some use plastic covers to imitate the greenhouse effect, but sometimes this can lead to the dreaded damping off disease, a fungal infection that proliferates in still, moist air. This appears as brown and grey spots on the leaves and stem followed soon after by the death of the seedling.  As indicated in the first newsletter there are some remedies  but providing good air circulation during their infancy period with a tiny fan or heat vent nearby is the best preventative tool.

Rotate the plants if they seem to be leaning in one direction. Once the tomato seedlings have the first true leaves, this is the time to start feeding them with any  good liquid fertilizer once a week, but dilute it to half the label’s recommended dose.

Tomato stems grow sturdier if they are tossed about by the wind. By putting a fan on your plants for an hour a day or by gently running your hand through them each time you pass can help achieve this.

If more than one seed germinated in the same container, then one  needs to thin the seedlings. Simply snip off unwanted seedlings at soil level. This ensures that you won’t damage the seedling you want to keep.

If the plants get too big and leggy,  find some larger pots or containers and planting each tomato seedling in its new pot a little deeper than it was in its original container. If it is tall and leggy, you can plant it right up to its top-most leaves. Then, firm the soil gently around the seedling.

When finally ready to plant your tomatoes in the garden (when there is no danger of frost) , choose a cool or overcast day. Once again, plant them deeper than they were in their pots, so new roots will form along the buried stem. Plant them all the way up to the top couple sets of leaves. This is ideal if plants have gotten too tall indoors, and you want them to become stockier and stronger. If you can’t dig deep enough to accommodate the stem, you can always plant them sideways in a furrow. The top of the plant will find the sun and grow upright in a few days.

Often in our exuberance,  too many tomatoes are grown out – hopefully there might be a way to share excess seedlings, seeds and even perennials in a safe way – something to ponder.

If tomatoes don’t turn your spring crank – then perhaps starting some summer cheer might.  Since it may prove to be difficult to access garden centres – how about starting some  ZINNIAS!  

Zinnia flowers grow easily from seed and are available in a colorful array of shapes and sizes. Vibrant blossoms are also highly attractive to songbirds, butterflies and pollinators.  Zinnias are members of the aster family, making them closely related to daisies, cosmos, marigolds and sunflowers.

Larger zinnia varieties can be used to brighten up annual or mixed borders and are a favorite in cut flower displays. Smaller varieties are well suited for containers and window boxes or planted at the front of a garden bed. They can also be tucked into veggie gardens and any bright sunny spot.   They are so bright and cheerful – a great antidote to the constant flow of daily grim news. Start some now and share with a neighbour!


Until next week – stay safe in your gardens. If you have any questions, observations, information or news you wish to share – please send an email to the Millbrook Garden Club Communications Co-ordinator Ruth Benns:  ruthbenns@outlook.com

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One Comment on “April 6th edition

  1. I too haven’t grown gloxinias for years. One of the first plants I ever grew from seed—seed from the long-gone Dominion Seed House—was gloxinia. I think they were all the same colour, a deep red but I’ve long since forgotten.
    They really are one of those houseplants that seems to go in and out of fashion. They are impressive when in full bloom.
    But one thing you wrote gives me pause. You wrote about a long dormant period. So I looked up my old Making Things Grow by Thalassa Cruso—what used to be my bible for houseplants. She maintains that the idea of a long dormancy is incorrect because these tubers often fail to grow again. She says that when you see growth is dropping off to leave the pot dry for a couple of weeks. Then remove the dead foliage and begin watering again. I always had luck with this method but that was years ago. For what it’s worth.

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