Wes Porter

Wes Porter photo
Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

Most Recent Articles by Wes Porter:

The Horticultural Alice

Jun 24, 2017 — Wes Porter

When Lewis Carroll penned Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, followed six years later with Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There he must never have thought that over 150 years later they would never have been out of print. As most know, ‘Lewis Carroll’ was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a mathematician and lecturer at Christ College, Oxford.

Translated into at least 174 languages, they have been enjoyed by both Queen Victoria and Oscar Wilde. Presented on the stage, film and television, the two stories are usually blended together. As early as 1886 a musical play was presented in London’s West End. A British silent film followed in 1903, a Broadway play in 1915, a television adaptation in 1937. In evitable there has been a Disney animation, as well as ballets, operas and even, in 1976, a porn-musical.

Centipedes and Millipedes

Jun 22, 2017 — Wes Porter

Often found in damp gardens, a Victorian poetess elucidated:

The centipede was happy, quite
Until the toad in fun, said,
“Pray which leg goes before which?”
And she laid distracted in the ditch
Figuring how to run

A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose

Jun 15, 2017 — Wes Porter

So advised Gertrude Stein—probably about the only thing she is widely remembered for, despite the best efforts of Alice Toklas, who engraved the words onto the edges of decorative plates—presumably when she wasn’t cooking up cannabis brownies.

June is reckoned as Rose Month, and not only for those of European descent. The Algonkian tribes of northeastern North America called it the Rose Full Moon Month. But our fascination with roses commences far earlier in time and away.

The Minoan civilization on the Mediterranean island of Crete persisted from about 3500-1400 B.C. before succumbing to a massive eruption on a nearby Aegean volcano. Surviving rooms in the palaces had decorative friezes depicting, among other subjects—roses.

Are Genetically Engineered Petunias in Your Garden?

Jun 8, 2017 — Wes Porter

It started in Finland. In mid-April, the Finnish food authority Evira announced it had identified genetically-modified (GE) petunias in Finland. The award-winning orange ‘African Sunset’ as well as eight other petunia varieties that had already been planted were found to be genetically modified. Since GM plants are banned from cultivation in the European Union, Evira said in a statement that it was withdrawing all plants and seed stocks.

It took over a couple of weeks for the international implications to sink in. ‘African Sunset’ and the ‘Trilogy Series’ of petunias had been widely distributed across the gardening world. ‘African Sunset’ itself had received recognition as a much-valued All-America Selection on 9 November 2013:

In 2009, Prince Charles warned that we had just 96 months to save the planet. That deadline run

Jun 1, 2017 — Wes Porter

Back in 2009, Prince Charles warned that we had just 96 months to save the planet. That deadline runs out this summer. If he’s right, there won’t be anything left of Britain for Trump to visit. We’ll all have either fried, or washed away in a giant tsunami Everybody back to the Ark! Or so suggests Richard Littlejohn in The Daily |Mail.

Questions We’re Often Asked: Berry-Bearing Shrubs

May 30, 2017 — Wes Porter

Garden getting beyond you? Perennials overflowing? Expense of annuals increasing like weeds? Could be time to call in the shrubs! Not all tower over that tallest gardener. Indeed, a selection are more on the abbreviated size. Flowers in season would be nice. But berries to brighten the off-season, bring winter colour would be even better.

Surprisingly oft overlooked are the Cotoneaster. A form will be found for any size garden and to tolerate extreme winter climates. Most bear a profusion of small white flowers in late spring followed by long-lasting red fruit. ‘Bearberry Cotoneaster,’ C. dammeri, is a truly prostate species with the selection ‘Skogholm’ slightly taller and more vigorous. ‘Rockspray’ (C. horizontalis) is another dwarf form growing to a metre high but not quite so hardy. ‘Creeping Rockspray’ (C. adpressa) is hardier and slightly shorter. Taller and living up to its botanical designation is C. bulata ‘Floribunda,’ up to two metres high with mases of gorgeous red fruit on large clusters. ‘Hedge Cotoneaster’ (C. lucida), one of the hardiest, is good for just that, hedges and bears black fruit on two-metre-plus bushes.

Anti-Ageing Herbs

May 27, 2017 — Wes Porter

Researchers at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, announced late last year that four genes that reprogram adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells can also reverse some signs of ageing [Cell: 167, 1719-1733 (2016)]. It was merely the latest in a long line of investigation into longevity.

Methuselah, son of Enoch, according to the Bible (Genesis 5.21) lived 969 years. The story of the Fountain of Youth was ancient before it became connected—erroneously—with Juan Ponce de L√©on, having surfaced in the 5th century B.C. writings of Herodotus, who was inclined to believe anything. Chinese medicine and myth is replete with accounts of anti-ageing herbs while India’s ancient Ayurvedic medicine is literally the “knowledge of longevity.”

Raymond Burr: Orchid Grower and Vintner

May 20, 2017 — Wes Porter

When in 2008 actor Raymond Burr was featured in a Canada postage stamp “Canadians in Hollywood” it came as a surprise to many of his countrymen. ‘Perry Mason’ and ‘Ironsides,’ yes, but a Canadian? There was many another surprise behind the portly façade of the well-known legal eagle. Not the least was that, with his long-time partner Robert Benevides, he was a highly successful orchid grower and vineyard owner.

Raymond William Stacy Burr was born 1917 in New Westminster, British Columbia—and returned there after his death to be buried with his parents in Fraser Cemetery. Between those two incidents he led a full and eventful life for 76 years.

Making Mole Hills Out of Mountains

May 13, 2017 — Wes Porter

North American gardeners may be puzzled by their counterparts in Western Europe’s vituperation of moles. What damage can these rarely-scene little fellas do to lawns and gardens? Europe’s version is different, very different. The size of a small cat, it excavates an extensive series of tunnels in pursuit of worms and other prey. In doing so, the excavated earth is pushed up into a series of ‘mole hills.’ First recorded there in Elizabethan times, as lawns and grass tennis courts became popular they have been the despair of groundskeepers and amateur gardeners ever since.


May 6, 2017 — Wes Porter

It will be another year at least before Canadians can grow their own marijuana. Following Royal Assent, the Liberal government intends to bring the proposed Act into place no later than July 2018, announced Health Canada. At that time, adults would legally be able to possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis in public, and grow up to four plants per household at a maximum height of one metre from a legal seed or seedling. But, warns Health Canada, Until the new law comes into force, cannabis will remain illegal everywhere in Canada, except for medical purposes. But if you’re renting your home, you may have to think again. The national landlord group Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations says the federal government should change its proposed marijuana legislation bill to ban people from growing plants in rented homes of multi-unit buildings.

Questions We’re Often Asked: Coriander

Apr 30, 2017 — Wes Porter

Herb of the Year for 2017 is Coriander (Coriandrum sativum). Herb Day falls on Sunday, 30th April—great times then to celebrate this zesty herb. Until recently best known in the West at least for its seeds as an essential for curries and chilli sauces along with some soups and stews, the foliage, known as cilantro or Chinese parsley, is gathering fresh disciples by the day as an essential addition to many an exotic dish.

Priapos, Garden Protector

Apr 29, 2017 — Wes Porter

According to Greek legend, Priapos (praɪˈeɪpəs/; Greek, Latin Priapus) was exposed at his birth on a bleak mountainside, so ugly was he. Discovered by shepherds and raised by them, he remained foreshortened in all but one attribute: his mighty male member.

Back then, two millennia and more ago, crops might be devastated by pests and pathogens. Rabbits and rats, birds and other beasts were obvious. Others like locusts arrived seemingly from nowhere. Starvation could and did result.

Slugging It Out

Apr 22, 2017 — Wes Porter

Conchologists—scientists who study slugs and snails—extol their subjects. Gardeners are prone to use more earthy language in their descriptions. There are few places where humans reside not also occupied by terrestrial gastropods. The deserts, no—also not in the High Arctic and Antarctica. Oh yes, and the International Space Station. Elsewhere on the planet, much to the delight of the mollusks, gardens have been established.

So how, particularly in these times of environmental concerns, can we control these slimy subjects without resorting to chemicals? Alas, many of the ways commonly suggested have proven to be not particularly effective.

The Fern That Walks

Apr 15, 2017 — Wes Porter

When Canada’s first long-distance walking trail was formed in the middle years of the last century the organizers chose as their symbol the Walking Fern, Asplenium microphyllum. Ontario’s Bruce Trail follows the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara Fall for 800 kilometres north to the tip of the Bruce Peninsular. As elsewhere in eastern North America, this rugged limestone country offers an especially suitable habit for this unusual fern, unlike almost any other.

If your idea of a fern is an upright plant with lacy and, well, fern-like foliage, the Walking Fern going to surprise you. That is if you can find it. W. Sherwood Fox wrote in The Bruce Beckons (1962) of the east coast precipitous cliffs overlooking the spectacular Georgian Bay:

Beauty and the Beast Rose

Apr 8, 2017 — Wes Porter

Released February 2017, Beauty and the Beast an American musical romantic, dark fantasy film starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the title roles, an adaptation of the beloved 1991 Disney animated fairy tale.

A red rose kept beneath a jar in the Beast’s castle slowly sheds its petals. When the last petal drops, he will die. Needless to say, heroine Belle saves him from this fate in the nick of time.