Work perks: A roof-top garden can suddenly make the office a preferred option
Living in full colour
Heirloom Tomato Tasting Party
Heirloom Tomato Tasting
Toronto artist goes to botanical extremes to bring beauty and food to her table and canvas
TORONTO – June 28, 2010 – When Food Network chef David Rocco spends 20 minutes talking about your garden at a fundraiser to an audience of over 300 people, you know you can hold your head high above the Hungarian broom corn that grows on the boulevard outside your Victorian home in Yorkville. Well, if you’re artist and landscape designer Vivian Reiss you can.
I've been urban gardening in Toronto for over 35 years,”" says Vivian Reiss. "“I love the reactions my unconventional street garden gets from passersby. Why not provoke people with unusual edibles to give them immense joy and esthetic pleasure.”"
Besides being provocative, Reiss’ garden is a bounty for her kitchen table and other projects. Reiss uses her pasta maker to press sorghum into sugar, turns corn kernels into porridge, and makes lovely brown dye from her black walnuts. Her garden has been praised by Lorraine Johnson in her book City Farmer, graced the pages of Gardening Life, and has been in CBC’s documentary on the future of cities. And when Vivian reiss decides to do something unusual, like using the garden’s fennel seeds to make Italian Matza over an 1820’s original hearth, over 36 publications world wide pick up on her vibe.
"“I’ve got terrific recipes that use the vegetables and flowers from my garden. I have been testing them out on family and friends for years around my communal kitchen table. I think it’s time I write a cookbook,” says" Reiss.
Food writing doesn’t seem a stretch for Reiss, as she is one of those remarkable people who are a natural at anything they put a hand to. For instance, her backyard is like falling into a storybook, and you are Alice at the party. – She likes to call it her Textile Garden. This garden is about dramatic storytelling, as Reiss'’ textile inspired yard features: a giant ball of faux-wool made out of kiwi vine; and eight-foot-long wood knitting needles attached to a giant length of stitch fashioned from six-hundred feet of garden hose.
Beyond the borders of Reiss’ Alice in Wonderland styled home garden, there is another mini-city farm on the go. A Reiss rooftop garden on in the midtown family office building produces a delicious organic vegetable patch. Tenants get to take coffee breaks in their own garden of Eden as well as take home organic lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers for dinner .
When Reiss isn'’t busy planning, cultivating, designing and harvesting her many gardens – she paints them, and makes them larger than life on enormous canvases. When all her gardenscape paintings are hung together, it feels like walking into a painted pavilion of divine lushness. Her garden paintings are currently on view at Reiss Gallery in Toronto, at 500 College Street.