Holiday entertaining: a beautifully simple table setting with flowers

For those of you who have followed the Chez CO blog since the beginning, or who are regular clients at Galerie CO, you have already been introduced to Caroline Boyce, the creator of Floralia. She has been supplying CO with beautiful bouquets of fresh, local flowers grown in the summer on her plot of land in the Eastern townships, and in the winter sourced from a fair trade supplier.

resized.IMG_2955This week, we asked Caroline to share some of her ideas for creating a beautiful holiday themed table setting. Her approach shows that by adding a few carefully selected elements, even a little bit of effort can make a big difference.

• Keep the table simple. You can use the same cutlery, plates and glasses that you use throughout the year.

resized.IMG_3485• A simple runner adds a lovely visual element without overwhelming the table setting, and is especially suited to a long rectangular table. Linen adds texture and works well with wood. A linen runner can be matched to linen napkins.

resized.IMG_3426• A colour theme helps tie the elements in the table setting together and to set a mood. Feel free to select colours outside the traditional red, green and gold. In this case the table is highlighted with orange, inspired by clementines, which are always available over the holidays and often appear in Christmas stockings. Orange works beautifully with silver, white wood and shades of grey and beige. It also complements, and is enhanced by, the warm glow of the candles.

resized.IMG_3352• Choose flowers that you love and can afford, mixing textures to create interest. In these bouquets, kangaroo paws and rosemary give the bouquets height. Volume comes from cabbages, tulips, spray roses and dates, which add an interesting visual element.

resized.IMG_3274• Select candles that are low and that don’t compete with, but that complement, the flower arrangements.

resized.IMG_3370• Add festive name tags as a final touch. Make your own by simply attaching small branches of evergreen (you can cut a few pieces from the Christmas tree) with a string and paper tag (available at any art or office supply store).

resized.IMG_3413There is still time to order your own centrepiece from Floralia, for delivery (within Montreal) in time for the holidays. Order Christmas bouquets here.

Or, learn how to create a holiday centrepiece at the next Floralia workshop: December 20, 7-9 pm. The theme flowers will include amarylis and seasonal evergreens,  combined with local freesia, lilies, paperwhites, citrus fruits, holly, mosses and berries. Under Caroline’s guidance you will create a beautiful centrepiece, which is yours to keep.  The workshop will be held at Galerie CO (5235 Blvd. St-Laurent, Montreal,  514 277-3131). You can sign up for the workshop here.

All the photographs in this post were taken by Melodie Hoareau, from Instant d’une vie, and made available to us courtesy of Caroline Boyce of Floralia.

 How do you decorate your table for festive occasions? Which flowers would you choose for a holiday centrepiece?

Let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook page, on Instagram or Twitter @galerieco.

Compost: not just for worms

In nature, nothing is wasted or thrown away.

While there is nothing natural about urban living, composting our organic waste mimics natural processes carried out by insects, worms and micro-organisms to decompose dead plants and return valuable nutrients back to the earth. Importantly for how we live now, composting also reduces waste sent to landfills, methane greenhouse gas emissions and the need for synthetic chemical fertilizers. Fully composted organic waste is a rich, natural fertilizer that helps create beautiful gardens.

If you live in Montreal, you might have heard the recent announcement that by 2016 we’ll have four City-run composting facilities. That’s great and timely news. composting-533x181In Canada, organic waste makes up the largest component of solid household waste, at around 50% ( This means that if the average person composted all of their organic waste, up to half of the garbage that goes into landfills could be diverted.

While we’re not close to 100% participation in composting, some provinces are doing very well. In 2011, an average of 61% of Canadian households composted their kitchen and garden waste. During that year, provincial composting varied widely, from highs of 96% in Prince Edward Island and 94% in Nova Scotia to lows of 43% in Newfoundland and Labrador and 42% in Quebec. Compost of kitchen-yard waste by Province (2011)(Source: Mustapha, Iman. Composting by households in Canada. Statistics Canada. Environment Accounts and Statistics Division, EnviroStats (2011, vol. 7, no. 1)).

At the provincial level in Quebec and other provinces, clearly there’s room for improvement. In the City of Montreal the statistics are equally dismal. Every Montrealer produces approximately 514 kg of organic waste each year or which only 11% is composted. (CBC News)

Part of the problem has been that Montreal lags almost ten years behind other major Canadian cities and sits below the national average when it comes to curbside organic waste collection and composting. For example, Toronto has been collecting organic waste from single-family households since 2005 and expanded its program to apartment buildings and condos in 2008. By 2011 71% of households in Toronto had access to curbside collection, compared with 30% in Montreal. Composting by curbside collection, select canadian cities(Source: Mustapha, Iman. Composting by households in Canada. Statistics Canada. Environment Accounts and Statistics Division, EnviroStats (2011, vol. 7, no. 1)).

While waiting for the City to institute a curbside collection program, some Montrealers pay for weekly pick-up services from organizations such as Compost Montreal. They’ll give you back a portion of the composted soil later in the year from a pile like this: compost montreal pile

(Source: Compost Montreal)

But, given the lack of City services related to composting, you’re not alone if your garbage looks like this when it goes out to the curb: organic waste

(Source: CBC News)

If you have a backyard, you don’t have to wait for 2016 or hire a service. You can start you own backyard composter. Choose an outdoor compost bin and put it in a location that is easily accessible, and has good drainage. It can still be in amongst other plants and bushes, as long as it’s not entirely shaded the whole day.

Composter in the garden - galvanized steel

Composter iavailable from Galerie CO (Source: Garden Trading via Galerie CO)

Collect your organic matter, which includes cut grass, leaves, straw, hair, paper, vegetable and fruit cuttings, egg shells. It does not include fish, meat, bones or dairy products.

compost do-and-dontsDos and don’ts of composting (Source:

To prevent fruit flies and other pests, it’s a good idea to keep a pile of cut grass, garden clippings or peat moss to sprinkle over top each time you add organic waste.

Depending on the size and style of your composter, you will need to rotate the organic matter. This can be done with a pitch fork or a shovel.

The amount of time it takes your compost pile to produce finished compost will depend on the material you add and the effort you put in. A compost pile that that is turned often and receives a balance between “brown” and “green” waste materials will decompose faster than one that is not maintained or is tilted too heavily in favour of one particular kind of waste material.   compost What goes in the backyard compostGreen vs. brown organic waste (Source:

So, be patient and be kind to your compost and it will reward you with your very own ‘black gold’.

compost black goldFinished compost (Source:

Try it at home. And if you’re in Montreal, encourage the City to keep its word so we all have access to widespread composting in the next couple of years. Meeting its stated goal of composting 60% of Montreal’s organic waste once the new facilities are up and running would put Montreal back in the pack when it comes to urban composting and is something to be celebrated.

Do you have any composting tips? We’d love to hear about your experiences and how you’ve reduced your own landfill contribution. Leave a comment below, or get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter @GalerieCO. Keep Calm and Compost

Heirloom tomatoes and tarts

It’s time to start planting your garden. If you are like me, you yearn for a sunny vegetable garden, but have to make do with a deck and some planters. Because space is limited, the decision about what to grow becomes important. I prioritize my herb choices, happily giving up parsley for sage, and losing oregano to thyme. And when it comes to tomatoes, I look for heirloom varieties, because if I can only grow a couple of plants I want them to be interesting, packed with flavour and gorgeous.

heirloom gourmet fury

Source (cropped):

 What are the characteristics of “heirloom” vegetables?

  • Old. There is agreement that heirloom varieties must be old although no agreement on how old. Some say over 100 years, others say over 50 years, and still others other point to 1945 which coincided with the beginning of widespread hybrid use by growers and seed companies.
  • Open-pollinated. Heirloom varieties must be open-pollinated, which means that they are pollinated by insects, birds, wind or other natural mechanisms and are, by definition, not hybrids.
  • Cultivars. Heirlooms of all types are cultivated varieties (not wild) that have been deliberately selected for specific characteristics, and demonstrate consistent flavour, texture, colour and yields, for example.

Apart from their good looks and their great taste, it is vital to keep a wide range of heirloom vegetables (and flowers, trees, and livestock) growing from year to year to maximize the gene pool for future generations because vegetable varieties can become extinct just like any other living thing.

heirloom gardentherapy


It is thought that in the 20th century alone, around 75% of food crop varieties disappeared due to the spread of industrial agriculture and the movement of farmers towards monoculture – focusing on one crop – in the case of tomatoes, hybridized varieties bred for their commercially attractive characteristics. This alarming rate of genetic erosion places our conventional food supply at risk from plant epidemics and infestations as the line between abundance and potential disaster becomes thinner and thinner.

heirloom tomatoes (


At Galerie CO we’re promoting heirloom tomatoes for Mother’s Day. On Saturday May 10 and Sunday May 11 we will give away a free heritage tomato seedling with any purchase of $60.00 and over (not including tax). The seedlings are grown organically in the Eastern Townships by Gwynne Basen of Tomatoes Etc. The offer is good until we run out of seedlings with a limit of one seedling per customer.

heirloom Tomato CostolutoGenoveseZ


To get you thinking about the culinary delicacies you could concoct with said tomatoes, I’m going to leave you with a mouth-watering recipe for an heirloom tomato tart from Julia Dawson, a wonderful Montreal food writer. This recipe appeared on the blog “The Main” and was inspired by the fresh heirloom tomatoes grown at Montreal’s Lufa Farms, which we featured recently on the blog.

heirloom tomato tart the main mtl


Heirloom tomato tart

Serves 6

For the filling and topping:

  • 5 ounces goat’s cheese
  • 1 shallot, peeled and diced
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves (plus a couple sprigs for garnish)
  • 3-4 small/medium sized tomatoes, cut into ½” slices
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

For the tart crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3to 4 tablespoons ice water


In a food processor, pulse flour and salt together. Add the butter pieces and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal (there should be a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining). Add 2 tablespoons ice water through the feeding tube of the food processor. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Be careful not to over-mix, as it will toughen the dough.

On a floured surface, shape dough lightly into a disk. Wrap in cling-film and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days).

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Lightly flour work surface and roll out dough into a round that is a couple of inches larger than your pie plate. Prick the dough with a fork and wrap it around rolling pin and unroll over the pie plate. Gently fit into bottom and up sides of the baking plate and trim the excess.

Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 10 minutes (pre-baking a crust like this is called “baking blind” – it will help it from getting soggy from the filling).


In a medium bowl lightly toss to combine shallots, thyme and goat cheese. Spread into the bottom of warm tart shell and using the back of a spoon, spatula, or your fingers to cover bottom of tart.

Arrange tomato slices in a fan pattern with edges slightly overlapping each other. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes and top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving.

heirloom tomato-varieties tomato geeks


What are your favourite tomato recipes? Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter . We love to hear from you!

Earth Day – urban agriculture in Montreal

Today is Earth Day and in Canada, in 2014, the theme is sustainable cities.

There are several ways that cities can work towards sustainability. These include: investing in adequate green space, responsible community design, “green” buildings and energy efficiency, public transportation, cycling infrastructure, reliable waste and water treatment, effective recycling programs and ensuring access to healthy food.

We’re interested in all of these issues, but right now it’s Spring and access to healthy food is front and centre. Local asparagus will soon be available, followed by strawberries and more, signalling the start of the early harvest. We can, if we wish, become “locavores” for a few precious months in the Northern hemisphere when we can choose to eat locally grown food that’s in season.

Quebec strawberriesQuebec strawberries, source: food and foto

For much of the rest of the year, despite the fact that we have unparalleled access to an abundance of exotic foods, we’re geographically disconnected from our food supply. This means that much of our produce travels hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from the farm to our tables.

Montreal’s Lufa Farms is working to reverse this. It’s a farm located on the roof of a building in an industrial park, which provides access to fresh vegetables all year round through innovative agricultural production in the heart of the city.

lufa farms - aerialAerial view of Lufa Farms, source: Lufa Farms flickr

Started in 2011, Lufa Farms was the first urban rooftop commercial agricultural production in the world. By 2012, it was feeding 2,000 people, using half the energy, water and nutrients of traditional agriculture. And that was just the beginning. We want to share its story to mark Earth Day and celebrate Lufa Farms’ contribution to making Montreal a more sustainable city.

8904340397_bdbc5a3169_bLufa Farms cherry tomatoes, source: Lufa Farms flickr

Mohammed Hage is the founder and president of Lufa Farms. His family is from a small town in Lebanon that is completely food self-sufficient, begging the question whether local urban food production is a new and innovative phenomenon. Hage acknowledges that modern urban agriculture is a re-creation of something very old, but he explains that the innovation comes from the fact that it is occurring in, around, and above ‘concrete jungles.’

This meeting of the old and the new is reflected in the hydroponic production process employed at Lufa Farms, which relies on a finely tuned balance between ancient techniques and state-of-the-art technology. For example, the greenhouses are pesticide- and fungicide-free relying on a pest management system that utilizes other insects; bees are used to pollinate and ladybugs to control the aphid and white fly populations. And no chemical fertilizers are used; green waste is composted to feed the plants.

Yet, in conjunction with these low-tech approaches high-tech technologies are employed.  Lufa Farms relies on solar energy and cutting-edge micro-climate management software, which captures energy efficiencies and carefully controls temperature and humidity levels throughout the greenhouse encouraging maximum yields for each crop. And a sophisticated closed-loop water system harvests rainwater and re-circulates the run-off from the plants.

bokchoyBok choy and Lufa’s hydroponic growing system, source: Lufa Farms flickr

Lufa Farms operates on a subscription basis, which is a great way for farmers to reduce crop waste because only the product that has been ordered is harvested. Customers sign up for a weekly box of food that can be customized up until midnight the night before the harvesting, picking and packing. The food is then delivered to one of several pickup points across the city, where it is collected by the customer.

lufa farms - pick and packPacking food boxes, source: Lufa Farms flickr

Hydroponic production is not eligible for organic certification in Canada, which is ironic in this case, considering the many economic, environmental and social benefits of this model of urban farming.

Healthy food. The produce is safe, uncontaminated by residues from chemical pesticides and fertilizers. In fact, some local produce (broccoli, green beans, kale, red peppers and tomatoes) may even have a higher nutrient value when it’s given more time to ripen, due to the shorter time between harvest and consumption. The produce is picked at their peak of ripeness and is in the hands of customers within 24 hours. The short turnover means it will tend to taste better, encouraging us all to eat more veggies! In fact, when farming locally, farmers can choose to plant cultivars for taste, rather than for transportability, so that the most flavourful varieties (rather than the hardiest varieties) are grown.

eggplantA perfect eggplant, source: Lufa Farms flickr

Environmental benefits. The environmental benefits from a hugely reduced carbon footprint as a result of drastic reductions in transportation, and energy efficiency in the greenhouse, are significant in lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the plants themselves remove carbon dioxide from the air, doing their bit in the battle against climate change. Efficiencies in water use and capturing run-off conserve and protect water resources, and promoting the cultivation of non-hybrid heirloom varieties helps protect the planet’s genetic diversity for future generations.

Food security. In a time of urbanization this type of local urban agriculture contributes to feeding increasing numbers of city dwellers and to ensuring a secure and sustainable food supply.


source: Lufa Farms via

Strengthening communities. Drop-off points in communities encourage exchanges of ideas, recipes, and even produce. And when the people who produce your food, live and work in your community, you, your children and your neighbours know a lot more about that food.

Supporting the local economy. Money that is spent with local farmers stays close to home and is typically used to provide employment to local people and is reinvested in businesses and services in the community.

All of this helps explain why projects like Lufa Farms are so important in an effort to build sustainable cities.

“Forty years ago, prior to the construction of the industrial building, there used to be a farm and a farmer used to work here, feeding people. For thirty seven years that spot was replaced by an industrial building that contributed to heat islands and displaced the farmer. The good news is that this spot is, once again, a fertile plot of land employing many and feeding many, many, more and helping make our world become a better place. So, imagine cities that feed their own inhabitants. Imagine communities that are connected by farms. Imagine knowing your farmer and knowing your food.” (How rooftop farming will change how we eat, Mohamed Hage TEDxUdeM)

heirloom tomato

A perfect tomato, source: Lufa Farms flickr

Lufa Farms has formed partnerships with other local food companies with similar values and offers an online marketplace where customers can shop for most of their groceries. This model has been such a big hit with Montrealers that a second greenhouse has been built to keep up with local demand and further expansion is in the pipeline.

Happy Earth Day everyone!


Do you have an experience with urban agriculture? How are you recognizing Earth Day? We’d love to hear from you. You can comment below, tweet us @GalerieCO or leave us a message on our Facebook page.

Fair-trade flowers in February

A few years ago Caroline Boyce came into Galerie CO and presented us with her concept of a local, environmentally friendly flower service. If we paid up front, we could have a bouquet every week all summer created by Caroline using flowers that she grows herself, without pesticides, on a small lot in the Eastern Townships.


She had just started her business, Floralia. Love of flowers aside, we felt a strong connection to Caroline and her business model. She shares CO’s values and cares deeply about the impact that her products have on people and on the planet. We said “yes, please” to the flower service and have been working with her ever since selling her bouquets, hosting workshops, and acting as a distribution point for the subscription service.

Since that first meeting, Caroline’s business has grown steadily and she now provides her gorgeous bouquets all year round. Consistent with her philosophy, she has spent endless hours carefully sourcing the flowers that she will use when she can’t grow them herself during the winter months. She takes great care to understand where the flowers that she works with come from. We are the beneficiaries of all that hard work – now able to enjoy her uniquely striking bouquets all year round!


On Valentine’s Day, The Globe and Mail will identify Floralia as one of the ten coolest florists in the country. We couldn’t agree more.

Where did your love of flowers begin?

Long before I went to art school I was into organic agriculture. I worked on farms growing fruits and vegetables to save for my fine arts education. Even while I was in school, my focus was on environmental issues like consumption, and how its effect on nature. The environment has been a recurring theme in my work. After studying fine arts for several years, I took a break to go back to farming. Continue reading

IDS14 picks and pics

We’ve needed a few days to recover! But better late than never with a few of our favourite things from our weekend in Toronto at The Interior Design Show (IDS14). So much is from Studio North, which was really packed full of great people showing inspiring work.


storyboard - pendant

The “Plane Cloud Pendant” by Storyboard Furniture Ltd – fb – @

normal goods pendants

The Jube Light by normal goods – fb – Simple, clean and beautiful. Continue reading

On the road to the Interior Design Show in Toronto

It’s a new year, and we’re getting ready for our first road trip.

Galerie CO will be at the Interior Design Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (IDS14) from January 24 to 26. At Studio North, we will be representing Maude Bouchard Furness of Montreal’s Atelier HOCH and introducing her fabulous collection of furniture to the world!

CO at Studio North (IDS14)Studio North is a show-within-a-show that supports Canada’s vibrant and independent design scene. It features ateliers and design-makers from coast to coast exhibiting one-off and custom collections of furniture, lighting, glass, ceramics, textiles and surface design in a gallery-like installation. Studio North is one of the most anticipated annual exhibits for the design industry, media and a discerning design audience. We are bursting with pride and excitement. Continue reading