A Romantic Garden

Friday, June 29, 2012



Not everyone could warm up to the last gardens I showed, but for those who found those gardens too impersonal, I think this garden will fill the bill.

This was my personal favourite of the Rosedale gardens on the Through the Garden Gate Tour. Why? I liked the finesse of the plantings and the attention to even the smallest detail.

Although it was a good sized property, the garden was divided into a series of small rooms which added to the feeling of being secluded from the world at large. Everywhere there were little touches that made the garden feel romantic and special.

This is a fairly mature garden that was designed about 18 years ago. David Tomlinson did the design on the back garden and Tom Sparling designed the courtyard. Let's take a look, shall we:


Just off the kitchen of this heritage home is porch with Victorian detailing. 




A pair of Redbuds provides dappled shade for the patio and table to the left of the porch steps.



The plantings to the right of the patio are very pretty. The homeowner is apparently an avid plantsman and you can really tell.



Isn't the lattice-covered fence nice?


Among the flowers there are lilies, dahlias, roses and annuals on either side of the patio.


A foxglove with a Japanese Maple as a backdrop.


As you proceed down the garden, you pass by a hedge of yews and 
enter a room with a small circular pond.



Did you notice the garden tool in her hands?




A close-up of the doorway to the next room.


There was a nice layering of plant materials throughout.


I am not sure of the identification of the large-leafed plant on the left just above the hosta. Any ideas?

Update: We have an ID. The mystery plant is Peltiphyllum peltatum which Pauline says is sometimes known as Darmera. Thanks Pauline! 


As I passed through the yew's doorway, I glancing back the way I had come. 


The last room had a bit of a yellow theme.


Dogwood and a beautiful Maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatumnice 


There was another seating area in this last room, but there were so many people milling around that 
I could not get a good picture of it.


Love this. Sedum 'Sieboldii' 


Yellow Baptisia


A rose covered arbor leads to the adjoining lot where there are raised vegetable beds 
designed by Jack Staub of Hortulus Farm.


I don't have any white roses, which is a serious oversight. These are so delicate and pretty.



Even that which was not flawless seemed perfectly in place in this garden.

How the Other Half Garden

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


"It's hopeless," I thought to myself as I fished a dollar store umbrella out of my purse, "There is no way I am ever going to blend in to my posh surroundings."

A light rain had begun to fall as I stood in line for the shuttle bus to take me from the subway station to garden tour headquarters at Rosedale Junior Public School. This was not just any old garden tour I was about to embark on. The forty dollar admission price made that clear enough. No, my red discount store umbrella and I were about to get a peak into the private gardens of multi-million dollar homes in a very prestigious area in the heart of downtown Toronto.

At tour headquarters I was given a paper wrist band, rather like the ones that are issued to hospital patients, and a little paper gift bag containing a few hand cream samples, a tour guide and a free magazine issue. I should have been grateful for the giveaways, but instead I grumbled inwardly about having to carry my gifts around with me all day when I was already burdened with a purse, umbrella and camera.


The tour promised twenty-one gardens of the fabulously wealthy. I prepared myself to be impressed, a bit intimidated and yes, maybe even a little envious.

I started to wonder, "If I won the lottery or came into money (sadly both are about as likely as being struck by lightening), how would that effect the way I garden? Would I still want to go out there and muck about in the dirt or would I have people to do that for me?"

At first I scoffed at the idea that money could influence something I felt so passionate about, but then, I wondered if it would really be so bad to hire someone to take care of that horrible patch of goutweed that I have been avoiding all spring. I think that I could easily give that hard work up to someone else.






Perhaps it was the ice cream vendor's cart, but it struck me that there was something downright theatrical about the whole event as I stepped to the end of the fifty person queue at the second garden on my tour. It was like we were standing in line to see a show, or worse yet, preparing to see the habitats of some exotic animal in a natural history museum. Certainly some tour patrons took liberties. I saw a few people gawking rudely into open windows; their noses pressed to the glass.

At the front of the line, we received the first of strict instructions, "Do not step on the grass." Even without this edict one intuitively sensed there was something precious and very expensive involved. The lawn was so finely manicured it would put the average golf course to shame. One could almost imagine trip wires and alarms that would sound if an errant foot happened to stray from the path.

Lawns were not the only things out of bounds. When later in the day my foot wandered onto some pea gravel, I was immediately corrected. I would not have normally thought that pea gravel could be harmed, but it seems that in high-end neighbourhoods it acquires unique characteristics.


The garden that I am about to show you was probably the most grand of the ones I managed to visit that day. Two long rectangular ponds stretched out on either side of the front entrance like a pair of wings. My photograph does not do justice to the effect of the massed blue-grey stones at the bottom of the shallow pools. There was just enough water movement on the glassy surface to prevent the ponds from becoming mosquito breeding ponds. It was so elegant and restrained that it was quite breathtaking.

My first thought was that anyone could replicate this, but then it dawned on me what makes this water feature high-end. It is not the pool, but rather the upkeep. You'll note that there is not even the tiniest bit of debris at the bottom. I bet those stones must be lifted and the pools thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis. This upkeep must cost the homeowner a pretty penny.


If you pass the blue-grey ponds and turn to the left a pathway leads you to a small courtyard and then down a long garden allee.


This is the garden equivalent of the little black dress: classic and stylish.


I wonder if there might be drifts of daffodils here in the spring? 


If we head back to the front of the house and then to our right, we pass through a wrought iron gate and find ourselves in a small courtyard. 


 A pathway leads you to the large courtyard you see in the next image.



Stretching out from the back of the house is a large swimming pool.


Each of the two pool houses had more square feet than an entire floor of my house.


It is interesting that this area is half grass and half pea gravel.


On either side of the courtyard there were lovely beds of roses.

So what about you? If you won the lottery or came into money, how would that effect the way you garden? 

P.S. As a counterpoint to all this opulence, I have put a humble wildflower in my header today.

Small Space Gardens Plus Book Reviews and Giveaway

Wednesday, June 20, 2012



Today I thought I would shake things up a bit and show some ideas for smaller gardens.


In this first garden, the backyard is so small, the lawn is no bigger than an 8'x 10' area rug.


Despite the limited space, these homeowners have managed to create the
prefect outdoor retreat in the heart of a busy downtown core.


Remember spider plants? Doesn't it look stunning in this rusted urn?


No space for one of the ponds that I showed in my last post? Hang a wall fountain instead.


Details count even more in small gardens. This is one of my all-time favourite hanging planters.


A classic. 


This is a tiny courtyard garden with lots of charm.


There is just room enough for a storage shed on one side and a small garden on the other.



I love the way the homeowner has made use of all the space available to her.

Small-Space Container Gardens by Fern Richardson, 
Timber Press, CAD $23.95, US $19.95, www.workman.com/timberpress

I also have two books on small space gardening to share with you today. The first is Small-Space Container Gardens

Not everyone has a piece of land available to them for gardening. Author Fern Richardson gardens on a small apartment balcony, yet she manages to grow figs, nectarines, herbs and berries. 

In her book, she offers anyone who wants to grow plants creative ways to make use of patios, porches, decks, rooftops and even windowsills. The book addresses the basics like plant and container selection, as well as many of the unique challenges presented by small space gardening like wind and weather extremes. There is even a helpful chapter on troubleshooting disease and pests. 

The Balcony Gardener by Isabelle Palmer. 
CICO Books, CAD $23.95 US $19.95 www.cicobooks.com

The second book is the Balcony Gardener by Isabelle Palmer. What do I like best about this book? It is filled with lots of great ideas. 

Birdcage Image from The Balcony Gardener © CICO Books

Take this birdcage planter. Isn't it wonderful? I really want to make one of these!

Another thing I like about this book is the fact that you don't necessarily have to read it cover to cover just to find the information you need to get started. The book's wide range of topics are all clearly identified. There are also handy list of things you need and clear instructions for each of the projects.

 Patio Image from The Balcony Gardener © CICO Books

Topics covered in the Balcony Gardener include: a basic primer on small space gardening, using plants to screen for privacy, small water gardens, getting creative with containers, growing herbs, tomatoes and strawberries as well as...  

 Garden Image from the Balcony Gardener © CICO Books

furnishings and lighting ideas. Many of the projects like the birdcage planter are fun whether you have a small garden or not.

I have a copy of each book to giveaway. If you would like to be included in the draw, please leave a comment below. I will draw one name for each of the two books with the help of some fabulous assistant.

I will leave the contest open for a full week (Closes next Wednesday at 12 pm) and will do a draw early the following week. 

Many thanks to CICO Books and Timber Press for providing the books in this giveaway. Good luck everyone!

I am going to link this post to Holley's monthly book review party. To discover some other really great gardening themed books, be sure to click the link: Roses and Other Gardening Joys.


More Information and Links:


About the Author of Small-Space Container Gardens:
Fern Richardson is the creator of the popular blog Life on a Balcony. A master gardener, an amateur photographer and garden designer, she lives in Long Beach California.



About the Author of The Balcony Gardener:
Isabelle Palmer is an author and the founder of an innovative online company: www.thebalconygardener.com. Her online shop specializes in product ranges for small urban outdoor spaces: balconies, patios, roof-top gardens and terraces.
Isabelle studied art at Chelsea College of Art and Design before getting a degree in economics. Always a keen gardener, she started of her own small space garden and that lead her to believe that others would want to do the same.

 

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