Saturday, May 27, 2017

Through the Garden Gate: North Rosedale and Moore Park

I love writing this blog, but there aren't a lot of perks to the job. Perhaps that is why I look forward to the annual media preview for this garden tour.

Members of the local mixed media are chauffeured around Toronto in the plush comfort of a luxury, air conditioned bus for a preview of a few of the best gardens on this year's tour.

On the way, we enjoy fresh sandwiches and drinks. Then, in the middle of the afternoon, when it usually gets hot, there are cool icy treats with exotic flavours like kiwi & cucumber. At the end of the day, you feel exhausted, but pampered and inspired by all the amazing gardens you've seen.

This year is the thirtieth anniversary for Through the Garden Gate. To mark the occasion there will be thirty gardens on this year's tour (If you are doing the math that is fifteen gardens for each day of the two-day-long tour– which is a lot of ground to cover. Thank goodness the gardens are located fairly close together and there are shuttle buses to cover longer distances).

Every year, Through the Garden Gate explores a different Toronto neighbourhood. On the occasion of this significant milestone, the tour returns to one of the most popular locations: North Rosedale and Moore Park. There is always a great curiosity in seeing the gardens of some of the city's finest homes. And from what I have seen on this year's media preview, good taste and a team of professionals adds up to create some amazing gardens.

As I said, I look forward to this annual event. You can imagine my disappointment to find that, on the day of the preview it was not only raining, it was pouring! I thought that I dressed for the weather, but even with my umbrella, I was soaked through before we had made it through the first few gardens.

Imagine trying to focus a camera while juggling an umbrella. If my pictures are a bit blurry, you'll know why.

"It's an Edwardian house," says the homeowner," and we've tried to reflect that in the garden. You see it in the wire planters; the Alice in Wonderland figures in the round garden behind the garage, the gazebo made from an early elevator cage, which we found in architectural salvage; and some of the old-fashioned plants – peonies, daisies, delphiniums, columbines, roses, lavender, iris, violets, ivy topiaries. We hope the plantings evoke the period of the house."

"Most of the garden is in partial shade, so you'll find various shade-loving plants. Marjorie Harris (well-known Canadian gardening writer) thinks we have far too many hostas, and she's probably right, but they come in such variety and are so easy to grow, one has to love them...We try to keep the colours to green, white and blue, but you'll find the occasional pink and mauve, and we've planted forsythia for colour in spring."

That's the old elevator cage the homeowner spoke of in the middle foreground.

Too many hostas or not, I think this garden is stunning. 

There was only one problem with walking around to take photographs. With all the rain, the gorgeous green lawn was saturated in water. Stepping onto the grass was like walking on a wet sponge!

And of course I wore completely inappropriate footwear! I managed to venture as far as the gazebo when cold, wet feet prevented me from exploring further.

The lines of the garden are straight giving it a pleasing formality. 

 I do hope to return to see this charming part of the garden when it isn't under several inches of water.

The next property was a shade garden on a corner lot. 

The rain was pouring down and despite all the defensive maneuvers with my umbrella, my camera lens was foggy and wet. My overall shots of the garden were so blurry I am relying on a couple of images the Botanical Gardens provided.

Thanks to the Toronto Botanical Gardens for the two images above. 

The shade plantings in this garden were very creative. 

Often I see Japanese Painted Ferns on clearance at garden centres. I don't think people know what to do with them. Here they look very striking massed with Sweet Woodruff in the foreground.

1. Large Hosta 2. Mayapple, Podophyllum 3. Japanese Painted Fern, Athyrium 4. Japanese Ghost Painted Fern, Athyrium X 'Ghost' 5. Epimedium 6. Bugleweed, Ajuga 7. Coral Bells, Heuchera

Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa macra in the foreground.

Because this was a house on a corner lot, the landscape designer had to deal with issues of privacy. Rather than building a fence, he opted to plant shrubs along the side of the house. In the backyard, a large screen was installed (below). 

The combination of the screen and hydrangea vine give the outdoor dining table, and the adjacent seating area, that much needed privacy.

To make the garage, which is located at the very back of the property, less obtrusive and more interesting, a green roof was installed.

The day's final destination had a formal front garden that suited the house perfectly.

 The garden is divided into four quadrants defined by clipped boxwood hedges. Inside each quadrant are ball-shaped yews and a single standard hydrangea. It's too bad the purple alliums weren't open in time for this picture. 

The backyard was a tiny jewel. Again, I am going to have to rely on some images that the Toronto Botanical Garden provided to give you an overall sense of the garden.

This is n outdoor made for entertaining with a large dining table and a garden house with lovely arched windows and a peaked roof.

Here we all are – members of the media cowering under our umbrellas.

Deep waters prevented me from getting closer, but under the Japanese Maple there is a small waterfall and pond.

A charming wall fountain.

 Bird feeder with a copper roof. 

That's the intrepid Ken Brown, garden writer and national director for the Garden Writers Association, braving the several inches of water to get a picture of the garden. Myself, I was not nearly so daring!

The kind homeowner had homemade sushi, cheese trays and glasses of bubbly Prosecco waiting for us in the shelter of the garden house.

This pink tree peony was just gorgeous (Read more about growing tree peonies here).

I arrived home cold and soaked through. Two days later and my shoes still haven't completely have dried out. 

Even though it wasn't quite the day I had hoped for, I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Through the Garden Gate: North Rosedale and Moore Park
Saturday and Sunday, June 10th and 11th, 2017
10 am to 4 pm

Order tickets and find out more information about the 30th Anniversary 

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Dry Shade Garden

For a brief but glorious time, before the tree canopy has had a chance to leaf-out each spring, Sue and Terry Chaffe's garden is bright and sunlit. It is during this small window of opportunity that many of the woodland plants in Sue's garden choose to flower.

Then gradually the days lengthen and warm as the month of May moves forward. Finally, the trees that have been patiently waiting for the right moment, launch their fresh green finery.  As the leaves unfurl, the garden that was briefly sunny, becomes shady. "In the summer the garden gets as little as 3 hours of sunlight," Sue says.

Primula 'sieboldii'

Years of experience has taught Sue to embrace the ephemeral nature of woodland plants. She has lifted and divided the yellow Fairy bells, Disporum and spread them around the garden. Sue and a friend rescued wild trilliums from a nearby construction site and gave them a new home. Like the Fairy Bells, the white trilliums have flourished and multiplied. Not far from the trilliums, delicate white primroses, Primula 'sieboldii', sit atop fine, wiry stems like spring flags.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's start with another beginning of sorts and look at Sue's front garden. Starting at the corner of the property, nearest the driveway, the garden sweeps in a generous curve toward the front door.

Leopard's Bane, Doronicum 

Leopard's Bane, Doronicum is an old-fashioned perennial that you don't see as often as you should. It is one of the earliest of the daisy-type flowers to bloom and makes a great companion plant for spring tulips. It also makes a nice cut flower. Full sun or light shade. Divide in fall. height: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

Just behind the front flowerbed is a flagstone pathway leads visitors to the front door. Among the grey stones and pebbles, just to the front of the house, are a number of plants that thrive in dry conditions like the Sedum Sieboldii below.

Sedum Sieboldii 

Large Flowering Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum have white flowers with three petals which are held aloft on a stem containing a whorl of three leaves. Trilliums require moist, well-drained, slightly sandy soil that is rich in organic matter. Full to part shade. Height: 20-50 cm (7-19 inches) USDA Zones: 4-9.

Korean Spice Viburnum, Viburnum carlessii 

At the far end of the driveway is a Viburnum shrub. It's impossible to pass without pausing to enjoy the sweet, spicy fragrance of the clusters of pale pink flowers. 

Korean Spice Viburnum, Viburnum carlessii has waxy pink flowers that fade to white. The flowers are followed by bright red berries that fade to black. The green foliage turns shades of red in the fall. Full sun to part shade. Height: 4-6ft USDA zones: 4-8.

A wooden arbor with a Climbing Hydrangea, Hydrangea Petiolaris marks the entrance to the backyard.

One of the tulips at the foot of the backyard arbor.

Along the length of the garage is a shade garden that features a number of Heuchera (including the one seen in the image below).

At the back of the house is a flagstone patio and a large raised bed.

One of Sue's collection of shade-loving Heuchera. The foliage is as colorful as flowers would be. 

Epimedium and a pretty purple Primula.

Epimedium x youngianum 'Roseum' has soft lavender-rose flowers in mid-spring. The foliage is tinged with red in spring, becomes green in summer and turns bronze in late fall. Drought tolerant once established. Divide in the fall. Height: 20-30 cm (8-12 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

A Hosta with lovely variegation and wavy foliage.

An overview of the back garden. The pink flowering tree is a Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis

A quick stroll across the lawn brings you to the main flower bed. In summer this bed is shady and quite dry. Sue refuses to coddle her garden by watering. Instead she prefers to choose plants that can make it through the dry days of midsummer all on their own.

 Twisting and turning its way through the flowers, Sue has created a dry river bed that is a mix of small grey pebbles and stones. Anchoring the riverbed are several moss covered rocks. Plants include Heuchera, Iris, Fairy Bells and Euphorbia. In the more shaded areas, there are Hosta, Bleeding Heart and a Japanese Fern.

A friend created focal point using a mix of concrete and rock.

Wood Poppy 

Wood Poppy or Celandine Poppy, Stylophorum diphyllum has yellow flowers in spring and attractive green foliage. This plant prefers moist soil and part to full shade. Beware it is a good self-seeder in the right conditions (although young seedlings are easy to remove). Height: 30-45 cm, Spread: 45-60 cm. Zone: 4-9

After a long Canadian winter, spring always feels like a celebration. It's is a short season here in Southern Ontario and plants that flower in May take full advantage of those bright, sunny days and plenty of rain. Sue's garden is a great example of the season at its very best.

If you live in the GTA, you can visit Sue and Terry's garden in person this coming Sunday, May 28th as part of the Canadian Cancer Society's 12th Annual Spring Garden Tour. The tour represents a great opportunity to support a very worthy cause, while visiting ten of Mississauga's finest private gardens. 

Here's all the details about this year's tour: