Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Garden Close to the Heart

I was uncertain how to title this post when the gardener herself gave me the words: a garden close to the heart.

"A garden had always been a dream since I was a little girl," Joanna tells me on the phone. She grew up in Warsaw, Poland where her family lived in a small apartment. After WWII Warsaw had been left in ruins. The new communist authorities that came to power considered moving the Polish capital to another city. Life under communist rule was not easy either. The socialist food distribution system barely functioned and Poles lived with censorship, rules and restrictions.

For her tenth birthday her parents gave her a book filled with beautiful gardens."It must have cost them a fortune," Joanna speculates. She loved her present and the wide open spaces she saw on its pages. For Joanna, gardens came to represent the possibility of a different sort of life.

Years later Joanna found herself with a choice between immigrating to Canada or Australia. Half a world away from her homeland, Australia seemed too far. In the years since her decision to choose Canada, she's had a chance to visit Australia. "It's a beautiful place," she tells me with the slightest hint of regret in her voice. Who could blame her on a cold day in March when there are snow flurries in the air? Canada offered opportunities and the wide open spaces she had dreamt about as a little girl. Plus she knew people here.

At her lovely home in Mississauga, Joanna has created the garden of her childhood imaginings. 

The space has evolved and changed over the years. "My husband's original idea was to create a mystic garden with a number of rooms," Joanna tells me,"He used his creativity to to incorporate some of his own art installations." 

The idea was to have a garden filled with surprises. Many of the original art pieces were made of wood and rope which weathered over time and eventually disintegrated. Joanna opted not to replace them and instead seized the opportunity to take advantage of the increased light and space. She also deepened and expanded the garden's central feature, a stream and pond with a bridge. 

In her garden Joanna has created spots for birds, chipmunks and all the other natural inhabitants. She's even spotted a coyote. The coyotes seemed to disappear for a few years as the housing subdivision expanded, but they've slowly moved back into the neighbourhood. Joanna will often hear them calling to one another when she walks her dogs. She's not worried about her dogs though. They are rescue dogs from overseas that survived a tough life on the streets.

The decayed stumps of some poplar trees make homes for insects and birds.

A view of backyard from the deck.

In the centre of the yard there is a covered deck with table and chairs.

At the back of the property, Joanna has a vegetable garden. "Tomatoes, beans and lettuce greens do the best," she says, "I will have some heating in my greenhouse as of this spring. There are lettuce seeds planted as of two days ago."

Joanna's own pictures of her vegetable garden.

The vegetable garden is a big job, but Joanna has help from friends. In return, she shares some of the garden's bounty.

Here Joanna has used wide pieces of tree bark to hide the flower pots 
and create a display by the shed.

One of the works of art Joanna's husband created.

A beautiful fern from a shady area of the garden.

A view of the generous wood deck at the back of the house.

The central pond and stream was ment to create a cottage or “Muskoka” feeling in the heart of the city. "I sit on the deck often in the summer feeling not that far from "the lake country” of northern Ontario."

Fish and a number of frogs call the pond home.

Another view of the stream. 

Joanna's own picture of her Bearded Iris.

Gratitude is a very important sentiment for Joanna. She feels a close connection to nature and is grateful for the beauty it provides. 

Years later, Joanna still has the gardening book that her parents gave her back in Poland. I am sure her parents would be proud to see the garden their gift inspired.


  1. What a beautiful, beautiful story, Jennifer and Joanna's gardens are equally beautiful.
    Thank you so much for sharing this here.

  2. Lovely garden & story ... I'm always grateful to have a garden, it brings such joy..

  3. What a wonderful story of a gardener and her yearnings since she was a child growing up in such a restricted life in early Poland. To have it unfold in Canada is perfect despite our winters.
    My favorite spots are the pots hidden in the wood and that beautiful stream/pond.
    To have frogs living and singing there ... well that would be my own dream too.
    That book is such an integral part of of her garden ambition .. a beautiful childhood memory from her parents understanding how much she wanted those open spaces and greenery. She must be so happy !..
    I too am grateful for the little gardens I have .. it is a tie to nature you never take for granted or forget.
    Lovely story Jennifer !

  4. Even before reading your comments, I knew I could say no more than, what a beautiful story.

  5. I love this posting, Jennifer. Your words and pictures do justice to a beautiful garden and a lovely gardener who talks about gratitude so eloquently. P. x

  6. The garden is as beautiful and vibrant as Joanna. Thank you for telling the story so well.

  7. paradise for soul and heart
    raj dla ducha i serducha


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