Sunday, March 3, 2019

A Courtyard Garden Perfect for Entertaining

At this Toronto address, you don't have to head into the backyard to look for the garden–it begins at the front of the property with four clusters of round Globe Yew (Taxus x media 'Brownii') each framed with a rectangle of clipped Boxwood. Brick pathways lead to a large metal urn at the centre of this formal space. In the middle of two opposing quadrants, hydrangea paniculata standards add verticality to the geometric design and the promise of late summer interest. In the early spring, the only color in this spare planting is purple alliums that pop up in amongst the green yews.

When homeowners dare to dispense with the standard-issue green lawn in city neighbourhoods, adjacent neighbours will sometimes grumble unhappily about the negative impact that such non-conformity can have on property values (only recently I shared an example of this on Facebook). A formal garden may not be everyone's cup-of-tea, but it is hard to imagine that any neighbours could claim that this spare and carefully controlled garden is any less neat and orderly than a mown lawn. With its symmetrical layout and predominately green color palette, this formal garden easily fits within the norms of the suburban landscape. Ironically it manages to be innovative while at the same time completely traditional. 

There is no lawn in the backyard either. Who would want to manoeuver a lawn mower around such a small yard? 

Instead, there is a generous flagstone courtyard with lots of cushioned seating.  Right behind the coffee table and chairs, there is a large table that seats eight comfortably.

This is a garden that made for entertaining. You won't find rusty garden tools and watering cans in the "shed". Instead, you'll find a bar and an indoor space that can be used for meals should the weather dictate.

The shed itself is a thing of beauty with its black exterior, peaked roof and arched glass windows. 

To the left of the garden house, and in the shade of a Japanese Maple, there is a small pond and waterfall. 

This garden is not without a few playful elements. A moss-covered topiary puppy pokes his way through the plantings to steal a drink of water.

The flowerbeds that run either side of the length of the property are packed with an assortment of perennials, shrubs and evergreens. In this section of the garden, an armillary sundial creates a focal point.

The hardy kiwi vine, growing on the fence, is an unusual choice. Actinidia kolomikta 'Arctic Beauty' has heart-shaped leaves with cream and pink tips (see in detail below).

Actinidia kolomikta 'Arctic Beauty' is a hardy kiwi vine with fragrant, greenish-white flowers that mature into edible berries (when both a male and female plants are present. Only a female vine will produce fruit. Male vines have the best variegation.). The foliage is green when it opens in the spring and then develops white slashes tipped with pink. Be warned that this is a fast-growing, vigorous vine that can easily swamp other trees and shrubs. A heavy hand may be required to keep it in check. This vine is not considered to be invasive. Actinidia kolomikta is best grown on a sturdy support like a trellis or fence. Prune when dormant in winter and again in spring and summer. When growing fruit, plant in full sun. This vine is somewhat shade tolerant and can also be grown in part-shade. Height: 10-20 ft, Spread: 6-10 ft USDA zones: 3-8.

Perennials include Solomon's Seal, Hosta, Heuchera, Tree Peonies and daylilies.

Heuchera foliage is as colorful as flowers might be. 

As well as the tiny pond, there is a wall fountain hanging on the fence. I'll also take this opportunity to point out that the fence has been painted black. This dark backdrop really makes the green foliage pop.

Even the birdfeeder has an elegant peaked roof.

Annuals scattered throughout the flowerbeds and gathered in pots are an ongoing source of color.

Tropical Dipladenia with its pink trumpet-shaped blooms. 

Note the use of symmetry in everything from the wall sconces to the 
tall containers and pots of pansies.

One of the things I really admire about this garden is the way it works to suit the purpose of entertaining. Additionally, maintenance demands would not be excessive and despite the proximity of other houses, the space feels private. 

It's not hard to imagine how pleasant it would be sipping a cold drink in good company while listening to the relaxing sounds of the little waterfall.

Bookmark this post with a PIN.


  1. This is a very lovely garden. I think they make the most out of the space they have and I agree, no need for lawn when you can have more plants! The topiary puppy is adorable!

    1. This garden does make a great use of space, doesn't it? I ended up looking for these moss topiaries online. Sadly they are quite pricy. It would be fun to have one though.

  2. What a lovely garden looks like a nice place to chill out

    1. It certainly does. If I had an inner city garden, I'd love one just like this.

  3. Truly lovely garden; thank you for taking us there!

  4. I enjoyed your tour of this lovely garden.

  5. What a stunning garden. Filled with impact and symmetry, it's gorgeous. Amongst the many things I admire, I especially love the dog topiary and would love to have something like that in my own garden, as it's often an angle I see on my jack Russell as he hunts for lizards. Thank you for the photographic journey.

    1. My pleasure Prue. You'll have to poke around online. I seem to remember a Jack Russell topiary form.

  6. I love this! I wanted to see inside the shed! ;)

    1. I wanted to respect their privacy, but I would have loved to see inside the shed too Mindy.


Apologies, comments are disabled at this time.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.