Golden brocade garden of Marion Jarvie: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling

All that is gold does not glitter, especially in the Toronto, Ontario, garden of designer and speaker Marion Jarvie. Her home garden was our midday stop on the 2nd day of touring at Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling. High and bright, the sun flattened and shadowed my photos of her richly textured, foliage-focused, collector’s garden, which she ties together through the repetition of color, particularly gold and burgundy. I’m sure the garden simply glows in the mellower light of morning or late afternoon. But it was pretty amazing even at high noon.

For 40 years Marion has been tending this half-acre garden in a suburban neighborhood north of Toronto. The front contains a sloping lawn, lushly bordered, but the back is where she really cuts loose, planting up manmade, curvy berms with seeming abandon, but which are in fact carefully orchestrated.

This white ceramic bust greets you as you enter the back garden…

…which opens before you like a rolling landscape. A large pond creates negative space and a focal point near the back patio.

Yellow iris and white water lilies were blooming during our early June visit.

But Marion mainly favors purple flowers, it seems, which complement the golds and harmonize with the burgundies.

The garden reminded of gold brocade fabric: heavily textured with conifers, glowing with golden foliage, richly accented with specimen plants. It would be easy for a garden like this to become a jumble. But color repetition blends it into an intentional tapestry.

Expansive berms swoop around a narrow, curvy lawn, which functions as a path through the garden. The berms elevate the plants and help screen neighboring houses, plus they provide good drainage. Some of the conifers had been browned during last year’s especially cold winter (I noticed this in a number of Toronto gardens), and Marion’s gardening helper told me she was in the process of replacing those with more cold-tolerant pines.

The lawn also functions as essential negative space amid the busily planted beds.

Peonies aglow in sunlight

Anyone know what this flowering shrub is? Update: The consensus among commenters is that it’s a weigela.

I loved these star-shaped pink flowers atop narrow, blue-green leaves — a dianthus perhaps?

One could wander this garden for hours, I think, and still not see everything.

I’m always proud of how many bloggers from Texas, and particularly from Austin, attend the Fling each year, no matter how distant the host city. This year 13 Texans “flung,” and we got together for a group photo in Marion’s garden. Back row, left to right: Shawn and Laurin of Ravenscourt Gardens (Houston), Linda of Central Texas Gardener (Austin), Sheryl of Yard Fanatic (Austin), Rebecca of Rebecca’s Retreat (Buda), me (Austin), Vicki of Playin’ Outside (Austin), Andrea of Grow Where You’re Planted (College Station), and Chris of Watching My Garden Grow (Austin). In the front row: Cindy of From My Corner of Katy (Katy), Susan of The Bicycle Garden (Lubbock), and Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden (Austin). We were missing Jennifer of The Blotanical Journey (Houston), a Fling first-timer I’d meet on the following day’s tours.

These bloggers were having fun too: Amy of Get Busy Gardening, who’s the lead planner of next year’s Fling in Minneapolis, and Julie of Garden Delights, one of the fun Carolina gals. The hat-wearing photobomber is Helen of Gardening with Confidence.

Allium and clematis make a pretty color echo as you look toward the back patio — and the only seating in the garden. This is a strolling garden, meant for exploring. And how fun it was to explore with my blogger friends!

Coming up next: Cabbagetown garden art and the Hugh Garner Co-Op Green Roof. For a look back at a lush but disciplined contemporary garden in Forest Hill, click here.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Simple lines, big impact in Forest Hill contemporary garden: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling

One of my favorite gardens on the recent Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling was a contemporary garden of massed grasses and alliums in the upscale Forest Hill neighborhood. Nearly all of the gardening space is located in front of the house (the back and side gardens are very narrow). The inner garden, pictured here, is separated from the street with layers of screening, including a steel-rod fence, a naturalistically planted outer garden, and this horizontal board fence.

Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), outlined by a stone path, makes an emerald throw rug in the enclosed courtyard. In the center, a clipped, potted shrub adds height, and a solitary metal chair creates asymmetry and perhaps a little tension. Does someone sit there, or is it just for decoration?

The spherical heads of purple and white alliums, popping up from a grassy border, seem to dance along the path. They provided the only floral color that I recall. The rest of the garden was shades of green.

Bright sunlight contrasting with deep shade made photography difficult, but here’s a long shot that gives a slightly bigger sense of the garden. In the foreground is a patio with space for multiple chairs. On the far side of the sedge lawnette are two modern orange chairs facing each other, backed by a small, rectangular pond.

Chippendale-style wooden screens lay across the pond, presumably to keep out raccoons — or errant bloggers?

At the other end, a shady patio with a fire pit offers space to sit and take in the serenity of the space.

A few intriguing sculptures, including this hanging metal basket with an egg — don’t put all your eggs in one basket! — attract the eye throughout the garden.

A narrow side path leads to this pretty vignette: a robin’s-egg blue chair, Japanese maple, birdhouse, and climbing vines. Turning left…

…you pass through a rustic arbor behind the house…

…and find an intimate patio for two. A birdbath is filled with river rock instead of water — and the stones look somewhat like eggs, wouldn’t you say? I sense a bird theme.

I wish more of my photos had turned out because there were more details to show you. But here’s a close-up of the screening fence. A black-painted core (I’m not sure what it’s made of) is overlaid with 2×2 slats spaced about an inch apart, creating an illusion of depth.

And here’s the view along the street. Short metal rods, regularly spaced but unattached to each other, make a striking low fence to keep out dogs or pedestrians. A simple massed planting of ferns and birch trees fills a sloping bed between the street and interior fence.

A close-up

This is a disciplined garden, with masses of just a few species to create a restful mood. The fences, made of simple materials used in unique ways, add to the beauty of the garden.

Coming up next: Designer Marion Jarvie’s vividly hued collector’s garden. For a look back at a beautiful Algonquin Island foliage garden, click here.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Garden is But-A-Dream on Algonquin Island: Toronto Garden Blogger Fling

While exploring the Toronto Islands (click for an overview tour) during Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling, I happened upon a cheery yellow cottage near the Algonquin Island harbor.

Adorned with a black unicorn and a sign proclaiming the garden’s name — But-a-Dream — it was irresistibly charming.

You enter via a tropical-looking palapa-roofed gate. Fellow bloggers Judy of In the Garden and Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden posed beneath it. (Notice: jackets and sweaters in JUNE.)

Entering, your attention is drawn immediately to a large rectangular pond edged on three sides by a boardwalk. The long section of boardwalk on the right leads the eye straight to a white-trunked birch tree with stump seating beneath. River rock of varying sizes lines the bottom and edges of the pond, creating a naturalistic look.

River rock is also laid just above the pond (upper right), like a dry creekbed, creating the impression of a stream-fed pond. Amid the stones, tall grasses and iris grow. Water lilies spread their leaves across the pond’s surface.

A mossy length of bamboo, supported by stones, pipes a steady stream of water into the pond.

Creeping groundcovers soften the hard edge where the pond adjoins a stone patio.

Bamboo poles, halved, line up to bridge the pond. The pond assumes a more formal look at this end, where the boardwalk creates a geometric edge.

Looking back toward the palapa gate, you see boats moored in the harbor, reminding you that you are on an island.

Tucked under a large birch, this delightfully rustic stump table and seating creates a fairy garden ambience.

In fact, yes, there is a fairy ornament on the table.

The side yard is patio-paved too, but geometric wooden raised beds create room to grow tulips, among other plants. A large woodpile under a palapa-roofed shelter is a testament to cold winters.


At the back of the lot, a vine rambles over a shed…

…and bikes are parked and ready for an outing.

Colorful potted begonias and sweet potato vine brighten a shelf along the back fence.

I really enjoyed this garden and struck up a conversation with the owner, Jeannie Parker. She told me that the style of the garden is Chinese, which surprised me a little, considering the tropicalesque palapas and northern Europe vibe of the birch and stump seating. But the pond, which is the garden’s centerpiece, does have bamboo, moss, and stone and the tranquil air of an Asian garden. I wish I’d had more time to ask Jeannie about the design, but I’m grateful for the visit. But-a-Dream is a dreamy garden indeed.

Coming up next: A foliage-rich garden at a storybook cottage on Algonquin Island. For a look back at a general tour of the Toronto Island cottage gardens, click here.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.