Wildlife garden with an artful touch: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling


On our last day of the Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling in early June, we visited a private garden described as a wildlife garden. I didn’t end up taking photos of its wildlife-attracting features, however. Instead I was drawn to the artful touches found throughout, many of them composed of natural materials. Most prominent was a blue-painted dead tree, centered like sculpture in the back lawn.


What an incredible focal point, don’t you think?


I also admired this cross-section of a tree stump, set on edge to become a sculptural accent in a shady bed.


And this egg-shaped stone, cradled in an upright tree branch.


Two cartoon-style paintings, hung on exterior walls of the house, create surprise and amusement as you encounter them along the paths.


This fellow seems a little worried about something, doesn’t he?


The back patio is inviting and homey, offering a prime view of the blue tree.


In front, a contemporary porch holds a few pots of colorful annuals.


I like this copper-colored planter.


The front garden slopes toward the street, and runoff has been tackled with a lovely dry stream that winds through the lawnless garden.


Here pollinator plants are favored, like this Jerusalem sage. Although intimately familiar with the yellow-flowering Phlomis, I’d never seen the pink cultivar. I love it.

Sometimes it’s the little details in a garden that really grab you.

Coming up next: My tour of Toronto Botanical Garden, where Toronto Fling officially concluded. For a look back at the Evergreen Brick Works community greenspace, 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.

Hillside Swansea gardens: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling

For 8 years I’ve been fortunate to attend the annual Garden Bloggers Fling, a 3-day international garden blogger meet-up and city-wide garden tour, organized each year by volunteer bloggers from the host city. This year, in early June, Toronto’s garden bloggers hosted the Fling, led by sisters Helen and Sarah Battersby (Toronto Gardens), Lorraine Flanigan (City Gardening), and Veronica Sliva (A Gardener’s World).

I’ll show you my favorites in a series of posts, starting with a trio of gardens in the hilly Swansea neighborhood, which overlooks High Park‘s scenic Grenadier Pond.

Garden #1


A stone house seemingly straight out of a fairy tale stands high in Garden #1, with a whimsical wrought-iron railing created by artist Wojtek Biczysko, a friend of the owners.


The small gravel entry garden contains a seating area and this glorious red Japanese maple. But the big reveal comes in the back garden.


As you enter, you realize you’re standing atop a steep hillside overlooking the pond. A stone terrace off the back of the house is bounded by more creative metalwork by Biczysko, who was actually on hand to answer any questions we had.


The railing resembles living reeds, referencing the pond below.


To the right of the terrace, a gravel patio edged with sculptural tree trunks holds a small fire pit and a kinetic sculpture — also by Biczysko, I think — made of long, crinkled metal strips.


It makes a sort of scrim amid the trees.


Behind the terrace, the garden plunges down a steep hillside terraced with a quarry’s worth of stone. A narrow stair winds its way down.


Lush vegetation fills all the planting crevices. Imagine the challenge of gardening in these steep spaces!


About halfway down, a flagstone path leads along a level stretch with terraced beds on one side and glimpses of the pond on the other.


Another work of Biczysko’s hangs from a tree here: upside-down metal flowers (I believe he said they were lotuses) strung individually for screen-like effect.


The path leads down to the pond, where a second fire pit awaits.


The fire pit, with Adirondacks and rustic stump seating. This space felt Swedish to me, or at least how I imagine a summer place in Sweden to be.


My eye was drawn, however, to a metal sculpture of a leafy pattern colored in with brilliant cobalt. Gail of Clay and Limestone takes a closer look.


That’s when we realized that the metal panel with leaf cutouts is simply backed with painted plywood to add that pop of color.


I’m totally going to try something like this in my garden. You could even change out the background color to suit the season or your mood.

Garden #2


The next garden along the street was this Tudor tucked behind a richly planted front garden.


A pot of nasturtiums picks up the red of a Japanese maple by the door.


Amid a shade garden of golden yews and hostas, a painted metal bird adds a whimsical note.


Following a side path through the front garden, you reach a wooden screen and wrought-iron gate offering peek-a-boo views into the back garden. A dining patio shaded by a yellow umbrella…


…is framed by a small lawn and lush, leafy garden.


Pat Webster of Site & Insight was working the scene too. Pat is a Quebec blogger, first-time Flinger, and talented photographer. Check out her blog for beautiful pictures and thoughtful writing about artful design.


Below the lawn, a sunken, circular stone patio overlooks Grenadier Pond. That’s Andrea of Grow Where You’re Planted on the left and Laurin and Shawn of Ravenscourt Gardens on the right, fellow Texans all. I’m afraid I can’t recall who the man in the yellow shirt is. The man in the yellow shirt is the garden’s designer, Steven Aikenhead. (Thanks for the info, Helen.)


Colorful geraniums (Pelargonium) brighten the edge of the patio.


Looking outward, here is the lovely view. A gazebo at the lower level makes an appealing destination.


Wooden wind chimes hang from a tree.


The stacked stone steps into the lower garden are beautifully crafted, twisting and turning down the steep hillside.


The gazebo offers a shady spot to admire the picturesque pond for a few moments before climbing back up.

Garden #3


The third garden, on a corner lot bordered by two streets, does not enjoy an overlook of the pond and must create its own views. This large flowering viburnum enticed me over.


A classic scene, including a boxwood parterre and a garden arbor, presented itself in the back garden. The boxwood had taken a hit during last winter’s severe cold and was still showing browned foliage. We saw similar evergreen damage all over town during the Fling. I felt for the gardeners, who I was sure had fretted over it. But as we know, the show must go on.


A long deck along one side of the garden overlooks the parterre. At the end, a charming shed terminates the view and stretches into the garden via a columned arbor.


A retaining wall is dressed up with a planted fountain.


A bench anchors the far end of the garden, tucked amid borders of lush foliage.


Andrea admiring a variegated hosta in a row of alliums


A massive rhododendron was blooming in the long border. I like the way it harmonizes with the burgundy Japanese maple in the back corner.

Coming up next: A visit to the home garden of floral designer and micro-farmer Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard.

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