Storybook garden on Algonquin Island: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling

Tell me this doesn’t look like a Thomas Kinkade painting, but in the best sense — light gleaming in the window of a picturesque cottage — without the kitsch. With rain clouds darkening the sky, this was the last island garden I visited (see my Toronto Islands post for an overview) during the Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling.

Foliage, not flowers, dominates the scene, but there’s plenty of color: wine reds, golden yellows, emerald greens.

A small, curvy deck offers a welcoming invitation with two mustard-yellow Adirondacks and floral pillows.

I love the color.

I caught Margaret (Homegrown – Adventures in my Garden) and Joanne (Down2Earth) on a bench nearby, enjoying the garden.

Looking across the front garden — no lawn, just low shrubs and perennials accented with Japanese maples, all under the shade of a large tree — you catch a glimpse of an umbrella-shaded dining table.

Moseying around back, I stopped to admire a white clematis in the narrow side garden. It looks especially pretty against the teal blue of the neighboring house.

As you enter the back garden you see a small pond, with plenty of seating nearby to enjoy it.

Low-maintenance shrubs and dwarf Japanese maples surround the pond, offering lovely foliage color and texture.

Azalea, sweet woodruff, and Japanese forest grass make a pretty combo along one side of the pond.

The rest of the back garden is centered around a small lawn, backed by what looks like a guest house. Rich red and golden leaves create a colorful canopy.

Heading back to the front garden, I came upon the dining set I’d spied across the front garden earlier. Set on a rustic stone patio and surrounded by verdant foliage, it has the feel of a secret hideaway.

Lush ferns…

…and fun garden art add to the ambience.

What a beautiful garden — and a perfect way to end a tour of the Toronto Islands.

Coming up next: A contemporary garden in Forest Hill, one of Toronto’s tony neighborhoods. For a look back at Jeannie Parker’s But-a-Dream garden on Algonquin Island, 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.

Island hopping, Toronto-style: Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling

Seventy garden bloggers boarded a ferry earlier this month and were transported from bustling downtown Toronto (pictured above) to the idyllic lanes of the Toronto Islands (below), a mere 15 minutes across Lake Ontario but seemingly a world away.

This was the last tour on our first day of the Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling, and we were treated to a preview visit of the islanders’ private gardens, which would be open for a public tour the following weekend (June 6-7).

First we were herded together for our official Fling portrait, with the spectacular Toronto skyline in the distance. Then, with maps in hand, we were set loose, free to wander at will between Ward’s and Algonquin Islands, which are connected by a footbridge.

The islands are said to be the largest urban car-free community in North America. Traffic-free lanes lead to densely built cottages, where bikes are parked beside every door.

Bicycles with trailers are the transport of choice for residents and visitors alike. I saw these on the ferry as well.

Of course one could always sail over from Toronto.

Ownership of one of the 262 homes on the islands is coveted and strictly limited. Due to a government settlement over a land dispute, homeownership on the islands really amounts to a 99-year lease on the property and ownership of the structure only, not the land. Those wanting to buy in must sign up on a waiting list of 500 names and be prepared to wait approximately 35 years for a spot to open.

Happily, anyone can visit the islands and stroll or bike around to see the charming cottages. Everything, even construction and landscaping materials, must be brought in on bike or non-motorized cart, we were told, and trash goes out the same way, so islanders tend to be creative recyclers in their garden decor.

Gardens that were open to us were marked on our map, but many others could be enjoyed from the lanes.

As we strolled around, friendly islanders working in their gardens sometimes invited us in, even if they weren’t officially on the preview tour. This rear garden was in full spring glory (even though it was June!) with golden chain tree and alliums.

More alliums — the official flower of the Toronto Fling, by the reckoning of head planner Helen Battersby. I’d have to agree. They were everywhere.

Dark purple tulips, nearly black, harmonized nicely.

Tulip and allium combo

This house was nearly swallowed up by vines.

But its twin, nearby, was stunning, with double orange poppies echoing the color of the front door.

This one looked like a fairy tale cottage in the woods.

Small lots mean creative gardening — and a lot of container gardening.

This one pulled off a secret garden vibe.

Variegated lilac blossom

I tried to guess what this arbor was made of. It looked like metal mesh baskets wired together.

Next to the harbor, yellow sail covers on the sailboats serendipitously matched yellow iris blooming around a massive old tree stump.

Lilacs and iris beckoned me into this garden.

It was lovely.

I admired these glass dragonflies buzzing around a chartreuse-leaved hosta.

Porch pots

Bucking the island’s cottage-garden trend, this back garden was formally designed and centered around a circular pool.

Rhododendrons and spirea were showy that week, appearing in many Toronto gardens we visited.

But only the islanders get to enjoy this view — and we lucky visitors.

Coming up next: A tour of But-a-Dream, the garden of Jeannie Parker on Algonquin Island. For a look back at Sarah Nixon’s urban farm and floral demonstration, click here.

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