Photos x9 by Jon Muldoon: Above, a Master Gardener’s yard is all about plants, including a succulent planter, below left, and plenty of sculpture and ornamentation, bottom left.; A large oak stands over a flowerbed and an enclosed vegetable patch, at top. Other highlights of this garden include raised beds, right, and old iron fencing used for tomato plants, below, both built by the owner.; Flowers and plants in a range of colours mark this Japanese-inspired garden, at top right and above. A simulated rock stream bed, above right, drains the home’s downspout.
The annual Beach Garden Tour is back this year on Fathers Day, June 19, from 1 to 5 p.m. This year’s tour shows off 13 local gardens that express the wide range of their owners’ individual personalities and interests. Here’s just a sample:
A passion for plants
This modest-size garden just a couple of blocks north of Kingston Road is a plant-lover’s delight. Even if you don’t know much about gardening, you’ll find lots to love. Pretty things include a Japanese waterfall-type maple near the entrance gate, a splendid large sambucus (elderberry) named ‘Sutherland Gold’, a seven-sons tree that flowers white in August and becomes red-tipped in fall, and a sturdy climbing hydrangea vine in the dining area.
The owner is a Master Gardener – she’s completed the study program open to anyone for certification – but she’s no garden snob. Many of her faves came from Canadian Tire or Home Depot. And she doesn’t fuss too much about design, either.
“When I go to a garden centre and see something I like, I get it,” she says.
Metal garden art complements the greenery: a free-standing silhouette of fir trees, a branching tree on the garage wall, a giant bulbous flower head and a set of shortish, curving rods topped with small globes. There’s even a discreet bare space for her big dog to use, near the small stone fountain.
You won’t see many veggies – most are up on the second-floor deck. Look for lettuce and kale edging the front beds, though, and the multi-level herb spiral in the backyard.
This gardener will be onsite during the tour to answer your questions and demonstrate how to shred leaves for compost and mulch. Check out her rainwater collection set-up, too. They’re all ideas you can take back to your own garden.
Love your dogs and garden, too
Just down the road a bit, you’ll come to a large corner lot with a stately oak overhead and a curved flower bed set in lush grass below. Continue around the corner and see … the vegetable cage. It’s in the sunniest spot in the yard, and every veggie grower will recognize the story behind it.
“I planted vegetable seeds in a regular bed last year and looked out my bedroom window the next morning to see six squirrels ploughing in it and laughing at me,” says one of the owners. He enjoys building outdoor improvements, so up went posts and chicken wire fencing and, later, a chicken wire top.
Along and outside the side fence stands his tomato patch. He designed and built the unusual plant supports using sections cut from an old iron fence that was in the house’s front yard and pieces of chain link fencing salvaged from a former back fence.
The gardens in the enclosed back and side yard were created with the owners’ two dogs in mind. Other people might build a dog run, but in this yard the dogs can play almost everywhere. It’s the flowers that are kept behind a see-through barrier the owner made of tempered glass sourced from an internet buy-and-sell site. Raised brick beds protect ornamental and edible plants from pounding paws and, at the same time, insulate the concrete walls of a workshop below the deck.
More tempered glass forms a roof over a storage area next to the house. Hand-built window boxes at the roof’s edge bring flowers up to sight-level from the kitchen window and help cut reflected sunlight. Count on this garden to spark your own creative solutions to common gardening problems.
Japanese-inspired artist’s garden
He wasn’t a gardener when he moved in, but the artist-owner of this house near the boardwalk jokes that he may end up creating a mini-Monet garden.
When he and his family moved into the new build, the tiered front yard was full of horrible builders’ clay that had to be dug out and replaced with proper soil. Since then, the owner has gradually created a beautifully balanced mix of perennials and evergreens, with just a few annuals to add spots of summer colour.
The owner’s mother is “a huge gardener,” he says, and he’s learned to garden from her and from walking around the neighbourhood and looking at other yards. He gives his mom credit for suggesting one of the key features of his own garden, a simulated rocky stream. It now does triple duty as a point of interest, a playground for his young son (see any toy dinosaurs?) and an area for rain runoff.
Look for his artist’s eye at work in the changes of texture in plants of the same colour: the flow of daylily foliage, the needles of evergreens and the small, furry leaves of ground cover thyme. Through the growing year the garden changes colour, too. Purples and pinks dominate now (note the peonies, iris and lilies), but yellows will take over later on. Already the shaggy golden hakonechloa (Japanese forest grass) brightens the palette. Quiet colour, a sense of peace and a place for quiet play – what more do you need?
Tour tickets are on sale now for $12 at East of Eliza, 1960 Gerrard East; Trinity Gallery, 920 Kingston Rd.; and Pippins Tea, 2098 Queen. Tickets will also be sold the day of the tour for $15.
Mary Fran McQuade’s gardening column appears regularly in Beach Metro News.