Installation continually in progress!

Note: It is a challenge to document gardens, since they naturally unfold over the course of the seasons: no one moment is definitive. Also, by their very nature, they are open to myriad ways of experiencing at any one time, and just as naturally, they change and evolve over the season and over years, never attaining a static “perfect” state. Finally: Most projects are collaborations between the client, the designer, and the site, with its constraints and opportunities.

Backyard Makeover: Woodland

Large Maple in uninspiring lawn

Removal of the lawn opened opportunities for planting native under-story shrubs and small trees. What had been a flat area of lawn was contoured with a series of low berms to create natural pathways between planting areas. Overall result: more pleasure and interest, less maintenance work. The new paved patio in the middle of the garden is one destination on the various curving paths.

Woodland garden

iris at curving path

destination in secluded corner

Back yard makeover: Pool

Narrow planting area dominated by fence

In this project, the entire back yard was newly planted following the installation of a pool. The garden had to be low-maintenance for clients with children and busy lives. To get maximum impact in limited planting space, we chose shrubs and perennials that would look good when the pool was most in use. Plants were also included to provide fragrance, like the daphne and sweet autumn clematis in this section.

Daphne Carol Mackie, Limelight Hydrangea, Hosta, Hakonechloa mara “Aureola,” Clematis Terniflora

Dogwood Elegantissima, Japanese maple Crimson Queen, climbing Hydrangea and overhanging Blue Spruce

Sunny front garden:

Cornus rutgersensis, boxwoods, Siberian iris, Japanese Shirasawanum maple

Using several small trees and shrubs at curbside we created a stunning street display for the neighbourhood, while a more sheltered space close to the house was given privacy for family use. These plantings are about 6 years old in this photo.

Front garden, small renovation:

An unpromising, steeply sloped site

The access to the front yard of this downtown home was perpetually messy and in need of rethinking. The site posed several difficulties: it was very overgrown with deeply entrenched perennial weeds; and it was steep with a heavy clay soil prone to hardening into cement in hot, dry weather. The limited budget meant that the old concrete stairs and walkway had to stay and be integrated into the new design.

The solution: Turning the slope into an asset by building a rock/gravel garden. This would allow the stairs and walkway to be an integral part of the design, giving them a new lease on life. The rocks chosen were Owen Sound limestone, with a warm smooth surface and a colour and texture that harmonized with the aging concrete. The elimination of the perennial weeds and the removal of heavy, poorly drained clay necessitated working around the roots of the mature maple. Then drainage gravel was installed to ensure a free-draining soil for the rock garden plantings.

New garden in its first spring season

Front yard Makeover:

Before installation work

This front yard was virtually a blank slate: a flat expanse of weedy lawn. It posed several difficulties: there was a steep two-foot drop just at the driveway, reflecting the change in grade over the width of the property, and the lot was an irregular shape, almost triangular, leaving most of the yard fully exposed to the road.

The solution: an evergreen hedge was placed  to separate the exterior, public face of the property, from an interior, private garden space with a small gravel patio, rose garden, shade garden and dry stream bed. Interupting the hedge, two brick piers supporting a salvaged antique gate (ca. 1900) were placed to lend drama to the site.
View from interior private garden in first year

Planting to use light to best advantage:

Chasmanthium latifolium and Liatris spicata "Kobold"

Siberian iris

Perennial Gardens:

Iris and Allium in perennial garden

Semi-shade garden with wonderful foliage of Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford'

Mid-winter Interest:

Don’t forget, Toronto can have 5 months of colder weather and few blooms. But it can still be thrilling in the garden:

Miscanthus in winter

Ornamental grasses and interesting seed heads remain through the winter when their subtle colours and dramatic textures provide pleasure.

trellis ironwork and clematis ternifolia

We work with local craftspeople to design custom ironwork for clients’ gardens.

garden with peony and iris

neglected corner transformed with clematis, hydrangeas, hosta and secret path

Perennial garden in July

We also work with established gardens to bring new excitement to plantings: Here, bringing some bright colour to flagging mid-summer borders by adding summer bulbs like lilies and agapanthus.

Sunny border, drought tolerant, low-maintenance

sun-baked garden with yellow yarrow and rugosa rose

Japanese theme: Willow and Iris

Pruning Small Trees: For all larger pruning work, we work closely with a certified, experienced arborist.

Japanese Maple Bloodgood

Even small trees, like this Bloodgood Japanese maple, can begin to crowd other plants in the garden. Here major branches have been pruned away to allow more light to penetrate, but also to improve the silhouette of the tree itself. Such editing can be used to highlight the natural shape of the tree.

Xeriscape gardens:

Stonecrop, Stachys byzantina, Juniper, and creeping thyme in gravel garden

Several cubic yards of sand and free-draining soil ammendments were added to make this sun-baked front exposure suitable for drought-tolerant plantings. Junipers, sage, ornamental grasses, iris, sedum, thyme and the lovely soft “Big Ears” Stachys byz. harmonize in foliage colour while giving satisfying contrasts of texture.

Rock garden with drought tolerant iris, lavender and rock cress

Stone work: Dry-stacked natural retaining walls

Matching the existing stonework, four new retaining walls were built of recycled Credit Valley Sandstone. The dry-stack technique highlights the natural properties of the stone. The walls create new planting areas for a steeply sloped site with heavy clay subsoil exposed, on which few plants could become established. Despite the woodland ravine setting, no significant topsoil developed because of erosion. The walls structure the hillside and help retain the rich organic soil brought in for the new plants. The woodland-style garden is planted with ferns, rhododendrons, and hostas, supplemented with several ground-covers and spring-blooming ephemerals. The planting is deliberately simple, relying on textures rather than blooms. The colour palette is also restricted, with white or yellow variegation in leaves used extremely sparingly.