September 9, 2013

Surprising Toronto Gardens

Garden designer David Leeman, provided a tour of some of Toronto's hidden, and not so hidden garden delights. Such as this unique sculpture at the Evergreen Brick Works, a community environmental space. This massive sculpture by Ferruccio Sardell demonstrated virtually Toronto's ravine, river and creek network. Water runoff from the roof, drains down various outlets and pipework, creating a living sculpture.

Barry Parker's Toronto Garden

Even though I travel often, there are a few North American cities which have somehow remained off of my itinerary, and this past weekend, I finally was able to check Toronto off of that short list of un-explored North American cities (leaving, perhaps only Austin, TX and Salt Lake City). Nine months ago,I received an invitation to speak from the Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society , a very knowledgeable and active chapter of NARGS (the North American Rock Garden Society), to speak on winter blooming bulbous plants for the cold greenhouse. I accepted ( even though this month of September has become totally booked with speaking engagements - something I will never do again).

My weekend in Toronto was exciting, blissful, and packed with meeting new friends, many gardens and having a delightful time with my hosts ( Thanks Bella, Barbara and Shakie! I don't know how you ever sleep!)  Here are a few of my images from the first day.

Another image from the Don Valley Brick Works Park. The Weston Quarry Garden.

Don Valley Brick Work Park

Another view of the Weston Quarry Garden walkway at the Don Valley Brick Works Park.

I also visited some private gardens in Toronto. My visit started off on Friday, with a visit to fellow blogger - Barry Parker's  garden. Barry was traveling to South Africa ( I think!), but garden designer David Leeman was more than happy to tour me around this, and some of his other secret spots around Toronto.

Some alpine troughs in Barry's garden

David Leeman's creative eye expressed through arranged pots of Mediterranean herbs

Japanese maple cuttings in Barry's garden

Toronto transport

I had to take this photo for Joe - Finally, a bar that served serious bourbon and Rye. It's where David and I had lunch.

The garden of Barry Parker with some help from David Leeman

Barry's agave collection. I bet this helps keep the raccoon's off of the roof!

A sunny colored dark leaved Dahlia in Bella and Barbara's garden

The stunning garden of garden designers Barbara Cooper and Bella Seiden - my hosts.

If this Roscoea is hardy in Barbara and Bella's  Toronto garden, I can hardly wait until next year to add some to mine.
Check out this red Roscoea - so tropical, yet hardy.
Barbara and Bella had many Clematis, each one trained to a cedar post with wire wrapped around it.
Another inspiration I will need to use in my own garden next year.


  1. 1) ok so what do those torontans do with that agave collection when the snows come?

    2) oops! now i have to go back to my landscaper and add a pluot, a plumcot a.....to my must-have list. thx for clearing up a lot of things in that post!

    3) i'm remembering you've spent time in hawaii....(i make rice like kulia does) my mother (from there) always talked about the night blooming cereus when i was growing up in the midwest so they are kind of mythical to me. but then i also remember, there is a hedge of them i think outside of punahou school where obama grew up. something for anyone headed to hawaii to consider. whether they will be blooming.....is another thing

  2. Thank you for posting these interesting pictures. Although I live in Ontario and have been a member of this chapter of NARGS for over 25 years, I live three and a half hours from Toronto and cannot attend meetings. I am sure Barbara and Bella took good care of you.

  3. The gardens are wonderful esp. all the gravel — something few private U.S. gardens ever seem to use. Last night my husband and I stopped at our favorite old Italian cafe/bar to enjoy a couple of flights of whiskey: ryes and wheat. Great whiskey bars are more rare here in Wisconsin, the land of brandy. There is one in Milwaukee simply called The Whiskey Bar in case you are ever there.

  4. I am drooling over that red roscoea. Some people have great success with them in Michigan as well, but I have never been able to make them grow well.

  5. Matt:
    Glad you made it to Toronto. Barry's garden is one that I have yet to visit [shame on me] I worked with Bella and Barbara during my tenure at Lost Horizons and am not surprised to see that sublime red Roscoea [Red Gherkin if I am correct - but rare to find here in Canada - probably from Lost Horizons again.... a rare and unusual woodland plant nursery in Acton, On] among their treasures! Hope your talk was a hit....

  6. Hey Barry, you are correct- the Roscoea is 'Red Gherkin' ( or I am 99% sure!). I remember them mentioning the name, but I forgot to note it. It's stunning in the garden - in fact, they all were nice garden plants. I can only remember seeing them at Kew in the alpine house, and frankly, I don't recall them being so tall and strong. I still question how hardy they are in my New England garden, but I am up for a try.

    1. Matt - Do give the Roscoea a try..... I am 5a, slightly colder winter than Toronto and I have had them now for four years. No winter protection to speak of other than a load of shredded oak leaves I put on the bed for fall...... truly a wonderful addition for colour this time of year!

  7. Hi Matt,
    I was, indeed, in South Africa when you visited, it was a fantastic visit especially when we got to Namaqualand. Sorry to have missed you, but maybe next time?
    The Roscoea you mentioned is, I'm pretty sure, 'Red Gherker'.


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