Crisscrossing paths lead, well, nowhere in particular. There isn’t a blade of grass. The home’s rain gutter flows into drain pipes that spill into a rock garden/work of art. And trees aren’t necessarily alive to be considered useful and a thing of beauty. This is a front yard that stops you in your tracks.
There’s always a showpiece on any garden tour that stands out, getting people talking and cameras/cell phones snapping. As part of Toronto Botanical Gardens’ recent Through The Garden Gate tour, this garden was it. Defying conventional front yard structure (no lawn, no foundation plantings, no formal flower beds), the whole space was sectioned into small mounded islands of plants, rocks, tree stumps, trellises and sculptures by soft paths made of gravel, stones, and various kinds of mulch. Two rain gutters at one side of the house drained into twin dry creeks. A very dead tree was left to stand, forcing viewers to recognize that it was still beautiful and important to the garden. Though one might be quick to categorize this garden as an example of xeriscaping, it’s much more about questioning the traditional looks and purpose of suburban front yards and coming up with some surprising, inspiring answers. Click on any photo for more details.
Viewing the garden from the foot of the driveway, you are invited into a maze of soft paths that meander around islands of plants, rocks, and more.
Looking across the front of the house from the driveway, you can see several of the paths dissecting the yard into islands of interest.
Mature trees throw shade onto the garden, adding another dimension of shapes. The tall trees also ensure this yard doesn’t fall into the category of desert garden.
Another view of the front yard, looking across towards the driveway. The front of the house is to the right of the photo. You can see the variety of rocks and plants used as much for texture as for colour.
More conventional garden accessories like this trellis supporting a clematis stand out in this garden of earthy surprises.
Rain water collected from the home’s gutters spill out into a tranquil rock garden.
The drain pipe at the front corner of the house empties into a rock garden that is also fed by a drain pipe farther back along the side of the house.
The rock garden includes pebbles arranged as a dry creek bordering a mulched path.
The two drain pipes are visually linked by dry creeks, one made of white stones, the other of blue.
A view across the front yard towards the driveway, showing how contrasting mulches of bark, shredded leaves and gravel make a standard-sized front yard appear to be much bigger and certainly more interesting.
A tree is left in place after dying, still adding beauty but in a much more unconventional way.
Many of the plants used in the garden are native to Southern Ontario but the main focus is on creating a riot of textures and unexpected colour.
Contrasting colours and textures rule in this garden making flowers all the more eye-catching.
Stumps and pieces of dead wood are used as sculpture and plant containers, taking the idea of recycling to a new level.