Secret hideaways with your choice of hovering rain umbrellas, pink flamingoes or a sparkling chandelier overhead. Old bed frames in new flower beds, a canoe filled with cannas and a loo with a view (made extra panoramic by the absence of a door). These were just some of the surprises awaiting us on a recent tour hosted by Frank Kershaw for the Toronto Botanical Gardens. But the most surprising of all is that all of the above and much more DIY garden sculpture, seating and decor ideas were part of a single remarkable country garden.
After having been introduced to Grimsby Beach’s “painted ladies” (coming up soon in a future post), and strolled through a gorgeous garden along the Niagara escarpment, Frank had saved this garden for our last stop on the tour. Deep in Southwestern Ontario farm country, the garden had to be approached on foot down a long, unpaved country lane. Our big bus had to stay parked on the main road. Just as well. Walking up the lane meant that the garden’s quirkiness crept up on you wonderfully. Here’s what I saw:
BEDS IN THE BEDS AND BICYCLES, TOO
Nearing the top of the long dirt road that led to the house and garden, I did a double take. In a large flower bed that bordered one side of the road, old metal bed frames were discreetly doing triple duty as found art, plant supports and visual pun. It started to dawn on me that this wasn’t going to be your average garden. The bicycle/plant containers clinched it. The more you looked around, the more you discovered found art and DIY garden sculpture sprinkled everywhere. This was a very personal garden reflecting the gardener’s vibrant personality and sense of humour.
SHADY HIDEAWAYS FOR EVERY MOOD
Different seating areas, each one uniquely designed and decorated, were situated to take advantage of a special view or setting. Even a dense conifer grove had been transformed into a “secret mystery” hideaway that looked rather ominous thanks to an archway of branches and black rain umbrellas hung overhead like a flock of large crows.
As I wandered around the gardens, down rolling lawns and around groupings of shrubs and trees, other seating areas would reveal themselves, each with its own allure. An elegant, chandelier-lit shelter looked just right for tea, a funky farm-inspired nook looked perfect for a picnic lunch and a seating area with just two chairs under a dome of arches, rocking a pink flamingo theme, seemed poised for sunset cocktails.
Some shelters were relied upon for more specific roles. The dog house was a real conversation starter, no dog required. And the loo, kitted out with wash basin, soap and hand towel, had all the luxuries of an indoor facility save one–a door. As the owner pointed out, you are in the country! Why not take advantage of the view?
GARDEN SCULPTURE AND PLANT CONTAINERS REDEFINED
Bits and pieces were recycled or up-cycled with an artistic eye for drama and display.
Some of the garden art stood out for being, well, normal. But these pieces only seemed to add contrast to the collection, underlining the deeply personal theme that ran throughout the garden.
Not sure whether you’d call these panels, fences or trellises but, together, they introduced another theme that was repeated throughout the garden.
EVEN PLANTS PLAY AN ARTISTIC ROLE
Even plants themselves were pushed into the service of art. A living plant basket is made from woven willow branches that have rooted. A chessboard of succulents is hidden behind a grouping of shrubs.
I’ve had a very busy two weeks (hence no posts for the last little while). I got carried away with marathon plant shopping expeditions, installing two new flower beds and enjoying this, the first garden tour of the season. With all the DIY garden sculpture, seating and decor ideas from this memorable country garden, I think I’ve got an even busier gardening season ahead.