Amazing garden design ideas popped up everywhere I turned while on a couple of garden tours held recently (July 9 – 10, 2022) in and around one of my favourite Canadian small towns–Gananoque, Ontario. This vibrant and very scenic town, situated where the Gananoque River meets the great St. Lawrence River with its Thousand Islands, celebrated a group of visionary and seemingly untiring resident gardeners. (Shown above are views of the front entrance and back patio of the charming Woodview Inn, a participant in the Gananoque tour.) Nearby Mallorytown also held a garden tour on the same weekend with even more imaginative gardeners transforming their yards into very personal expressions of garden style and humour. Here are 9 garden design ideas from the tours. I couldn’t fit all the terrific ideas I saw in one post so there will be more to come in future postings.
Turn a garden bed into a display
This large garden in a woodland setting featured a small wooden deck that morphed into a pathway, mulch instead of grass and a very large garden bed that flipped conventional bed planting design upside down. An eye-catching assortment of plant containers and sculptures make for a whole lot of visual interest with plants large and small reaching new heights.
Pack style and uses into a small garden
This small urban garden was packed with gorgeous space-maximizing ideas. The over-reaching philosophy was that loads of plants–annuals and perennials, ornamental trees, mosses and succulents– don’t have to result in an overcrowded garden. Instead, corralling large collections of plants into delineated spaces such as bordered beds lends a calmness without having to compromise on lushness. Taking up about a third of the back garden, a pond and covered seating area make an inviting oasis. The deck is slightly raised to give the illusion of floating over a larger pond. On the far side of the seating platform (shown far right), chic double doors belie the fact that they allow access to a small tool shed.
And put your side strip to good use, too
Gardening ideas for that long, narrow strip of garden on the side of a house can be hard to conjure but the owners of the tiny, urban garden featured above made their side garden just as appealing and hard working as their back garden. Along the shadier side bordered by a fence, a variety of shade-tolerant hostas adds a reigned-in variety of texture. On the sunnier side, raised beds are used for both edibles and ornamentals. A clematis-covered arch creates a stunning entrance into the back garden. A small, wooden platform adds to the entrance-making aspect while bridging a shallow gravel bed that works as a rain-water run-off.
Include a best-dressed scarecrow
Who says scarecrows have to be scary? Sometimes they can be downright stylish. These two scarecrows–or are they well-dressed garden sculptures?–discovered in two different gardens, have a shared purpose. They both add a touch of humour and a great dollop of personal flair to their respective gardens.
Paint your plants
Plant a sea of hostas
The couple who created this magical woodland garden have amassed over 2000 hosta plants. Wandering amongst the beds was mind-boggling. But what I loved most about this very large garden was the wonderful more-is-more theme. The bed of hostas shown above was enormous, crammed full of plants, giving the impression that you were overlooking a sea of leafy waves throwing out sprays of flowers.
Build it and they will come
A covered seating area is a must-have for any garden. This spectacular garden, set in a forest and overlooking a tree-shaded rocky ravine complete with picturesque creek, offers two covered entertaining areas. The larger building is furnished with a dining table and chairs and boasts a bar area. The elegant gazebo, complete with curtains, welcomes guests with plush chairs set off by a patterned rug. I’m sure these gardeners must have friends and family begging to hang out in their garden.
Recycle those empties
At two different gardens, I saw empty wine bottles being put to good use as surreal garden decor.
Make some magic
A large tree, uprooted during a storm, inspired one gardener to innovate with magical results. The exposed underside of the tree’s stump became the entrance to a fairy home, complete with front door and welcome sign. On the other side, under one side of the tree’s trunk, tiny toy figures give the impression there’s wee folk at home.