On Saturday I attended the first ever Long Branch by the Lake Garden Tour, in the south west part of Toronto. Shortly after stepping out of the car, on my way to visit the first garden, I overheard one neighbour, out walking her dog, say to another “You know, I think it’s really weird to go into other people’s gardens.” Thankfully, the fourteen homeowners that participated in this inaugural tour didn’t share her strange opinion (I can only assume she wasn’t much of a gardener!)
Long Branch is a neighbourhood in transition–many of the older small bungalows on generous lots are being replaced by estate-style homes, and, all too often, the lots are being split and two large homes shoe-horned onto the lot. It’s raised concerns about the city’s planning process. With the variety of homes, though, come a tremendous variety of gardens and gardening styles:
The one thing that all of the gardens had in common were friendly owners! Without exception, we were warmly greeted. It was wonderful to see the community coming together to share their gardens and raise funds for their neighbourhood community health centre.
The tour was the brainchild of two community members, one of which is my friend Sheila Gregory (pictured here, with husband Eugene Knapik, in front of their canoe garden):
I’ve toured through a lot of gardens, including the marvelous eclectic homes that participate in Garden Walk Buffalo, but Sheila and Eugene’s garden is the most unique one I’ve ever been in. The two of them are artists, and it certainly shows, not only in the whimsical accents liberally dispersed throughout the garden, but also in the way they combine plants. Here is a small sampling:
With all of the construction going on in the neighbourhood, I heard that some visitors were planning to copy Sheila and Eugene’s trick of hanging camouflage netting to mask the view. Here, it forms a great backdrop for this amazing bear mosaic that Sheila and Eugene created:
This style of garden isn’t for everyone, but the lesson I take from it is that the more of your personality you pour into your garden, the more interesting it is. Stepping outside what’s considered a ‘normal’ garden in your area takes boldness, but I think it pays off. I remember when I first started to rip up my front lawn and put in perennials. A fellow from down the street, who rarely speaks to anyone, ventured over, cigarette in hand. “Those won’t last you know. People will take them.” Well, I decided I was going to try anyway, and persisted. Thirteen years later I think I have a pretty neat garden. And yes, a few plants were taken–but that was one woman with a problem (some day I’ll tell the story of the plant thief here)–and it didn’t happen until almost a decade after my neighbour’s warning. Yes, I think it was worth the risk.
But back to the rest of the garden tour. Here is a small selection of moments where gardener’s personalities and creativity really shone through to me:
Judging by the success of this first Long Branch by the Lake Garden Tour, I doubt it will be the last! If you enjoyed these photos please check back on the blog in early August when I plan to profile some of the gardens from this year’s Garden Walk Buffalo. That tour encompasses a few hundred gardens so I think I’d better charge up my camera batteries!
If you have a garden tour in your area I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity–after all, it’s not every day you get invited to walk through other people’s private gardens.