Local legend has it that people used to say, “If you don’t live on a street with a tree name, you don’t live in the Beach.” You’ll see plenty of those tree streets on this year’s Beach Garden Tour. Organized by the Beach Garden Society, it takes place on the afternoon of Sunday, June 16.
The tour focuses on the neighbourhood around Willow, Pine and Balsam, with its large, leafy trees, quiet streets, quaint old houses and – as always – gardens as unique as their owners.
In one breathtaking ravine garden, the air is filled with birdsong floating up from the trees that cover the slope dropping off at the back of the property. The garden drops down, too, from a civilized patio with a sunburst table surrounded by garden art to a pretty gazebo and picturesque hammock a bit farther from the house. After that, a barely tamed wilderness of trails and benches where Neville the coyote and his family hide themselves.
Just a few streets away lies a charming artist’s garden behind a home built with bricks from the great Toronto fire of 1904. It’s been in the family for three generations, and today’s version mixes shade with dappled sunlight.
Though it’s on mostly level ground, viewing points are everywhere. The newly seeded driveway (yes, you read that right) leads to a romantic trellis covered with a ‘Moonlight’ climbing hydrangea. Step aside on the driveway to admire the sight of the Japanese maple framed by the trellis.
Stop again and look at the side of the house to see if the native lady’s slipper orchid (fancy botanical name: Cypripedium regina) is in bloom. This gardener is no plant-snatcher, though. All these wildings were rescued from country road scrapings, the owner says. “Machines come and scrape everything away, right down to the dirt,” she explains.
Thick, lush plantings are everywhere – a host of hostas, a poetry of Japanese maples. What’s her secret? Water and worm castings – 14 bags of them added this year.
Even small-sized gardens shine on the tour. One set of owners gave their typical long, narrow back yard a complete makeover. Now, a winding promenade leads through hostas, a redtwig dogwood, PG hydrangea and other carefully chosen plants to a nearly hidden seating area.
Rather than the usual towering deck, they chose to install a stone patio tucked between house and garden. “I like the intimate feel of it,” says the French-born owner. And, seeing it, who could argue with her?
Come into the Gardens…
Sunday, June 16, 1 to 5 p.m.
Self-guided tour of 16 gardens
Tickets $10 each
Available at Trinity Gallery II, 920 Kingston Rd., Cool Green & Shady, 601 Kingston Rd. unit 105, Pet Valu, 2210 Queen St. E., East of Eliza, 1960 Gerrard St. E. and Bill’s Garden Centre, 903 Pape Ave.
Mary Fran McQuade is a hobby gardener, Beach Metro News gardening columnist and Beach Garden Society member.