Thursday, June 16, 2011

Through The Garden Gate

Every June the Toronto Botanical Gardens organizes a public tour of private residential gardens, the tour is called Through The Garden Gate.  Each year a different neighborhood is selected and tickets holders have the opportunity to wander thru dozens of beautifully designed outdoor spaces.  Some are professionally designed, but not all, some are just the glorious results of enthusiastic gardeners and proud homeowners.  In the past the tour has always taken place on Father's Day weekend, except for this year,,,,,this year they moved the tour up one week and, because of this switcheroo, I totally missed it this year. : (

I know alot of you might roll your eyes and think oh *boring*,  garden tour,,,,that sounds about as exciting as bird watching - but honestly, its fantastic I promise you!  You know what its like to drive down a street that you love and gaze at all the beautiful houses, you always have a favorite or two,,,,and how thrilling it is to actually get a glimpse of the inside thru a window.  Its like that but waaay better - they invite you in!!   And I can tell you,,,you could never imagine the spectacular settings privately hidden away behind their garden gates.  This is a rare opportunity to wander thru the private backyard properties of homes in some of the city's most covetted neighborhoods - its an incredible way to spend an afternoon and you'll walk away with loads of inspiration for your own outdoor space no matter how big or small it may be.  Some homeowners even welcome you to take a peek indoors too.  The participants take so much pride in their home, (it shows!) they are thoroughly excited and eager to show it off.

The first time I went on the garden tour it was in the trendy neighborhood of Riverdale in Toronto's east end.  Characterized by its charming century homes and lush street lined streets....the tour left such an impression on me I still dream about the beautiful outdoor spaces I saw that day.  I was stunned at the lush settings that secretly existed behind these gates.  Here's a look at some of my favorite details.

I wish I could find my notes from the tour, this century home has been featured in publications but I don't have the deets.  Its pretty easy to fall in love with this house just from the curb, but the backyard is to die for!!!

My favorite backyard of all was this one, it was almost impossible to believe you were in the middle of the city it was so dense with greenery, it really was like an oasis.  There was no grass, just stone pathways and gorgeous plant beds amongs humongous old trees.  The bbq and dining area seen above were on one side of the back yard and on the other...

was this lagoon like pool - it was so natural looking with the rock waterfall and stone perimeter.  There was an upper lounge area, a hot tub at the top of a rock waterfall and a pool house/cabana.  I literally did not want to leave this backyard and could barely, barely contain myself from jumping in.

Look closely, this is a brilliant detail.   Both little decks are cantilievered off the house, this means the windows aren't buried beneath a closed in deck. 

Decks don't always have to made from wood......(but you should always have a guardrail!)

My next favorite backyard, this classic city yard that's long and narrow, but with this pool and cabana it was pure luxury.  I loved, loved, loved it.  And if you think the pool took up all the backyard space.....

it didn't....there were two upper level decks and... a patio area to the left of this image.  This has me wanting a long narrow backyard.

Not one of the tour participants but I loved this steel front door, light fixture, mailbox, door bell.  Beautifully done.

I loved the modern simplicity of this light fixture and house number combo.

These houses weren't participating in the tour but I would have awarded them top prize for curb appeal.  This is simply perfect.  The fact that this is a semi-detached is house is incredible.  Imagine two homeowners in total agreement and unity on the front entrance design of their attached houses. An impossibly rare venture.  Everything about this is perfection to me, the colour, the symmetry, the house numbers, the door matts, discreet screen doors, the antique brass hardware, the potted globes. The entire composition is a wonderful modern approach to a century home. Impressive.

Stepping into this yard was like being instantly transported to Muskoka.

Pea gravel driveway : )

Black mulch.  I love how green foilage and flowers look with black.  A very sophisticated look perfect for chic urban gardens.

Alternative to fence boards, Asian inspired fencing and garden.

Layering texture and colour.

As far as decking and fencing goes,,,,,nothing beat this place!  The fencing and shade structure details were simply stunning.  (Also see top photo of rolling door)

Beautifully designed joinery details.

Screen detail along one side of the deck.

Built-in bbq and counters.

Lovely : )

View from the bbq area, the structure design is amazing.  I particularly loved the colour of all the fencing and decking, it was semi-opaque grey stain.  Some areas darker than others.

Fence detail...

close up detail of the fence and stain.  Even the fasteners are specifically placed.

Beautiful stone and pea pea gravel walkway

Moving on to another garden,,,,interesting glass screens.

Unfortunately the garden gates are already CLOSED for this year but I hope you enjoyed my photo tour from the past.   I'm sorry I missed the event last weekend and that I didn't anticipate getting this post up a couple of weeks ago so you could have had the chance to go too if you hadn't heard of it already.  Its an annual event so anyone in the Toronto area should mark your calendars for next year to be sure you don't miss it.  We're really planning our exterior spaces much like our interior rooms so it really is a treat to peek in on these outdoor living environments, its so much more than just gardening.  Outside of Toronto, if you ever have the opportunity to attend any local garden tour I highly recommend it, it will overwhelm you with inspiration.  

All Photos:  Carol Reed


  1. I laughed when you mentioned rolling of eyes....that certainly wouldn't be me, because open garden weekends are the most heavenly ones possible in my book! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, to get sneak peaks of private gardens, so wherever we have lived I have always gone to these events.

    That pergola with the interesting notching detail is just glorious. The fit is so snug, obviously built by a decent carpenter. And I also love lapping the rafters to both sides of the post like that - a detail I often do myself. A bit more material used in the process, but oh what a glorious effect it has from both sides of the structure.

  2. Virginia I KNOW,,,isn't it the BEST. I wish there were more tours here, I'd go every weekend if I could. I actually thought of you when I was posting these pics, thinking how much you would appreciate some of the detail. No doubt in my mind if you lived in TO I would have run into you on the tour! (I actually spotted a couple of local designers.) And yes,,we received some raised eyebrows from friends and family when we told them we were going on a *garden tour*. They just don't get it. Really,,,who doesn't LOVE to peak at other people's spaces??

  3. Does anyone know what kind of stain was used. Thanks

  4. CarolReedInteriorDesignNovember 22, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    Sorry Rick this was from quite some time ago and I don't have any information of the type of stain or stain colours used on any of the garden structures. The only thing I can suggest is show one of the photos to someone in a paint store or paint department and ask them to recommend a product. ~ C

  5. Ok, thanks for your quick response..

  6. This is the one of the best and informatic blogspot i ever seen.thanks for such a nice and unique content with many tips , ideas and guide to other traveler.Thanks again.


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