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Waterfront

me

Last week, we made the long drive back to Toronto to attend a formal dinner. Here I am, looking unaccustomedly polished. My regular wardrobe runs more to jeans. We enjoyed a pleasant evening, and the next morning we took a leisurely stroll along Toronto’s Harbourfront before heading home.

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It was a beautiful morning. Lake Ontario was calm, with just a bit of a swell rippling the water. Here’s the view out towards the Toronto Islands.

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Our destination was the Toronto Music Garden. The set of 6 connected gardens are based on an interesting concept, a physical interpretation of six dance movements within Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for unaccompanied cello, BWV 1007.

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The garden was designed through a collaboration of internationally renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma, landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy, and landscape architects from the City of Toronto’s Parks and Recreation department. The six dance movements represented are Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Minuets, and Gigue. You can read more about the Toronto Music Garden here.

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In the Courante garden, a spiral pathway leads you up to a central court accented with a maypole designed by Anne Roberts, Feir Mill Design Inc. The path swirls through a planting of monardas, grasses and flowers intended to attract birds and butterflies.

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Here’s the Music Pavillion fabricated by Tom Tollefson, architectural blacksmith. It looks out over a hillside that offers stepped seating for musical concerts, which are offered on summer Thursdays and Sundays. You’ll find the concert schedule here.

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The gardens are serene, interesting and well-maintained. They offer a respite from the bustle of the city.

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Or, at least, I imagine they would if it weren’t so noisy. A cacophony of sound assaulted our country-accustomed ears, with traffic and road construction to the north, and an active airport to the south.

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Still, it’s a pleasant spot. We walked back along the boardwalk and admired the boats.

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For those who enjoy fishing, sign boards outline safe consumption levels of Lake Ontario’s compromised fish.

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Water fountains are a nice touch. You can leave your plastic water bottles at home! (Better still, don’t buy them.)

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This walkway was designed to emulate waves.

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There’s even a tiny patch of wetland, a nod to what the shoreline once looked like many long years ago.

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In fact, the area reminded me of new housing tracts, where the streets boast names that commemorate what has been destroyed: Forest Lane and Green Meadow Trail. Oddest of all was a section of sand, contained within a neat wall of concrete and accented with yellow umbrellas. Are the children who bring their spades and buckets able to extrapolate from this tiny sample and imagine an ocean and beach? I hope they each have the chance to visit the real thing one day.

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) female at Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’

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In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen wrote: A scheme of which every part promises delight, can never be successful; and general disappointment is only warded off by the defence of some little peculiar vexation. While in general terms, I tend to agree with Jane, I would have to say that as a gardener, I must diverge from this view. For in July, all the promise of the spring garden has been fulfilled. Every part of the July garden brings delight. Now at its zenith, the late-July garden is indeed a Garden of Earthly Delights. I submit a dozen plus photos here in support of my thesis.

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Soybeans, Evening Sun

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Mokan Butterfly (Lenington 1984)

I haven’t posted any daylilies since Monday. Lots more daylilies have bloomed since then! For the hemeroholics out there, here is another batch of pretty faces.

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Old King Cole (Moldovan 1995)

Trahlyta

Trahlyta (Childs 1982)

Blonde is Beautiful

Blonde is Beautiful (Harris Benz 1985)

Siloam Little Girl

Siloam Little Girl (Henry 1970)

Border Sentry (Whatley 1995)

Border Sentry (Whatley 1995)

South Seas

South Seas (Moldovan 1993)

Banned in Boston

Banned in Boston (Simpson 1994)

Alpha Centauri

Alpha Centauri (Hanson 1992)

Outrageous

Outrageous (Stevens 1978)

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Ruby Spider (Stamile 1991)

Wisest of Wizards

Wisest of Wizards (Salter 1994)

Karen's Curls

Karen’s Curls (Reinke 1997)

Blue Voodoo

Blue Voodoo (Rice 2005)

Ghost of Thunder Road

Ghost of Thunder Road (Hanson 2001)

Seminole Ruby

Seminole Ruby (Kirchhoff 1993)

Pandora's Box

Pandora’s Box (Talbott 1982)

Chance Encounter

Chance Encounter (Stamile 1994)

Scarlet Pansy

Scarlet Pansy (Stamile 1986)

Troubled sleep

Troubled Sleep (Hanson 1998)

Abustle with Bees

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Here’s Joe Crow, perched before a backdrop of Verbascum nigrum, or Black (or Dark) Mullein. Just coming into full bloom now, Black Mullein is one of my favorite garden plants. Its large basal leaves are dark green, with small hairs that give the leaves a soft, velvety feel. They start out quite large near the earth, and grow smaller as they march up the stalk until they give way to flowers. Each flower is tiny, about half an inch across, but there are plenty of them as they densely line the stem. The flowers features yellow petals and purple filaments tipped with orange anthers. The tallest plants are a statuesque 5 1/2 feet in height. Verbascum nigrum is a biennial, but self-seeds freely, so there is always a good display of flowers.

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Charming as they are, none of those features are what really draw me to verbascum nigrum, however. That would be the bees. They absolutely adore this plant. First thing in the morning, the flowers are alive with bees, getting on with their day’s work. I always take time to stand and admire them for a few minutes. They pay me no heed. They’re far too busy.

Here’s a short clip of the morning visitation.

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It’s always enjoyable and instructive to visit a new garden. I come away with fresh ideas and knowledge, and you don’t have to worry about someone else’s weeds! It was a lovely day on Saturday, so RailGuy and I travelled to Spindletree Gardens, about 2 hours west of our home.

The 20 acre property is located in the Tamworth area, north of Kingston, Ontario. The garden hosts are Susan Meisner and Tom Brown. For more information about the garden, you can visit their webpage, linked here.

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At the house, a screened porch makes a pleasant setting for the tea room. We didn’t stop for lunch, however. We set out to view the gardens, following a stone wall into the property.

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This leads to the Croquet Pavilion, which overlooks a regulation croquet playing field, complete with miniature English historical buildings serving as hoops for the game.

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The little buildings were designed and built by Mr. Brown, and hint at the important role structures play in this garden. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Tom Brown is an architect.

Beyond the Pavilion, there is a circular Rose Garden with double Colonnade, followed by a Rock Garden set on a granite-surfaced hillside.

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A long stroll leads to a restored 150-year-old Victorian Well Cover, framed by an English Park setting. Beyond is a fun maze you can find your way through. The shrubs were dense and nicely maintained.

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A Grand Allee lined with black locust trees leads to a highlight of the garden, the Orangery. Newly constructed, the finishing touches are still underway. On one side, the two wings embrace stepped gardens and windows provide greenhouse space within the pavilion. On the other side, a winding, elevated rampway curves through a pond.

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The path then leads over a decorative bridge to the Rondel with a lily pond and fountains surrounded by a chain of pearls of clipped boxwood and maple trees. This was one of my favorite spots.

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A hop and grape-vine enclosed tunnel then leads to a walled Kitchen Garden. Some of the produce from the garden is used in the tea room.

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By this point, we had caught up to a group being led by Tom Brown himself, and enjoyed his commentary on his remarkable garden. As the tour ended, we visited the original greenhouse conservatory, with gothic windows and a stained glass clerestory. It was a very enjoyable visit and well worth the drive.

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