Video of the Perfect Porch
Mary Jo Hind and Fred Vermeulen are living that snapshot of summer. The architects with Perkins + Will are enjoying the second year of their redesigned garden.
Hind had a laser bead on the kind of garden she wanted. Sitting at a table in her linear side yard she opens The Gardens of Luciano Giubbilei, a book showcasing the Italian garden designers elegant, edited, geometric gardens. To make it happen they worked with Venni Gardens (vennigardens.com) of Hamilton.
Candy Venning is a landscape designer, husband Simon Mangan is a UK trained gardener. The garden in Dundas was ready for a makeover. After 20 years it was a bit bushy, a tad wild, and ready for some discipline. The couple had added the beautiful screen porch to the side of the house to frame views of the Dundas Driving Park and their back yard.
Furnished with summery white canvas chairs, the room can be opened up to both views by pushing back big slatted wood doors.
Hind and Venni collaborated to add more privacy, order and crisp lines to the garden, while reducing maintenance.
The front yard is simple. An understated picket fence marks the property boundary, paths are of black flamed granite squares, and a beech hedge is kept at a height to allow views of the park. White hydrangeas and pots of agapanthus anchor a muted planting scheme. “We wanted to respect the heritage of the home, and have the garden compliment it,” Venning says.
Access to the backyard is through the screened porch, or on a narrow path along the formal pond. The serene, rectangular pond with water lilies, reeds and a small fountain is an enticement to walk to the back garden.
In the back a public lane way is used to access the couple’s garage. Venning and Mangan were thrilled to be able to use a row of pleached linden trees to add privacy without making the garden a fortress. The pleached trees-a technique where branches are trained to grow together- were found already started at Connon Nurseries. Mangan had the misfortune of planting them last summer after the huge July rainstorm. “The root balls were so heavy with water we had to keep bringing in bigger backhoes to do the job,” Venning says.
Black granite cobblestones mix with the square granite pavers in the back, and two huge planters, overflowing with annuals break up the expanse of stone. The plantings in the back follow the same desire for simplicity. Boxwood hedges abut the stone, and a mass planting of pink hydrangeas are at their peak right now. All that’s needed are a broom and a pair of clippers to keep the garden ship shape, and once a year Mangan is hoisted up into the lindens to shear them into their boxy shape.
“It was a great project,” Venning says, and wonderful to work in Hamilton.” The couple are still finding that much of their work comes from Toronto. For Mary Jo Hind, it was a pleasure to find a designer to share her vision of a crisp garden that blended structure with softness.
The view from the screened porch, with long shadows on the lawn and the family cat minding the pond is a relaxing summer pause.