Thursday, October 30, 2014
The plants are on sale, the ground is still warm, and landscapers aren’t as busy, that’s why the fall is a good time to start a new garden.
Kelly Seagram just put the wrap on her new, front yard garden in downtown Hamilton. She bought a Victorian era house tw
years ago, has been diligently renovating the interior and finally had enough of the weedy, treeless front yard. With a busy life, and what she calls “novice” gardening skills she wanted an easy-to-maintain landscape. But not just any, off-the-shelf design would do.
“I wanted a garden that looked intentional, but not too fussy or formal. I like the elegance of green gardens and requested an understated palette of dark purples to lime greens, with no showy blooms,” she says.
That request was answered by Janine Bleecker, owner of Rooted landscape design inc. () of Oakville. It’s Bleecker’s first year in business, and Seagram’s 20 by 15 foot front yard was an excellent first project. Bleecker switched careers from making nautical charts for Canadian Hydrographic Service at Canada Centre for Inland Waters in Burlington (she has a B.A. in geography from McMaster University) to garden design after getting her certificate from Ryerson University’s Chang School of Landscape Design.
The unglamorous work came first, striping the weedy lawn from the front yard and replacing about four inches of rubble filled earth with proper top soil. Seagram had taken advantage of the City of Hamilton’s free street tree program, and a gingko was delivered to the site as planting started.
Seagram’s list of must haves included evergreens for winter interest. Bleecker started with a planting of three Hick’s yews at the foundation of the house to soften the architecture and frame the bay window. A grouping of Degroot’s Spire Cedars add a sense of separation from the house next door, and because of their tight, pyramidal shape, will not overpower the garden. With a solid backing of evergreens, a planting of three oakleaf hydrangeas will stand out in all seasons. They are already showing their beautiful fall colour, and Seagram loves their exfoliating winter bark. “I chose plants that require very little upkeep, some will need trimming once a year, but that’s it,” says Bleecker.
Surprisingly one group of plants that will not be trimmed are the boxwoods, they’ll be left to grow into the natural shapes that Seagram likes. More fall colour will come from the burning bush planted near the house, and berberis and coral bells Purple Palace will add all season shades of burgundy and purple. As the garden nears the sidewalk, low growing creeping junipers should stand up to the rigours of their location. For a change in texture and shape, Bleecker chose hostas in shades of lime that will be able to adapt to the sun from the southerly exposure. The hostas will contrast nicely with the spiky blue fescue grass that lines the walkway to the front door. A large specimen Hinoki cypress is on a diagonal from the hydrangeas, and balances out the intense planting on that side of the garden.
As the garden fills in, Seagram will look for spaces for some special features. “In the future I'd like to add hardscaping to the design, rocks that are native to the landscape of other places I've lived -- limestone from the south end of Georgian Bay and granite from the Canadian Shield.”
Bleecker’s experience designing the garden was a wonderful one, working with a client with a strong vision of what she wanted and in a location that was a delightful surprise. “It was so fun to work here on Barton Street, people always stopped to talk, and people in cars driving by would yell out their windows about how great it looked. I told my husband I want to move here.”
Every night this summer, Dani Guo went to sleep to the sound of crickets and the site of stars floating over a field. The 27 year old is a seeker of a simple life. For five months she found it on a farm in Copetown.
Guo’s home was in a cottage the size of a big garden shed. It had a sink, and some chairs, a lamp, and a ladder to the sleeping loft .She cooked her meals in an outdoor kitchen, and used the outhouse as needed. The carefree life, short on stuff but big on experience was what the 27 year old wanted, “It was really nice not having clutter, I didn’t need to worry about having so many things to clean and look after.”
On her path to a plain way of life, Guo was lucky to meet the artist Dave Hind, and fortunate to find her way to ManoRun Organic Farm in Copetown. Farm owner Chris Krucker and Hind had hatched an idea to create Cottage Industrious. Hind would built a magical little cottage to house an agricultural intern on the farm, three days a week the intern would plant, weed and harvest, and the other three days they would make art. Guo, a Toronto native saw an ad for the internship on when she was working on a farm in Hawaii. “I couldn't believe someone combined art and farming, I never thought such a thing existed.”
Guo was charmed by the 14’ by 10’ cottage Hind built. He’d been making paintings out of recycled aluminum, and they kept getting bigger. “They started to resemble walls,” Hind says. So the idea of an art object made functional led to Cottage Industrious. All parts of the cottage are recycled. In addition to recycled aluminum Hind used windows and doors discarded from a renovation, and bits and pieces of old lumber for interior walls and shelves. The inspired floor is made of damaged highway signs from the 401. “I saw a broken sign and got the number for the company that makes them, they were happy to see them reused.”
The exterior cottage walls are the artist’s canvas. One side is covered by an aluminum painting of an igloo Hind made with The Aluminum Quilting Society, an artist’s collective. The patchwork pieces interpret a 1950’s Life Magazine photo of an experimental igloo made of Styrofoam.
On the opposite side Guo drew and etched her experience of farm life on bits of recycled aluminum. Each piece, about the size of a baseball card, records the day-to-day work on the farm, from harvesting beets to planting corn. It’s a botanical journal for a new age.
Cottage Industrious is a concept for a different way of living according to Hind, art meets agriculture meets simple shelter. It may grow into a village. Already Hind’s portable, wood-fired sauna is parked next to the cottage, next summer he may add a bathhouse. The cottage will be improved Hind says, but not too much. “It’s about simple pleasures, being outside, wood fires, feeling alive.”
Guo’s internship finished in October. She’s packed her one bag and moved on to a monastery in New Zealand where she will cook and garden in return for room and board. Though she has a Masters in international relations, she found the work discouraging, life on the land with less is her path. “Sleeping in the loft with the stars and the fireflies, it made me fell like a kid again.”