Firm Name: Plant Architect Inc.
Project Location: Toronto
How did you first connect with this client?
The client called us cold. They had seen some of our work published in newspapers and magazines, and had seen some work that we had done down the street from them, in a front garden.
What were the client’s primary desires for the garden?
The client had just done a massive gut and renovation to their three-story house and the front and rear gardens had been trashed. The house is dark red brick, and all of the new work was wood stained black. The front was dominated by a large Norway Maple (a light and water sucker), and the ground floor at the rear was almost a whole story above the native ground level with fantastic views. She was looking for a strong modern project to match the house. In the front, she was looking for a gracious entry from the street to the porch, with little maintenance, and no grass - hardly survivable under the Maple. At the rear she was looking for a way to get down to the ground level, provide outdoor dining space, an herb garden, and a large shed for bikes and garden equipment. The yard needed to accommodate their small kids. She also specifically requested some red Japanese Maples, but otherwise did not have a large plant agenda.
Any interesting obstacles to achieving the dream?
The project was bid out during an intense period of construction in Toronto, and many contractors were pricing projects out of this world. Although the project was substantially done, there are some additional details still missing. We are pleased that the bones of the project were not reliant on these last details.
What are your favorite elements of the garden?
The front of the house is very dark because of the black walls and the tree cover, so we planted a dense field of red dogwood, so that the foliage would be white and light green against the dark walls, and the bark strong red in the winter. For the entry we devised a casual route which asymmetrically alternated black paving and variegated or limey green foliage, again, to create a strong contrast to the dark walls.
In the rear we created an alternating cascade of wood decks, planting and metal stairs to interlace the planting and the social spaces. The planting is all red flowers or foliage.
What does the client say now that the project is done?
The client was really pleased with the solution. One thing that has been difficult however, is finding a person to help her to do maintenance as the plants are all native - this proves to be more of a speciality than we like to think. The last gardener pulled out all of the Monarda for instance because it was a spreader (we picked the least weedy, but spreading is in fact exactly what we wanted).