Garden Favourites

I have a confession to make. I’m a terrible gardener. I find weeding as fun as getting a sliver right up my fingernail bed (which is exactly what happened when I tried some weeding on the weekend!). Planting also doesn’t interest me. Pruning and trimming I can get into.

These are peonies in my garden. I can’t take any responsibility for their existence — I have the previous owner of my home to thank for them. I love flowers mostly so that I can cut them to make arrangements (comes with the territory of being a stylist). I can handle the flowers once they are cut (since they are already headed to a certain death). But when they’re on the plants I can’t deal. I put it down to my slight propensity toward control freakishness. You would think that would make me an avid gardener, but it makes me want to give up. There are so many variables with gardening — sun, shade, rain, drought, soil, chemistry, pests. The mind boggles. If I cannot control all of these things then why would I try (or so the argument goes in my head). Not surprisingly then, my fantasy gardens are all about the imposition of order onto nature.

Here are the elements of my dream garden:

An allée of trees. One like this is lovely for a stroll (think Jane Austen courtship scene), but I’d also like one along a winding granite pea gravel drive giving way to a circular motor court as the approach to my home. A girl can dream.

Green, green, green. Boxwood, yew and all their green cousins clipped and shaped into fanciful hedges and topiary. The ultimate high-maintenance garden. A garden like this would require staff to maintain. I’d be cool with that.

Yard art. It could be a refined sculpture like this, thoughtfully placed on a pedestal and in the middle of advantageous sightlines. But I also love a massive piece of architectural salvage or metal waste elevated to art by its placement in a garden. I draw the line at rusted cars… though I suppose it depends on the car.

I mentioned pea gravel already, but it bears mentioning again. I just love it. And if the drought conditions in Toronto hold up and we can’t replace the sod in our front yard, then I will be stealing this design from Steven Kelvin. We already have the lavender. I love how the boxwoods look like pompoms dotting the landscape. This would make me smile every day when I arrived home. And it would look sensational dusted with snow and white lights in winter.

A thyme lawn. This is all about the scent-memory connection for me. Many of the lawns of family cottages on Prince Edward Island — where I spent so many happy family vacations — were dotted with thyme. These are the kind of cottages where there isn’t a paved or gravel drive, so immediately upon driving in over the lawn the car fills with the scent of thyme. And games of soccer or Frisbee over a thyme-dotted lawn fill the air with this fresh, invigorating fragrance. Happy times. (And BTW, a plant that survives driving a car over is my kind of plant!)

A white garden. Of course the ne plus ultra of white flower gardens is Vita Sackville-West’s White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle in England (left). It is perfection.

But it should be noted —especially by fans of the ITV/PBS series Downton Abbey — that the site of much of the series’ filming, Highclere Castle, also has a stunning white garden (right).

Larkspur. I could allow a diversion from a strict white and green scheme in the form of a cutting garden. In it I would want peonies, sweet peas, David Austin roses, astilbe, hydrangea, viburnum, helebore and larkspur. Oh, how I love larkspur: delicate tiny blooms clustered on tall elegant stems — the supermodel of flowers.

See our Easy To Grow Plants & Blooms gallery for simple gardening tips.

Photo credits:
1. Margot Austin
2. Peter Fudge Gardens
3a. Manor D’Eyrignac via Hotel Club blog
3b. Garden by Arabella Lennox Boyd on Rue du Bac, Paris, via Boxwood Terrace blog
4. Peter Fudge Gardens
5. Steven Kelvin
6. Christina Frutiger via Seattle Times
7a. Sissinghust White Garden via Moosey’s Country Garden
7b. Highclere Castle
8a. Seed Count
8b. Beate Schwaney via

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