Secret Garden

On our recent Friday adventure we went to visit a city garden. At one point we sat down on a bench beside a stranger. He began talking and told us about his career as a gardener, first in Hamilton, and then in the very place where we were sitting. On Sunday, in the Globe and Mail, there he was – in the front section – the former executive director of the Toronto Botanical Garden.

According to him, the TBG is in bad shape, because they have recently hired a new CEO who vales the bottom line more than the flowers. How could this be? How could the CEO not know all the joy that gardens and gardening bring to people?

When Peter and I moved from the country to the city a couple of years ago we left a big property, with lots of gardens, behind. Our thoughts were focused on all the work we wouldn’t have to do – weeding, watering, trimming, transplanting. We weren’t really thinking about the joy of gardening either. We didn’t pay much attention when the house seller casually mentioned: “I haven’t really had much time to look after the garden recently. It’s a little overgrown.”

Finally most of our unpacking was finished and we ventured outside to look around. We first noticed an empty plot of dirt beside the garage. What was hiding under all that dirt? Suddenly, almost overnight, it was filled with hostas – in many varieties. Another spot beside the shed revealed a little forsythia and a rose bush, both suffering from lack of sun. A place near the house exposed a tiny Japanese maple tree, missing the sun too. These all got transplanted and are thriving in their new homes.

Next, I tackled an area beside the driveway which was a mass of ground cover gone astray. I did the best I could to cut it back, and then Peter attacked it with his chain saw. Finally we arrived at some hidden gems: a tree almost bonsai in shape, with some errant tulips down below.

Another no-man’s-land was a small space near the front entrance. Well, you know what people say about making a first impression. This space needed work. I bought some perennials bursting with colour, that would make a statement. I planted them in the spring when there was plenty of sun. Then, the nearby trees began to sprout their leaves and suddenly my showplace garden was in the shade! Back to the nursery for shade plants.

Peter also spent a lot of time planning his vegetable garden. He chose a spot at the end of the yard, away from soccer or croquet games. He began digging and planting. Then he noticed that the trees above were overgrown too and his garden was getting no sun. He spent the summer climbing up very tall ladders while carrying his chain saw. I sat below with my cell phone ready to call 911 and the drop of a …body.

This winter during the pandemic Peer really missed his garden. One day in late February he bought some garlic from his girlfriend at Sunnyland and, lo and behold, it began to sprout. What could he do but plant it? Soon enough it grew. And grew. He was taking Really good care of it. Finally, during a warm spell in March, he went outside with his electric drill to bore holes in the frozen ground and plant the garlic outside. And still it grew! Soon he was in a frenzy, planting garlic everywhere: in with the raspberries, near the rose bush, beside the new hedge, everywhere he could find an empty space. Garlic began to take over. You can probably smell our back yard all across the city.

This summer, whether you have a balcony with pots, or a large plot of land, enjoy your time playing in the dirt. I hope you find some secrets.


The bonsai tree reveals itself.

2 thoughts on “Secret Garden

  1. Your garden is outstanding. Iā€™m glad you got to visit with ex director. Some things were meant to be.


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