A Marvelously Varied Patchwork of Plants

So let’s travel back in time to early June and the Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto. I’ve done a few posts already about the Fling (this one and this one about the Toronto Islands and then this one about Swansea), but I’ve been holding most of Judy’s photographs in reserve for when our own garden was slowing down.

Marion Jarvie shows the garden bloggers some choice plants in her back garden.
Marion Jarvie (center) points out some choice plants to the garden bloggers.

For this post I want to talk about Marion Jarvies’ garden. Marion gardens on a suburban half acre north of Toronto. She is an enthusiastic plantswoman, a noted educator and speaker on topics horticultural.

Unfortunately we were there when the sunlight was strong enough to make photography a challenge, so please keep that in mind.

This bed borders the street in Marion's award-winning front garden.
This bed borders the street in Marion’s award-winning front garden.
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Flingers wandering Marion’s garden.

Hers is a plant collector’s garden, with a wide selection of irises, alliums, clematis, dwarf conifers, rock garden, and many other types of plants.

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Surprised to see all these Hellebores blooming in June.

At her blog Toronto Gardens, Helen Battersby writes perceptively that a plant collector’s garden is like “a room in a museum.” “You wouldn’t judge the museum collection by standing back and looking at the whole room. You’d step up to the display cases.”

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Judy and I were both captivated by this blue Corydalis.

As Helen wrote, a great deal of the pleasure from this garden comes from examining the remarkable variety of plants up close and one by one.

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And I was enchanted by this Trollius.

For me, it was simply exciting to be surrounded by so many choice plants combined in one small space.

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For example: Lady Slipper Orchids. They have undeniable plant charisma.

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Not sure what this is, but it’s cute.

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Succulents were not forgotten.

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Nor were the peonies.

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But I thought this garden was successful as more than just a collection. It fit together like a patchwork quilt, the patches small and varied but with just enough in common to make a striking whole.

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There was enough repetition of specific plants, colors, and shapes to provide a sense of unity.

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The back garden from a different angle.

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And the tension of all that plant diversity was balanced by the water feature, which provided a calm center to the back garden.

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There were also some pockets of tranquility to be found, such as this one along the hedge enclosing the back garden.

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And here along the side of the house.

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This is not a garden I would ever try to replicate on my own little plot of earth. But it is a joyful and invigorating garden, enhanced by Marion’s infectious enthusiasm.

34 Comments on “A Marvelously Varied Patchwork of Plants

  1. Though we visited many memorable gardens in Toronto, this one was certainly a standout. I simply adored Marion and her garden, which (as you note) was filled with one treasure after another…and all grown to the highest standard. Judy did well with her photos; the harsh light certainly got the best of me.

  2. I think her garden would be lacking if it were only a series of plant collections, but she does indeed tie it all together, and it is marvelous. I think the water feature is a great counterpoint to all the plant material. Beautiful!

  3. This garden was one I really enjoyed, despite the harshness of the light that day. Marion’s enthusiasm for plants and talent with design is evident at every turn.

  4. The museum analogy is a good one. Many of the vignettes you focus on are wonderful. Every garden has lessons we can take away once we find the right entry point for looking at it.

  5. I am in love with this garden ! … I love the variety of plants that almost eye lock you with their different personalities … something to stand and absorb (write down in a note pad) and take pictures of !
    I too would never be able to replicate such an amazing garden but to use it as an inspiration ?
    YES !! … simply gorgeous and wonderful picture.
    To take better pictures in bright sunlight .. it is well worth outfitting your camera with a polarized filter .. it will make your pictures amazing !
    Joy : )

  6. I loved this garden, it proved there were serious plant lovers in Toronto, and artistic ones at that. Judy’s photos are lovely!

  7. No matter what design experts might say about planting in drifts or using repetition, Marion’s garden is beautiful! This is my type of garden, and I know I would have enjoyed looking at every single plant in her garden. This is what I love about all the gardens we get to visit on Flings–every one is unique and a reflection of the gardener. It reminds you that it’s okay to create a garden that you enjoy and not worry about what others might think.

  8. It is a beautiful garden with such variety, how on earth did Marion have it all looking so perfect??? I thought the trollius, the lady slipper orchids and peonies were stunning and I just loved the pond.xxx

  9. lovely garden, enjoyed the tour, and how similar many of the plants are to ones in the southern highlands in New South Wales…..I like the idea of the garden being a room in a museum…

  10. Yes, I would say Judy must take the prize for photography under the most challenging conditions. The shadows were tough. But these scenes are wonderful. The Corydalis plants captured my eye, too. Helen’s description, along with yours, are spot-on for this garden. Nicely done!

  11. I really loved this garden but it was a lot to take in. I wish we’d had more time to just soak it all up. I must have missed those hellebore. It is amazing to see them blooming so late!

    • That’s the problem with the Fling or any garden tour, isn’t it? You can either miss some great gardens or rush through all the gardens on the itinerary.

  12. Hi Jason, the garden is amazing, it has almost a Japanese feel to it with the stones, water, conifers, acers and the way the planting is meticulous and almost restrained, each plant having its own designated space to show off with no crowding for competition from the sides. You caught it on a great sunny day too!

    • Good observation. While this garden was highly stimulating, it was also meticulous and restrained, as you say, with everything under control and no sense of wildness.

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