I have written here several times about fellow Toronto, Parkdale resident, Barry Parker and his exceptional backyard garden since meeting him this past spring, but I have never shown any wide view pictures. Well, as luck would have it, Barry is hosting a garden open house this coming weekend — those of you who live locally will have the opportunity to see his beautiful garden in person. So for the rest of you who can’t make it, I’ve got off my butt and compiled a series of photos showing some of the seasons in Barry’s garden as I have experienced them on my visits since the spring.
First, the details:
When: Sunday October 4th from 1.00 to 4.00 p.m.
Where: 11 Melbourne Ave, Toronto
Admission: $4 Proceeds going to the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
Additional: Barry would like you to know that if you make it out to the open house he will be giving away paw-paw and persimmon tree seedlings, free to good homes. He grew them all from seed!
These two sculpted bushes break up the long, narrow space and are seen when you enter the yard.
Barry has been gardening in his long and narrow downtown Toronto backyard for 23 years. He’s an artist with plants. He knows how to shape them, pair them, and it is a pleasure to watch the garden unfold as plants have their season and then make way for the next. No space is left unnoticed or unattended.
Walking through the bushes takes you into a hidden back garden that is mostly comprised of woodland plants. Here’s what it looked like in early fall. I wish I had a springtime photo because it was absolutely incredible then.
Barry’s gardening style is quite formal and sculpted, but it is infused with his charm, warmth, and true sense of delight in plants that makes the garden very comfortable and inviting rather than rigid and stuffy like most formal spaces tend to be.
Looking to the east.
For that reason I have begun to think of Barry’s style as decisive rather than taint it with my own obvious bias against formality. He knows what he likes and pursues it rigorously. He likes to experiment and try out new plants but when he’s sure something isn’t working, he’s not afraid to pull it up and get it out of there. If only I had that skill!
One of the smaller break-away paths to the west.
Variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum ‘Silver Wings’) this past spring.
Yellow Trillium (Trillium luteum), also photographed this past spring.
A view of the space looking north as you emerge from between the two bushes.
Two of Barry’s many clematis plants in flower this past July.
Barry is an avid clematis collector. There is always something unique and incredible in bloom throughout the summer months, including shapes and sizes I had no idea existed in the clematis world.
Looking east at the front part of the garden.
Alpines flank the steps of the deck.
Alpines are another of Barry’s loves. When I first visited his garden, the sheer number of alpine troughs (both hypertuffa and stone) took me by surprise. Each one is lovingly tended and many have to be brought indoors to over-winter. That’s commitment!
I think I like this pot stuffed tight with tiny sempervivums, best.
Or maybe it’s this small stone trough with neatly shaped compartments.
Or could it be this one with plants that hug the edges of the pot?
This table on the deck is used to showcase seasonal plants of interest. On my first visit it was covered in specimens from Barry’s extensive agave collection; and on another occasion, a particularly impressive begonia.
A wide view of the deck showing legions of alpine troughs. There’s that orange begonia in the background.
Barry had a small, unheated greenhouse built sometime after he bought the house.
There is always some fantastic experiment in the works inside the greenhouse. It currently houses rows and rows of unusual cyclamen that Barry started from seed.
I hope I have done Barry’s garden justice with this presentation. There is so much going on there, it would take days to feature it all. When I first visited the garden I was so overcome, I barely lifted the camera to take a photo. But while I may have been too stunned to take pictures, I rushed home invigorated to get back and do better by my own plants.
I don’t often feature gardens, but Barry’s has been an inspiration this summer and better than most botanical gardens I have visited. As I mentioned above, it’s not only that he puts an incredible amount of work into maintaining the space, but that it captures the charm and personable warmth of his character so well. Most gardens of this ilk are tended by many, and reflect that. Barry’s garden is all him and his infectious enthusiasm for plants. A true plant geek.