Landscape architects are forever admonishing us to begin with “good bones” if we want to create a harmonious outdoor space, and without a doubt, Laura Grant and Manfred Hubert's Toronto garden has some of the best “bones” I've ever seen. Perfectly pruned conifers are strategically positioned throughout the property and, together with intelligently placed water features and pathways, focus the eye, frame the view and constantly draw the visitor onward.
But even beyond its obvious visual appeal, every inch of Laura's 21-by-51-metre garden is instructive, as she's successfully tackled just about every style in her gardening repertoire. In the back garden, a large pond stocked with lotus and water lilies acts as a giant mirror, which in turn is flanked by three bog gardens, one of which is a nutrient-free peat bog for pitcher plants and other carnivorous species. Turn the corner and you feel as if you're in protected woodland; a few metres more, you find yourself in full sun with statuesque grasses rustling in the breeze. And running up the middle of the driveway between carefully placed stone slabs? Why, an alpine scree garden of course! Clearly, attention to detail is the order of the day here, coupled with carefully chosen plant material and a keen aesthetic sensibility.
Not surprisingly, Laura's gardening roots run deep. Her uncle was a professional horticulturist in Prague and her mother, an accomplished plantswoman, taught Laura many tricks of the trade at an early age. Evidence of these time-honoured skills are confirmed as I pass by a beautifully espaliered pear tree, a grafted weeping crabapple, a wisteria vine trained into tree-form and a robust yew that Laura grew from seed collected at Hampton Court Palace. And despite the garden's mature appearance, it's actually only 25 years old.
When Laura first began gardening here in 1981, she was faced with sandy soil: great for drainage but lacking in nutrients and organic matter. So she sensibly decided that her first “garden feature” ought to be a compost heap; to this day it still satisfies all her requirements for healthy, productive soil.