When spring finally arrives in Ontario, it marks the end of five long months of wintry weather. For gardeners especially, that’s cause for celebration. And though the season often seems like a much-too-brief interlude between the last March snow and the first June heat wave, it’s proof that good things come to those who wait.
In the north Toronto garden of Michael Renaud and Martin Ciccone, owners of the elegant home-and-garden shop Horticultural Design, spring unfolds in a non-stop parade of bulbs, perennials and flowering shrubs. Designed in large part by the previous owners, the garden has many outstanding architectural features, including a south-facing sundeck with an intimate, mirrored dining area that reflects the garden; a pergola wreathed in Chinese and Japanese wisteria; and a euonymus-clad gazebo set in filtered sunlight at the rear.
Martin, an interior designer, and Michael, who studied landscape technology and floral design, have made some changes to the garden over the six years they’ve lived here to suit their own needs and tastes. “There were many plants that required a lot of maintenance and the design needed simplifying,” recalls Michael. “We got rid of plants that didn’t meet our standards and added others that were low maintenance and would pull the garden together.”
To reflect the formality of the 1884 heritage house and create winter interest, Michael redesigned the north-facing front garden, creating a diamond-shaped parterre edged in boxwood. The parterre’s interior is divided in two, with one half carpeted in velvety Irish moss (Sagina subulata), the other in chartreuse Scotch moss (S. s. ‘Aurea’). In the centre sits a wellhead; its top is crowned with a nest of corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) branches, while the base becomes encircled in early spring with ‘Mount Hood’ narcissi. “I like the wellhead’s massive scale,” says Michael, “and the look of it illuminated at night or under a blanket of snow is really dramatic.” As the narcissus flowers fade, a circle of blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) emerges to disguise the bulbs’ yellowing leaves.
Photo: Michael Renaud (left) and Martin Ciccone