Friday, May 23, 2008

It's Like Fashion For Your Backyard!

Alas, that is not my gorgeous garden. Thanks to Nicole for snapping this lovely picture on a garden tour we took last summer of a neighbourhood in TO known for great gardens. And, if you can believe it, this house wasn't even on the tour! Since then, I’ve made the image my screensaver and every time a colleague sees it (s)he assumes it’s my garden and then I have to disclose that it’s not, which makes me feel like crap because I’m one of those modern idiots who suffer from status anxiety and who desperately, irrationally, wants a garden that looks like that. I should mention that the house above would probably sell for close to a million dollars in our housing market. Sheer insanity.

Those of you who know me know that I have spent the last 8 years threatening my husband with divorce over the hideous state of our backyard and his unwillingness to work with me to improve it. He feels it is beyond repair – unremittingly ugly by virtue of its positioning and that which abuts it (the excuse for a satellite dish holder cum pigeon farm on the one side, the untended overgrowth on the other and the “laneway” – a strange TO phenomenon - on the third side. Laneway is code for wretched alleyway in which people indulge in alcohol abuse and garbage scattering – I mean “throughfare for parking one’s car at the back of the house”.) I feel that if you throw 12 grand at something the size of 3 postage stamps, there is always hope. Call me an optimist with a line of credit.

Finally, in a moment of lucidity (or insanity, depending on your take), I researched and hired a landscaper, worked with her to develop a design, and advised my husband – unilateral afterthought-style – that we were about to do “a little work”. And I am thrilled to tell you that over last week and next, my backyard is undergoing its own version of a makeover a la “The Swan”. We’re talking the garden equivalent of new teeth (hideous chainlink fence replaced by pretty wooden one that’s tall!), lipo (excavation of Dandelion Village, as I like to call it, to be replaced by tall grasses, flowering trees and beautiful beds), botox (hardscaping with flagstone and rocks from the lake district) and rhinoplasty (a new deck).

It occurs to me that you imagine a backyard of such dubious positioning must be attached to a house that isn’t much better. In deference to my aforementioned status anxiety, let me assure you that my home is really quite nice. All Victorian with tall ceilings and good bones and attractive – if eclectic – design. And that downtown TO neighbourhoods are very heterogeneous: beauty here, squalor there. So I’ve just been walking the line!

My intention is to take some artful photos (code for: ask my husband to take some artful photos) of the finished product – though I’ve been warned new gardens are not lush at first. Has anyone out there undertaken a landscaping do-over? And, if yes, please advise how it has improved your outlook / changed your life / made you an uber-hostess overnight.


  1. I've never done this type of project before. I'll live vicariously through you!

    I can't WAIT to see the results. :D

  2. You might find that your garden will look more lush next spring, though it will be entirely weed free this summer!

    We have a Victorian too, and inherited an enormous garden that took up the whole back yard, the side of the house, and part of the front. Unfortunately, it had gone untended between owners, so it was a mess and we levelled much of it, installing (oh joy!) grass. If I were sans children and career, I'd be happy to tend to a massive garden, but not now!

    I bet you'll love your deck and can't wait to see the finished production!

  3. Sadly our apartment doesn't have a garden (although it is in a beautiful Georgian house). It's quite an adjustment for a country girl like me! I can't wait to see yours!

  4. Hmm very interesting K.Line. I too constantly tackle garden and interior re-decoration and makeovers. It is not so much status anxiety as my perfectionist streak. A streak which applies itself with no rhyme or reason. Amazingly, these improvements DO make me a better hostess, as once they are complete, a sense of serenity descends on me, and I become all sweetness and light, singing in the afternoon.
    Being able to look at something beautiful is like a salve for the soul. So much better than the stone in your shoe that a nasty garden (or other space) can be.

  5. Enc: I can't wait either. Seriously.

    Miss C: Weed free is so where I'm at (in more ways than one :-)) I can only imagine that you don't have time to manage a huge garden with the kiddies. Do they love to play outside? Since we put in the deck last weekend, my daughter has been spending hours out there, which I love!

    Miss White: What part of the country are you from? I went to boarding school in Somerset.

    SKM: Ahh, perfectionism. Status anxiety's cousin :-) I do think that beauty is a salve for the soul - which is why I love fashion so much, I imagine. And I bet you'd be a great hostess whatever the circumstances, but I hope that a new garden makes me that much more entertainment inclined. I've been too much of a hermit these last few months...

  6. wow!!! We don't have these type of front gardens in England.

  7. Fashion Assistant: But they have all those gorgeous country gardens and hedgerows and it's so gorgeously green! Not everyone in TO has a garden like that one, believe me... (Though the stone hardscaping with elevation is a popular theme when the landscape allows for it - and the peeps can afford it.)