My friend Uli Havermann has the most inspiring garden. [Note: you might remember Uli from the community greenhouse and this incredible succulent pot.] She manages to bring a passion for foliage and a love for vintage metal and terra cotta together in a way that is visually mind-blowing.
I first met Uli when I visited the garden that she shares with her partner Paul Zammit on a Toronto Open Gardens day way back in 2010. I did not do any research on the gardens that I would be visiting on that day, and had no idea what to expect. But the moment we drove up to Uli and Paul’s, I knew I was in for something special.
The first thing you notice is the sheer volume of plant material. I am sometimes overwhelmed by the volume of plants and pots that I manage to cram into my own small garden, but then I visit their place and realize that I’m an amateur by comparison. They do volume well. As a plant enthusiast with a small space to work with, I’ve never been able to follow the rule of multiples (planting 3 or more of the same plant together rather than dotting the bed with an assortment of singles). There are simply too many amazing plants in the world and my garden is far, far smaller than my eyes. The trick in breaking this rule is to plant in such a way that you are not left with a garbled mess of plants that are all competing with each other on the same level. Mine often suffers from this affliction, which is why in the short time I have been gardening here I have moved some perennials 3 or more times. Uli and Paul’s garden spaces are full and somewhat hyperactive, yet also surprisingly calm and pleasing. I attribute their success, in part, to a finely tuned ability to see, understand, and pair textures.
When I think about their garden, this is what I see most: TEXTURE. This brings me back to Uli’s collections. Over the years she has scoured flea markets, yard sales, and thrift stores to amass an impressive collection of cast iron and metal urns, pots, fences, and other garden accoutrements that they have together incorporated into the design of the front and back yards. Uli doesn’t just go for clean, perfect pieces. Like me, she sees value in the textures and patinas of broken and rusty old things — the sorts of things that most people would pass over as garbage. And then she brings them home, and together, she and Paul elevates these hardscrabble old treasures into something jaw dropping, playfully weaving their textures with colourful and equally textured foliage.
None of this is as easy as you’d think. Most “full” gardens, especially those that are full of “stuff” (another of my afflictions), tend to start looking like an outdoor junk shop. Not their garden. Somehow, it all comes together to create something that is graceful, yet fun; high brow and low brow all at once. And evidence that here live two people who really, really, really love plants.
Every time I visit I have the same visceral response, “I could live in this garden forever!” And then, when I am forced to go home, I feel newly recharged and inspired to try to make a garden that is even half as awesome as theirs.
I hope to show you more of Uli and Paul’s garden in the future as I have barely scratched the surface here. I gave you a peek at their front yard, but did not show you it’s whole splendour.