Texture in Uli and Paul’s Garden (a Garden Tour)

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit

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.

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit
I took the shot of their driveway at the top of the page in 2010 when it was all gussied up for the garden tour. Here it is this week. Uli would like me to tell you that some of the plants are still in plastic pots as she had only just brought them home from the store. Look at all of the succulents!

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit
Lots of tomatoes in pots. This is their front porch.

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit
The view from their front porch. I love that they do not have a typical suburban front porch. Their’s is filled with plant material.

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit
It was only on this last visit that I realized that all of those hostas are in pots!! Don’t you love the rusty, white, metal fence? It’s an oak leaf and acorn motif, which happens to be Uli’s signature imagery.

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit

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.

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit
A wonderful example of playfully mixing 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.

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit
This corner of incredibly decorative and weather-beaten old urns is one of my favourite parts of the garden. Give me a minute and I’ll decide another part is my favourite. It’s all my favourite.

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit
Apologies for the quality of this cellphone camera shot (never mind the terrible composition), but I wanted to show you the volume of plants and pots on their back deck. This is very unusual for this part of the world where we have to shift all planted terracotta into a protected spot for the winter to prevent breakage. Uli and Paul dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to driving and hauling tender plants back and forth between their home and a community greenhouse space where they house the plants for the winter. That is serious commitment.

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit
I took this shot in 2010. They have since changed this planted cage from a hanging basket to a pot topper.

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit

Garden Tour: Uli Havermann and Paul Zammit
Uli and I share a love of crazy euphorbias. We unknowingly bought the same variegated euphorbia (bottom left) recently.

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.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla

17 thoughts on “Texture in Uli and Paul’s Garden (a Garden Tour)

  1. A mind blowing collection!
    And classy presentation.
    Love the metal accents everywhere.
    This couple could easily make a 12 month garden calendar using photos from their yard and sell it to fans.

  2. So glad you got to visit and share that amazing place with us too! I adore that she has collected otherwise, imperfect vessels and use them seemingly carelessly, to make a lovely otherworldly space. Just beautiful!

  3. This is an awesome garden! Can I be adopted and live here? I’m totally serious about that. Is that a Monkey Puzzle Tree in the second picture? Dead center in back behind what looks like a variegated jade tree? OMG! I love them. I regret not buying that seedling at a conservatory plant sale four years ago. Biggest regret of my gardening life so far.

    • I love monkey puzzle trees! We found several growing in Florida and collected seeds, growing some of our own. Sadly we sold them when we moved out of Florida. They are very cool to grow, hope you get another chance Mr. Brown Thumb.

      Awesome garden…I wish I could convince my husband of the need for awesome pots in the garden.

  4. The way you feel about Uli’s garden is the way I feel about you and your talent, lovely article! I love seeing what inspires you (and learning why). xo

  5. I’ve always been timid to do anything around my front steps because I’m afraid to draw (stinging) insects. Do they have any problems with them?

    • We have not had any problems with stinging insects. Our emphasis has been largely on foliage plants, but I have also found that pollinators are so intent on collecting pollen or nectar, that they can’t be bothered with people unless provoked. We can actually stroke the bumble bees at work as they nuzzle into the allium flowers, presently in bloom.

  6. I love the well-established look that terra cotta and iron lend to a garden. Also the volume; I just love this garden!

  7. The plants, the antique containers—OMG, the terra cotta!—it’s all magical. What a special place Uli and Paul have created. Thank you for the tour.

  8. The plant directly behind the bird cage in the first picture- what is the name? I remember it from the greenhouse when I was working there. Very spikey and out for blood.

    Are those Tiger Eyes Rhus? Are they also in pots?

    Very impressive collection! Thanks for sharing

    • The prickly plant is Solanum quitoense and the Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’, Tiger Eyes cutleaf Sumac, is still in a pot to this day!

    • Thank you Uli for letting me know. Your collection is outstanding. Really love the idea of the Rhus in pots! you must have quite a space for storing all your plants when the cold weather comes.

  9. Wow what an amazing front garden. I planted a succulent planter and I LOVE it. I live in Guelph Ontario and we get winter and so it has to be “cared for” over the winter. How do I do that? Can it go into my garage – cold and dark OR into my basement – some light and warmer than the garage – and my least favorite into the house- least favorite due to the cat who I think will play and dig in the pot through the winter. Your suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks Susan

Comments are closed.