Garden Photo of the Day

A Garden in the Concrete Jungle, Part 1

A lot of garden in an urban lot

garden seating area surrounded by greenery

Today we’re off to Toronto, Canada, to visit with Patrick and Dorothy Smyth.

Our garden is in the middle of a concrete jungle. A refuge of calm and beauty, it’s a godsend during “these difficult times.” The midtown Toronto corner-lot property can be described as a garden with a house in it. When it comes time for planting or garden maintenance, we have 19 separate plots to help us keep in decision-making mode. On four levels and an almost 200-foot-long verge we have grown a wide variety of plants. Some of them have been with us now for 32 years. In the making we have reclaimed a parking lot, shrunk a lawn, and assumed control of a significant amount of the City Allowance. Our ideas for garden design have focused on four-season interest. We’ve used native and nonnative plantings, always with an eye for improving biodiversity and encouraging wildlife. The garden is visited by all sorts of insects, butterflies, birds, and small mammals, with even a fox coming by these past two years. There is a wide variety of carefully chosen “right plants” for “right locations.”

garden seating area surrounded by greeneryIt’s hard to imagine this peaceful garden scene is in the middle of Toronto! Thick greenery makes this sitting area a peaceful refuge from the urban landscape.

Japanese maple covered in snowGardening in Canada means coping with winter. Here an early snowfall has arrived before the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum, Zones 5–9) has finished dropping its leaves, creating a beautiful scene.

fall leaves with snowAnother view of an early snowfall in the garden.

garden full of diverse foliageAlong the steps leading up through the lush garden there are no flowers on view. Instead, this planting relies on diverse colors and textures of foliage to make a complex, beautiful display.

cutleaf staghorn sumac next to porchA cutleaf staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Lanciniata’, Zones 3–8) in the foreground has fernlike foliage and cones of showy red berries.

Large coneflowerLarge coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima, Zones 4–9) has silvery-blue foliage and sends up tall flowering stems that can reach as high as 7 feet to make a dramatic display. This is proof that having a small, urban garden doesn’t mean you have to only grow small plants.

white and pink helleboresHellebores (Heleborus hybrids, Zones 4–9) provide color in early spring.

ornamental grasses in the snowOrnamental grasses, like this Miscanthus sinensis (Zones 5–9), are good choices for winter interest, with feather seed heads lasting long into the winter months.

Yucca covered in snowYucca (Yucca filamentosa, Zones 4–10) leaves provide spikey, architectural green all winter long.

french doors leading out to garden patioThe warm light invites you to step inside, settle into a seat, and enjoy the views of the garden.

Patrick sent so many great photos of this garden that we’ll be returning here tomorrow for more, so stay tuned!


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View Comments


  1. PattyLouise 03/30/2021

    Wow! Very impressive gardens! Looks so inviting & serene! Thanks for sharing!

  2. gardendevas 03/30/2021

    What a wonderful sanctuary, for you and for wildlife! So lush, and love that you use so many natives. Especially drawn to the scene with the French doors - so warm and inviting.

  3. wittyone 03/30/2021

    This is a beautiful haven. I can't wait for the second edition.

  4. margotnavarre 03/30/2021

    Best of both worlds ... living in a sanctuary and in a vibrant city. Looking forward to the second addition. Did you create the garden design for your home? Everything fits in with great seasonal interest. Thank you for sharing.

  5. User avater
    simplesue 03/30/2021

    Fabulous- Love what you have done! You had me at "reclaimed a parking lot" for a garden! Looking forward to part 2 for more photos and story!

  6. User avater
    pattyeckels 03/30/2021

    Love the winter pictures. Cant wait for tomorrow to see the test!

  7. User avater
    treasuresmom 03/30/2021

    Amazing! But I especially love 2 things - the big tree with limbs crossing over & the steps with all the greenery.

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