Garden Tour: Cynthia Zamaria of Recreational Decorator

Friday, August 22, 2014

country gardens, blogger gardens, cottage gardens

I'm really excited to share our last Blogger Garden Tour this week, Cynthia Zamaria of Recreational Decorator. I'm in love with this garden people! It's gorgeous and oh so colourful. Read more about Cynthia's wonderful garden oasis below. 

PS: All photos were taken by Cynthia's 14-year-old son Ben!

country gardens, blogger gardens, cottage gardens

Tell me a little about your blog, where you live, how long you’ve been blogging.

In my professional time I work in PR, and for fun, I blog on Recreational Decorator. It really is a passion project for me – a place to experiment and explore how we make beautiful spaces, share meals with family and friends and grow our gardens. While I’ve been connected to the blogging community through work for a long time, I’ve only been creating Rec Dec for a few years. I love it. I only wish I had more time!

My husband Graham and I have three children Ben (14), Ruby (12), Theo (7). Ben helps me with much of the original photography for the blog. Most of the time we live in the Beaches in Toronto. But as much as we can, we escape to the country.

country gardens, blogger gardens, cottage gardens

What do you love most about your garden? What makes it special to you?

We’ve had this country property, just outside of Peterborough, Ontario for about four years. It overlooks a designated wetland and has sweeping views over Rice Lake. We have an amazing variety of bird and other animal life, and we have space. Open, sunny space so we can have the garden we’ve dreamed of.

country gardens, blogger gardens, cottage gardens

Our plan has always been to keep it simple. Nothing too fussy – hardy, traditional vegetables, herbs and a cutting garden with the classics and wildflowers. Plants that would survive the deer and our neglect. A place for our children to grow their own beans to eat fresh off the stem. Pumpkins for Halloween. Mint for my juleps.

This truly is a special place for us. As soon as we fall out of the car on a Friday night, the first place our three run to is the garden. They want to see what has grown since last week.

country gardens, blogger gardens, cottage gardens

What have you learned along the way that you can share with others about gardening or setting up a backyard oasis?

  • I’m not a patient gardener. I tend to overplant and divide later. The instant gratification is worth it.
  • We’ve had great luck with starting our veggies and flowers by seed. Cheap thrills.
  • Think about your surroundings and what plants will not only thrive, but complement the style of your home and evoke the mood you want.
  • You don’t have to spend a lot on outdoor furniture (although tempting). We placed two picnic tables together and added a funky umbrella for a simple farm-to-table solution.

country gardens, blogger gardens, cottage gardens

Do you have any future plans for your garden or do you love it just the way it is?

I think the pool and cabana will have to wait! But in the meantime, there are always new crops to try and experimentation with the flowers to keep us busy. And of course the weeding.

Whether you have a big garden or small, you can create your own escape. And once all the hard work is done, remember to take the time to smell the roses.

country gardens, blogger gardens, cottage gardens
country gardens, blogger gardens, cottage gardens

Thanks for sharing your gorgeous garden Cynthia! 
You can follow Cynthia and find out more about her here:

Blogger Garden Tour Series
and my garden!

Garden Tour: Thea Morris from Time with Thea

Friday, August 15, 2014

This week, our Blogger Garden Tour comes from Alberta blogger Thea Morris from the blog Time with Thea. Today she's sharing her colourful and mature artist-inspired garden. Read more about Thea's garden below.

Tell me a little about your blog, where you live, and how long you’ve been blogging.

My blog goes by the name Time With Thea. Thea is my name and it is pronounced ‘Taya’ even though it isn’t spelled that way. My blog is a place where I share all of my interests and projects that I share with my readers who come to spend some “Time With Thea”. I live in Alberta in a small town west of Calgary.

My blog Time WIth Thea is just over two years old but I have been blogging a little bit longer than that. I started a blog for my work and loved it so much I decided to start a personal blog but it was difficult juggling two blogs and working full time. Along the way my blog went through a name change and more recently a blog redesign. I also retired a year ago and I am having a lot of fun pursuing the interests and passions I never had time for before and sharing them on the blog.

What do you love most about your garden? What makes it special to you?

One passion I have is gardening. Living in Alberta near the Rocky Mountains makes it interesting. I live in a Gardening Zone 3 but during the summer the sun rises really early and sets really late making for a lot of sunshine during the day. My backyard also faces direct south. It can get pretty hot back there in the summer.

I have been developing this garden for about eight years beginning ever since we moved into this home. The major landscaping with the raised garden beds and stone work was done by the previous owner. They had made it into a vegetable garden with only a few flowers. I began with planting vegetables with some success for a few years but gave up when the deer enjoyed my beets and carrots before I could harvest them. Come to think of it my husband and I have gradually changed all of the garden beds on all four sides of the house.

My garden at the back of the house is now entirely made up of different kinds of perennials. I see myself as the artist and the garden is the canvas. I don’t have a specific design for my garden but rather it is created more on a collection of ideas and concepts:

I wanted to create a ‘splash of colours’ just like Monet did in his paintings. I tried to have every colour possible from perennials represented somewhere in my garden.

Each plant adds different textures and shapes to my garden canvas. I love all the different types of blooms. I also think that the green leaves and stems add a lot to a garden and they are not to be overlooked.

Another important thing for my garden was to have different heights. This is achieved with with adding obelisks and planting tall, medium height and low level perennials.

I have very few annuals planted directly in the ground because I find they are too much work. The exception are my sweet peas that I grow from seed and have them growing up the three obelisks. I used to plant them along the back fence but the deer were enjoying them a little too much for their dinner. I also have about twenty different pots placed in my garden beds among the perennials and on my patio where I create a variety of container gardens just using annuals.

When creating a garden I also believe it isn’t just about the plants, but beautiful gardens can also be created with different garden accessories. I have a variety throughout my garden just to add more interest and unexpected delights, but I am careful not to overdo it to avoid things not looking too busy and junky.

I also created a garden that changes from month-to-month, week-to-week and even day-to-day because different flowers are blooming at different times. It is like my garden is a different painting every time different flowers have stopped and new ones have begun blooming. The numerous bees and butterflies add a nice touch to the painting as well!

What have you learned along the way that you can share with others about gardening or setting up a backyard oasis?

I have learned that gardening is a lot more than just putting some plants in the garden and expecting them to grow. There is a lot of before, during and after work that needs to be done. I would say that I probably spend about half my time preparing the soil by adding amendments like compost, peat moss and bone meal every year in the spring and fall. Then I spend about one tenth of the time doing the planting. The rest of the time is spent with the maintenance work as in cutting back plants, deheading blooms, watering and weeding as well as cleaning up the garden at the end of the growing season in the fall.

I also learned that it is a fabulous wellness lifestyle activity. It is great exercise for working on your stretching, bending, lifting, balance and core. It is also very therapeutic to be outdoors working in your own little oasis amongst the beauty and fragrances. I really love mucking about in the soil with my bare hands.

Do you have any future plans for your garden or do you love it just the way it is?

I don’t have any major future plans for my garden because it is now to a point that it is well established. I can see that I am going to have to split some of my perennials and I always like to add a couple of new ones just to see how they will grow. I do want to be careful that my garden doesn’t become too busy and overgrown so I end up giving away a lot of the perennials that I end up splitting. I am a firm believer in sometimes ‘less is more.”

One thing I am trying to do is create a four season garden by creating interest in my garden for each season. I am exploring ways to create a spring, summer, fall and winter garden thinking about the different textures colours and heights. There also is a beauty in plants that have gone dormant but are still showing in a blanket of white snow on a sunny winter day.

Thanks for sharing your garden Thea! 
You can follow Thea and find out more about her here:

Next week, I'll feature the garden of Cynthia Zamaria from Recreational Decorator.

Blogger Garden Tour Series
and my garden!

Garden Tour: Jennifer Farr of Kitchen Counter Chronicles

Friday, August 08, 2014

This week our blogger garden tour comes from Jennifer Farr, the Toronto blogger behind Kitchen Counter Chronicles. Typically Jen blogs about her kitchen counter, but today she has us outside in her wonderful city garden. I love all the colour! Read about Jen's garden oasis below.

Beautiful dill plant and more flowers from the front garden

Tell me a little about your blog, where you live and how long you’ve been blogging.

I believe that life lands on the kitchen counter. Our kitchen counter is the landing spot for so many things. Aside from the many piles of craft projects and paperwork, our kitchen counter is also where we gather with our family and friends, creating memories.

Three and a half years ago I decided to start sharing everything that lands on our kitchen counter with readers on my blog, Kitchen Counter Chronicles. I have been chronicling all of our crafting, baking, gardening and our attempts at greening our lives. We live in Toronto and are trying to raise our daughters (aged 8 and 10) to be eco-conscious individuals. As we teach them how to be more aware of the world, we are learning as well. I am an advocate for free play and the need to get children outdoors exploring, playing and learning. As such, our family spends a lot of time outdoors, discovering our city and beyond.

Pops of yellow in the front garden

What do you love most about your garden? What makes it special to you?

I love our city garden. I truly believe that a garden is for everyone to enjoy, which is why I love how our garden meets the needs of everyone in our household.

Even though we really don't have very much space, somehow we have created pockets for everyone to enjoy. My daughters and I take care of our vegetable patch...the planning, planting and harvesting. A few years ago I built and installed an outdoor chalkboard. What a fun way for kids to get creative outdoors. My husband has his barbecue zone...which is where you will find him most weekends.

I love sneaking out into the garden with a cup of tea and my laptop. I always find being outside so peaceful and inspiring. Even with the hum of the busy city all around, the back yard is the perfect place to write.

Jen relaxing in her oasis!

What have you learned along the way that you can share with others about gardening or setting up a backyard oasis?

I have learned so much about gardening over the years. I am in no way an expert, but I do love sharing what I have learned.

One of the most important lessons I have learned is to have patience. You cannot rush a flower or vegetable plant. A successful garden takes planning and once planted it will need time to develop into your vision. Our flower garden in the front yard is finally looking wild and free, like I had hoped it would. We also have a tiny vegetable patch in our backyard. I have discovered that vegetable gardening takes planning and a lot of trial and error. Sometimes the peppers don't turn yellow or the tomatillos plants produce way too many tomatillos.

Left: Kale in the vegetable garden; Right: Outdoor chalk board for the kids

Do you have any future plans for your garden or do you love it just the way it is?

We are always dreaming about new things to do in our garden. Our next big project will be building a new fence in our front yard. We are really procrastinating on that project...we are having a hard time committing to a design we love. Otherwise, the planning of our garden is a family effort. We try an take into consideration what foods the kids like, what food we would like to try growing and figuring how to grow it. Who knows what crops we will produce next year.

Vegetable Garden

When we first moved in, some seven years ago, our front yard and back yard were all flower beds. It was like someone handed us a blank canvas and we could turn our yard into a beautiful work of art. At the time, my mother was living with us and she was an incredible gardener. So, my mom and I planned, planted and poured our love into the front and back gardens. My mother passed away five years ago and I am so grateful to see the garden we planted growing into everything we had planned together. Yes, it takes time, energy and effort to grow a garden...but every year we are given a glorious reward.

Thanks for sharing your garden Jen! You can find out more 
about Jen and follow her kitchen chronicles here:

Next week, I'll feature the garden of Thea Morris from Time with Thea.

Blogger Garden Tour Series
and my garden!

Garden Tour: Heather Benton from New House New Home

Friday, August 01, 2014

I'm really excited to share with you the first official Blogger Garden Tour: Heather Benton from New House New Home.

Heather is a Canadian girl who spent most of her life in the big city. Three years ago, her husband took a job in a small town and life changed when Heather retired from a stressful job and moved away from family and friends. But she got to retire and spend her time in the garden, cooking and renovating their 1935 Tudor home. According to Heather, she's domestically obsessed and blogging about it!

And now for the beautiful garden tour!

Welcome to my garden.....We took over this garden three years ago after moving to a small town in SW Ontario. My previous garden had been a "concrete jungle" as the backyard was mostly pool, so I focussed mainly on growing things in pots and small spaces.

Lisgar house
This is the front of our 1935 Tudor in the spring. The saucer magnolia (on the right) is my pride and joy.

But this property had a big yard with lots of possibilities. So we set out creating our own version of an English cottage garden, complete with veggie patch and perennial borders.

favourite flowers
From top left: Easter lily, ghost fern, saucer magnolia, "bowl of beauty" peony, helopsis, "raspberry ice" heuchera, David Austen rose, double tiger lily, "sweet autumn" clematis

Along the way, I've blogged about it with the main purpose to share it with my friends and family "back home."

perennial border back of garden
Back perennial border with the newly built deck in the background.

We've accomplished a lot in the three summers we've been here....a raised vegetable bed, my "secret garden," a shade garden and many other smaller beds. The one thing I've learned about taking on such a big task is to do it in phases. After three years of building, turning sod and lugging umpteen yards of top soil, I'm glad we spread the work out. And now we can sit back and relax (other than weeding, of course).

When we first moved in, there was no fence separating the yard from the driveway area. Because we live right next to a park, this was a huge privacy issue for me. I wanted to be able to have dinner on the patio without passersby checking out the food.

garden gate
The ivy was here, but the hosts, rhododendrons and Sweet Autumn clematis are new. The DIY burlap wreath is a seasonal addition.

Patio Area
flowers beside garage
Once you enter the patio area, there's a small garden along the garage wall...

The path leads to the vegetable garden which is enclosed with sections of old fence brought from the back of the property.

rose arbour, clematis

The "Jackmanii" clematis was in sad shape when we got here. It was overgrown and falling in onto itself. That first year, I cut it back to about 12" and prayed. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith in the garden. That leap paid off as the clematis is thriving now.

Secret Garden
secret garden fence line
Secret Garden BEFORE
The above picture is what we started with - a sad fence line and a couple of tired hosta. This is what it looks like now...

The old shutters were added to break up the long boring fence line.
My secret garden is just that....mine. You can't see it from the house as it's tucked behind the perennial border in the top picture. Somehow or other it's turned into a yellow garden. Which was not my intention. But the helopsis, the tiger's eye sumac and day lilies give this sunny spot it's yellow. That's okay. Sometimes, you just have to let the garden create itself. This is the hottest part of the garden, so everything I grow here has to be drought tolerant - it's filled with spiderwort, some newly planted lavender and tons of daffodils in the spring. So there's something for every season.

Shade Garden
before shade garden
Shade Garden BEFORE
In high contrast to the hot secret garden is the shade garden which runs along the north end of the property. When we moved in there was nothing here but dirt because even the grass wouldn't grow.

hostas shade garden
Shade Garden AFTER
 We've filled it with hosta, hydrangeas and ferns and my favourite feature of all...

water feat
This tranquility fountain adds the pleasing sound of water and a cool spot on a hot day

We love to entertain so the garden needs to be something for everyone. It gets used A LOT. We've dined under the stars, had tea parties under the maple trees and pre-wedding family gatherings:

garden dining

This year, I can say we're done. But I know that with any garden, it's never "done". It's been a journey to create this oasis. We enjoy sitting on the deck watching the birds in the bird bath, dining on the patio alone or with friends, and puttering in the vegetable garden.

Thanks for joining me on our tour. And thank you, Stephanie, for allowing us to share our gardens with you and your readers.

Follow Heather here:


Thanks Heather! Next week, I'll feature the garden of Jennifer Farr from Kitchen Counter Chronicles.

Blogger Garden Tour Series
and my garden!

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