Courthouse Square

When I was studying Landscape Architecture at Ryerson University (ok, I only took the one course, how was I to know that Ian would get transferred the next year), my course instructor took the class to see this small park. It is behind the old Adelaide Street courthouse, and the small street behind it is called Court House Lane.   It was designed by Janet Rosenberg, who is a very famous landscape architect in Toronto.

The course I was taking  was called Landscape Building and Materials, and the instructor wanted us to see all the different materials that were used.

These pictures were taken last summer, when Toronto was in the middle of a strike, so excuse the weeds, long grass and garbage. We are not always like that.

I love the polished granite, window.

Love the contrast between the shrub and the yew, the play of light and dark.

But what I love the most about this tiny, tucked away garden is this, look at the gorgeous espalier on the metal structure.

It looks great, summer or winter. Ignore the snow, I took this picture after one of our rare snowfall, back in February.

A close up of the espalier. These would be such a great feature to give your garden some privacy, and takes up very little room.

This was taken in January, just after they pruned the espalier for the year.


A closeup of the branch after pruning. You can see the fruiting spurs that have been kept. At least, I assume that is what they are, never having pruned a fruit tree or espalier in my life.

These lovely iron obelisks run the length of the street. In summer they support roses and clematis,

and are very sculptural in winter.

This is the  spot where I found the snowdrops in flower, I told you about in Mondays post. I do not know why more public gardens do not plant these, they are not any trouble.

61 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    gardeningasylum said,

    Good morning Deborah, That espalier is a fantastic refuge for an urban environment – looks like Toronto has some talented people designing the outdoor spaces.

  2. 3

    Edith Hope said,

    Dear D, I was so excited to see pictures of this garden which would be exactly my kind of thing – most likely because of the elements of formality. Like you, I think that the granite window is most effective and I also like the green on green with the yew forming a base to the lighter, more airy shrub above.

    The espaliered trees are very effective indeed, as yours will be in time. I noticed that they have trained theirs from the base, rather than allowing a single trunk to support the pleaching. Interesting.

    The street obelisks are magnificent and totally in scale with the surrounding buildings. However, I am never totally happy with obelisks which fail to reach a point at the top. But this is just a personal view. I can certainly see, as you say, this garden looking good all year round.

    • 4

      Edith, it has such strong structure(to repeat myself endlessly). That is why I included pictures of it summer and winter, I wanted to show how interesting structure is, even without “flowers”.

  3. 5

    Laurrie said,

    Deborah, this was a great visual lesson. One of the hardest things for me in my small space is to use structure… I can plop a plant in the ground and even group some of them plopped together, but I’m so tentative on adding any fences or arbors or sitting or obelisks. While the Toronto spaces are bigger and urban, these examples certainly translate to smaller and less formal. You have me thinking….

    • 6

      I am glad that I have you thinking Laurrie, lol. In all my other gardens, I did a lot of ploping, but I am really trying to include a lot of structure this time, it really holds the space together.

  4. 7

    Joy said,

    Deborah that is such a gorgeous little spot of heaven in the city : ) I wonder how many people have no idea it is there ?
    I am such a fan of obelisks .. I just picked up two from Home Sense yesterday .. hiding them in my car (I have a lot of garden art hiding in my car until the landscaping is done : )
    Do you know what that shrub is with the yew ? I am curious about it !

    • 8

      Joy, it is kind of hidden away, I did not know it was there for ages. I was wondering about the shrub as well, at first I thought it was a chestnut, due to the leaves, but then I noticed a white bottlebrush shaped flower (they were almost finished in August) so I will have to do some research.

  5. 9

    Barry said,

    Hi Deborah,
    I love this place too. What’s even better is to sit on the terrace at Terroni’s with an espresso and look out into the park.

    Remember the good old days when Janet Rosenberg was a regular at Canada Blooms?
    Now it’s all Home Depot.

    An idea for later this Spring….. guerrilla planting of snowdrops in Toronto Parks.

    • 10

      Barry, I hope this park will become more popular now that Terroni’s is there. It is lovely and only a few office workers had lunch during the summer, very underused.
      I so miss Janet from Canada Blooms, when she and Loblaws left, it went downhill. I have high hopes for this year.
      I’m up for a little guerrilla planting!

  6. 11

    Terrific post Deborah, thanks for sharing such a lovely space with us. The granite window is beautiful, the espalier is AMAZING, what a wonderful way to define a space, and who doesn’t love a good obelisk?

  7. 13

    thevioletfern said,

    Just love that metal structure with the espalier AND the iron obelisks! What great garden architecture in the middle of your city. Just goes to show that gardens really do brighten up all and any spots!

  8. 15

    What a wonderful post. The espalier is impressive, and yet it fits in perfectly with the arbor, without detracting from it. I love the obelisks too. Anything to help introduce a vertical element, some visual interest, in an otherwise flat landscape. They’re architecturally beautiful in their own right, but with clematis and roses, how stunning. I wish more cities made such an effort.

  9. 17

    Tatyana said,

    I think it was very thoughtful to put this garden in that location. It brings life and nature to the stone/glass street.

  10. 19

    Barbara said,

    I’m going to hunt up that garden next time I’m in town. Love Janet’s work. She never cheaps out when it comes down to any of the hardscape material. And picks interesting plants as well – she used to do the picks for Loblaws annual and perennial garden program.

    • 20

      If you go to Terroni’s on Adelaide St East, you will find it right off the back patio. I wish that Janet was still involved with Loblaws and Canada Blooms, it was so much more interesting then.

  11. 21

    miss m said,

    If only all city gardens had that much class ! Fabulous !

  12. 23

    I appreciate this virtual tour of a delightful garden, in a city I actually visit 6 times a year. Alas, there is no time to be a tourist because seeing the the grandchildren takes priority. I Look forward to the next guided tour you may be planning.

  13. 25

    Deborah, thank you for sharing this TO gem. I love the ironwork – those obelisks are stunning summer or winter. While this garden looks to be a small space and almost austere in its formality, the lavish touches like the beautifully cared for espalier and rose and clematis plantings in the obelisks create a scene that is both thrilling and uplifting. Love it!

  14. 27

    Court House said,

    […] County Clerk of Courts Lake County Clerk of Courts Related blogs The courthouse is still steamy Courthouse square « green theatre Satz, finkelstein fight yields change at the courthouse « broward … Joe leinweber to file […]

  15. 28

    Thank you for sharing this lovely garden Deborah. I don’t know anything about design, but do I like all the metal elements here – the obelisks are great, with just that little bit of scrollwork and the seats seem to fit so well with their setting too.

  16. 30

    Joanne said,

    Interesting post I like the obelisks particularly they will be lovely when the roses and clematis are flowering and their substancial structure will ofset the enormous buildings behind them.

  17. 32

    love the metal structures!

  18. 34

    SummerHouseArt said,

    This would be a lovely place to sit and relax. I can almost smell the greenery. Lovely post.

  19. 36

    Yvonne said,

    Wow debbie!

    What an amazing story you are telling!!! It’s absolutely inspiring!
    I love your bookcases and your garden must be peeking through right about now.

    I would not be surprised if you became widely famous from this blog!!! I love your enthusiasm and style! can’t wait to hear what you have to say next!!

    -keep it going!~!!
    much love and admiration,

    • 37

      Ha, Ha Yvonne, I am glad that you love the bookcases, I designed them with you in mind. Do not know about the garden, was not up last weekend, so I am hoping the warm weather we have been having has melted 19 of the 20 feet of snow.
      Debbie Does Dallas

  20. 38

    Alice Joyce said,

    This is a terrific post. I’ve been wanting to visit Toronto and this is the next best thing for now! I will always have a thriving career as a landscape architect/albeit plant geek, in an alternate universe. xoxo Alice

  21. 40

    Melissa said,

    I love the obelisks. I suspect they were custom-made at a reduced price because of how many the city bought. Covered in snow they would also be eye-catching. Getting the right plant to grow on them in the pavement-bound planting spaces is probably challenging. The little park you show reminds me of the “pocket parks” dotted around New York City, where green space is at an equal premium. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  22. 42

    Wendy said,

    these are all really lovely. You know, there are people who are really against espalier…(and bonsai, etc.). Love that photo with the snow. Structures can make such a great difference.

  23. 44

    kimberly said,

    What a beautiful garden in the city. I haven’t been to Toronto in over 10 years…wonderful metropolitan city. This is a nice little pocket!

  24. 46

    I love all the things you love about this garden. I would have to see it in person, should I ever visit Toronto. The espalier is really beautiful, as are those metal obelisks. I am glad you showed the winter photos. You know a garden is great, when it looks good in the snow!

  25. 48

    Meredith said,

    I love the obelisks. Do take a shot of them in full flower with clematis and roses sometime for us, Deborah. 🙂 I’d also love a shiny granite window in my daydream garden, stored away in my mind’s eye for when we finally settle down someplace permanent (more or less), but I have a feeling it’s outside my budget. Thank goodness Toronto knows where to put its priorities and has decided to spend on beautifying the green spaces!

  26. 50

    Liisa said,

    What a wonderful mini retreat. The espaliers are lovely, and what a wonderful idea for small gardens or for privacy. The iron obelisks are also beautiful. Both carry such interest throughout the seasons. A lovely place to relax, and enjoy the rewards of the artistic hands that created it.

    • 51

      You are right Liisa, there are lots of ideas for a small garden, or a section of a larger one. I am all about dividing a garden into rooms, I think it makes it look larger.

  27. 52

    GloriaBonde said,

    I love the special little gardens that can be found in cities- oasis

  28. 54

    Eileen said,

    I love the obelisks. I have three in my own small garden. I think one was a plant stand that I turned into an obelisk.


  29. 56

    Kathleen said,

    This is a fantastic “secret garden” Deborah. How wonderful to have it tucked away in the middle of the city. I would go there every chance I could. So many design elements to admire. The obelisks are gorgeous. They look gigantic ~ how tall would you say they are??

  30. 58

    Andrea said,

    Hi i am new here, just followed via RO. Those obelisk for trellis seem so tall. Can it be fully vined by plants in summer? I can visualize a very beautiful vertical vase if that is already full. How lovely if it can stay perennially there!

    • 59

      If you look very, very closely Andrea, you can see the rose canes and clematis vines on the obelisks. I do not think that they cover it very heavily, you would still be able to see the structure of it. I will get a picture in the summer of them in flower.
      Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment, I hope to see you again soon.

  31. 60

    Grace said,

    Hi Deborah, Thank you for the tour. This is a fabulous lesson in the value of structure, be it the hard or soft scape.

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