I am who?

I was surprised when I published this post by the number of comments.  A lot of readers felt that it would give you more information about me.  I did not think that I was that interesting, who would be interested in hearing more about me, but apparently, some of you would.

I picked my lion as my avatar, as at the time, I did not want my photo on the internet.

But, a lot of other bloggers do, so when Teza asked me for a photo for the Forum posts, a friend of mine took some of me at work, and that is the one you see here.

Now that you know what I look like, I will tell you my story.

I worked for a newspaper company when Ian and I met, (I asked him out, the first and obviously, last time that I have ever asked a man out) as the accountant at a small newspaper. Transferring to their head office in Toronto, I travelled around Canada, training the staff at newspapers on a computer system.  It was an amazing (and free) way to see Canada, I got to see almost all the provinces.   When the travelling got to be too much (and I would have had to be in British Columbia  for a month), I left the company, and went back to school to study floral design.  It was a year-long course, and you co-oped at a flower shop, one day a week.  When I graduated, the owner of this shop ‘East of Eliza’ offered me a full-time job.  It was a wonderful and very fun place to work.  We not only were a flower shop, but also had a small garden centre, and designed and maintained gardens.

 I had a very shady (and very, very small garden in the ‘Beaches’ section of Toronto. My first garden, it was where I learned and made a multitude of mistakes. Although the whole lot was only 20′ x 90′, (and had a house and garden shed on it), I divided the back yard into two rooms. 

I thought that it made the garden look larger, and certainly more interesting. My FIL (in the blue sweater)built the white are in the picture, here my in laws are inspecting our handiwork. We are building a brick path to the shed.

By now we had stained the shed green, hoping it wouldn’t be so noticeable (although how can you miss something that huge in such a tiny garden).

Sweet Autumn clematis was draped over the arch that Bill built, when it flowered the whole back smelt like vanilla.

After a few years, Ian was transferred to Kingston, Ontario, and I went to work for a friend and former colleague who had opened his own flower shop in this gorgeous city, TrugsBill is also a fabulous gardener, and while we did not have the space for a garden centre, fabulous plants (in small quantities) were for sale and we also did garden design and maintenance.

Starting on my second garden,  (twice the size of my Beaches garden, a whopping 35 x 152), I once again divided my back garden into ‘rooms’.  This time into thirds.

This was taken in October 1998 when we moved in. That fence was quickly replaced!

You can see there wasn’t much in the yard, except some very overgrown shrubs, honeysuckle,viburnum, mock orange,berberis, and a rose near the garage.

Looking towards the house. Just ignore the crazy lady on the deck. Wow, first no pictures of me, and now you get to see me in my robe, at least it is black velvet!

 The area closest to the house was the sunniest, this had a rectangular thyme lawn, surrounded by a flagstone coping, and flower beds on the other side path. 

You can see we just planted the thyme.

You walked under an arch, to the ‘black and white’ garden. There was a circular lawn, with a stone mowing strip, and a large urn in the centre of the lawn.  This was over 12 years ago, and black plants were a lot more difficult to find. I would like to try it again some time, it is still a favourite colour scheme of mine.  

The stone mowing strip in the black and white garden is complete. If I had known that one day I would be showing these pictures on the internet, I would have tied up a bit more before taking them.

 On the opposite side of the entrance arch was an exit, semi hidden by a large berberis.  Going through you entered the woodland garden.  You could at this point, go either left or right. This was the very back of my garden, and the most shady.  A circular walk took you through and you ended back at the Black and white garden.

This is looking from the laneway behind the house, through all the garden rooms.

Just as I started to get the garden to a point where I was (somewhat) happy with it, Ian got transferred again.  This time to London, England, (much as I hated to leave my garden, I wasn’t going to complain about that).   When we were looking for a place to live in we had a choice, live further out from the heart of the city and have a larger place, and probably a garden, or live in a tiny flat downtown and no garden.  It may have surprised you, but I chose the latter.  Although it was very hard not to have my own personal garden, I still felt like I had a garden. London is amazing that way, everyone has a lovely front garden, no matter how small, and the parks, they are amazing.  I would walk to work (Kenneth Turner at Harrods) every morning through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.  There was always something new to see and learn, from the pollarded london plane trees at the entrance, to the fritillaria meleagris naturalized in the long grass.  On Christmas day, we went for a walk through Holland Park and I counted 31 different types of flowers in bloom, at home it would have been zero.

When we got transferred back to Canada, we had a decision to make. What should we purchase?  I knew we could never afford as large a garden as we wanted in Toronto, and I did not want to wait to retirement to purchase our ‘forever’ home, hedges and trees take a long time to grow.  Although we had gone through a bit of ‘cabin fever’ moving from a 2,000 sq ft home in Canada, to a 424 sq ft flat in London, we had survived.  So we decided to buy a very small condo in downtown Toronto, where we could walk to work, while looking for a house.  After a year we found it, and named it Kilbourne Grove.

If you are interested in reading about how we came up with the house name you can here, or if you want to see what it looked like when we first purchased it, read about it here, here and here. If you want to read about a bit more personal stuff, my Honest Scrap post will fill you in.

70 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    fairegarden said,

    Oh Deborah, this was simply fascinating! Well told and full of fun, I LOVE the black velvet robe! 🙂 I believe you chose wisely in England, having been there. The park system and flowers everywhere do make it seem like one big garden for all to enjoy. That and being able to walk to work, and everywhere else makes the quality of life so much better, even with only a tiny flat. We remember the beginnings of your garden at Kilborne and admire the long range plans you have for that wonderful place. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    • 2

      Thank you Frances, and I am glad that you like the robe. I had an amazing time living there, way too short. You have been with me since the beginning and have seen my adventures at KG, now you know what I started with.

  2. 3

    Paul said,

    That was fascinating. I read every link to earlier posts and enjoyed it all.

    I spent five years in England and have similar memories to you. Wonderful photos and descriptions. The whole before and after thing is great. I think I would have real trouble leaving so much hard work behind, so I completely understand the urge to buy the final place rather than waiting until retirement for the “forever” home.

    Thanks for being such a constantly great read.

    • 4

      Thank you for the wonderful compliment, it is greatly appreciated.
      It was very hard leaving them behind, although I was always hungry for a larger space. When we bought Kilbourne Grove, the house was much larger then we wanted, but the garden….I thought it might keep me satisfied for the rest of my life.

  3. 5

    Valerie said,

    Wow. I really enjoyed your story. The gardens you have created were beautiful and I hope the new owners keep them up. I can see that Kilbourne House is going to have a magnificent garden as you have a vision and a plan to make it so.

  4. 7

    Marguerite said,

    I am wowed by your previous gardens and can hardly wait to see what you have in store for Kilbourne Grove.

  5. 9

    Racquel said,

    Wow you’ve really have a knack for garden design. I love how you turned that bare overgrown lot into a gorgeous oasis. 🙂

  6. 11

    commonweeder said,

    I love knowing more about the histories of the garden bloggers I most enjoy. The next best thing to a visit over the tea table. We do give out bits and pieces of information, but this is a wonderful post – with those great links to other life stories. Thank you!

    • 12

      I would have loved to have been at the tea table with you and Carol, I am sure there was some very interesting stories. It is always interesting knowing more about each other, I am glad that you enjoyed learning more about me.

  7. 13

    A wonderful Wonderful Post Deborah!! You have created stunning gardens and had to leave them for others . . . I hope they have taken good care of them. I love all your photos in process with hoses and all. Your time in London sounds like such fun and an education too. Now your own a garden for keeps . . . as much as anything is. Even if Ian gets transferred you will always keep Kilbourne Grove right? It is a joy to know more about your gardening experience and your life with Ian. I am dying to ask . . . who proposed? ;>)) I look forward to seeing your present gardens grow over the years. Your designs are quite lovely. ;>)

    • 14

      Thank you Carol, I hope they are too, and I don’t want to know if they aren’t, I can live in my fantasy world. Kilbourne Grove is our ‘forever’ house, we will always keep it. And Ian did propose, we actually got married exactly one year after we went out for the very first time, 22 years ago.

  8. 15

    PatioPatch said,

    Dear Deborah – pleased to meet you:) This is a charming, funny and interesting saga of your life, love, and career and no doubt a nostalgic trip for you. The before and after pics show how creative you are in the garden, with whatever you space have. Am overawed with your design skills so KG is in for a real treat. Off to read the rest of your links.

    Laura x

    • 16

      Laura, when I decided to write this post, I turned the house upside down looking for photographs. I really did not keep as many of the gardens in progress as I should have, it is so interesting to look back. I did feel a bit nostalgic for my previous gardens, but plan to build on all I learned for KG.

  9. 17

    Kyna said,

    Supercool to learn some things about you 😀

  10. 19

    Kelly O said,

    Great post Deb! I feel like I know you even better now 🙂

  11. 21

    gardeningasylum said,

    Thanks for sharing your gardening and other stories – I love that first garden – mine would be rather an embarrassment if pictures ever emerged! It’s so interesting how people come to make gardens – many paths to the same happy place 🙂

    • 22

      I did look for the best pictures I could find, Cyndy. Easier to find good pictures of my second then my first. I just wish I had taken more before pictures, one reason I inflict so many on you of Kilbourne Grove. I want everyone to see the before, and hopefully, one day, the after.

  12. 23

    Oh, I do love posts like this. Those gardens are lovely, and I think that shed was hidden beautifully!

  13. 25

    debsgarden said,

    I really enjoyed seeing the progress of your gardens! You are very talented. The thought of starting all over, just when things are taking shape…I’m not sure if I would be horrified or just thrilled! Thanks for sharing your story. I only wish that picture of the lady in the black velvet robe was more of a close-up!

  14. 27

    Now I know where to come for gardening advice when I am finally living for good in PEI! My oldest sister is a wonderful gardener, so was my dad, but the gardening gene or “green thumb” seems to have passed me by.

    I’m not sure how I want to approach my landscaping yet but I love the way you create “rooms” and special areas. I have a trailer in Bayfield and my partner and I have created many tiny environments around the property dedicated to certain purposes: “the Rumi bench”, the “tropical dining area” etc.

    I love your blog and will be back to visit often!

    • 28

      Garden advice is always available Jane, all you have to do is ask.
      Lucky you, Bayfield is beautiful. When we were looking for a house, we did look in Bayfield, but it was too far of a drive to Blue Mountain, my husband snowboards, so we settled on Owen Sound. Not the gorgeous sand beaches of Lake Huron, but at least they are just a short drive away.
      Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment, I do hope to see you again.

  15. 29

    teza said,

    What a wonderful expose you have offered us, and to think it started with a photo! It was so refreshing to see your previous garden creations, there is so much that can be said for one’s personal progress when they are able to look back, not to mention the fact that no two gardens are ever exactly the same. I can better appreciate the amount of progress that you have undertaken at KG in such a short period of time! Thanks for this imtimate glimpse into your life!

  16. 31

    Jean said,

    Deborah, This was delightful. Both fun to learn more of your (personal and gardening) history and inspiring to see your previous gardens.

  17. 33

    One said,

    Hi Deborah, I have enjoyed reading your post about who you are. Thank you for sharing. You have created beautiful gardens, not one but two. Love the way they were designed. It has the cozy, yet slightly mysterious effect which I absolutely love.

    • 34

      Thanks One, I am glad that you felt they had a slightly mysterious feeling. The Secret Garden was one of my favourite books growing up and I always wanted that slightl fantasy feel in my garden.

  18. 35

    Barbara H. said,

    Thanks, Deborah! I see you’ve always been a creative, hard worker who knows how to implement knowledge gained from the past! Your previous gardens were lovely precursors to KG.

  19. 37

    Edith Hope said,

    Dearest D, What a wonderfully varied and interesting life you lead. The opportunity to travel is so life enhancing I think and does give one ideas for so many projects both inside and outside the house. You have had wonderful opportunities to develop your plantsmanship and gardening skills and must now be really pleased to have the scope and stability of your beautiful garden at Kilbourne Grove.

    • 38

      Dearest Edith, I just wish that I could have spent the whole time I was living in England visiting gardens there and abroad, I am sure I could have picked up even more ideas. Working for a living really interfered with that, lol. I am so very happy with the scope of Kilbourne Grove, I think it will keep me busy for the rest of my life, (although a birch forest would have been lovely).

  20. 39

    kimberly said,

    Deborah, what a great post! I love Honest Scrap! I just completed a similar post called 10 Things. How wonderful to finally see your face! I really enjoyed finding out about your various moves, as well. What a difference you made in those yards!! And culture shock is an understatement when moving into such a small space!!! WOW! I’ve seen your other posts about Kilbourne Groves before and after. Lovely!! You have a wonderful talent for creating beautiful gardens!

  21. 41

    Cat said,

    What a great perspective! I throroughly loved watching the evolution of your gardens and hearing more about how you came to be the gardener you are today. I’m new to garden blogging and felt, like you did, that less information on the personal side was the way to go but I can see from your comments and my own experience in reading your post how nice it is to learn more about the gardeners that we follow. Thanks for the insight – I have some thinking to do…

    • 42

      I think that after you have been blogging a while you feel more comfortable sharing personal stories and pictures. And your readers seem to really enjoy a more ‘personal’ touch, you can get the cold hard facts anywhere. I look forward to seeing what you chose to share.

  22. 43

    Jennifer said,

    Hi Deborah,
    It great to know more about you and the history that you have with creating gardens. I also read the post on how you came up with the name for your current garden. I have never though about naming my garden. I have no gift for naming things but perhaps one day something will occur to me.

    • 44

      Jennifer, I hope that a name does occur to you. When I was growing up my parents had a neighbour who build a new house at the edge of the woods, he named his house Edgewood. Ians dad ran a flying service for a family, their cottage was called Woodhaven and their house was called Stonehaven. When we had a freezer delivered to our house in Owen Sound, we hired a local delivery service, we told him our street name and he said, “is it to the mansion on the hill?”, there is another name we could use, lol.

  23. 45

    What a fun post, it was great to take a look back at your previous gardens. It made me realize that I really don’t have many photos of our last two gardens. I did take just a few of the garden at the last house, but that’s mostly because we laid every single cobblestone in the back, and I wanted some proof of our accomplishment! 😛 I was disappointed the last time I was in London. I remember years ago seeing gorgeous little front gardens all along the street where my grandparents lived. It’s true, you can’t go home again. Now it seems, with so many cars in and around the City, almost every single garden was paved over with cement so people can park their cars off the narrow streets. It was so disappointing and disheartening to see, but I suppose that’s ‘progress’.

    • 46

      It is always good to have proof of your accomplishments, lol. I love looking at other peoples befores and afters, so I made sure to take lots of pictures, not that they were great shots. I always thought they were just for my own amusement, who ever thought about a garden blog in those days?

  24. 47

    Lynne said,

    So good to be able to put a face to your name (although I suspect it will be a little while before I stop associating the stone lion first 🙂 ).
    I loved the walks through your previous gardens. Wow. You are an inspired gardener, and one with vision. I admire how you had a plan for each garden that you then worked toward achieving. That is my biggest pitfall – I have no long-term plan, and it reflects in my garden.
    Each of your gardens has been lovely, and Kilbourne Grove has lovely bones already. So easy to imagine how it will look in twenty years’ time when all your plantings have matured.

    • 48

      Lynne, I actually look at that picture and don’t even think it looks like me. I think it is because it is a 3/4 shot, and most times I face the camera dead on.
      I am a bit of a planner, and am getting better each garden. I think my floral design training helps, and I have taken a few courses in garden design as well. I really like structure in the garden, and I think that is the easiest thing to see in the gardens.

  25. 49

    This is such a riveting post!! I loved seeing your previous gardens, they are stunning and impressive even if small in size. You should be very proud of them. Love the ‘crazy lady on the deck’ pic lol.

  26. 53

    We are all so nosy (in a friendly way) we really enjoy it when someone does a post about themselves! And your gardens . . . fascinating that you were able to leave them without too much anguish after putting lots of work into each one. My favourite picture is of you looking exotic and dangerous and possibly mad as you survey your demesne in your long black gown.


    • 54

      Well, there was a bit of anguish Lucy, but I always felt that we were going on to bigger and better things. Thanks for visiting my blog, and thanks for the compliment, better to be exotic, dangerous and slightly mad, than boring!

  27. 55

    the black velvet robe is quite fetching!!!

  28. 57

    Jen said,

    It’s so nice to read of your accomplishments. And it sounds like the floral course was the one that steered you into your bliss. Your gardens truly must have been difficult to leave, it’s like leaving part of your heart behind. But I guess each new one is a joy also.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  29. 59

    Deborah, this was a lovely insight! Thank you for posting it… I will admit that I’m still amazed at the first revelation, that you were working as an accountant at first. My former husband and some of my better friends are all accountants, and I have a hard time imagining that they (or any of their coworkers) could be successful floral designers in a second career. You must be that very rare blend of artistic and practical. 🙂

    • 60

      Thanks Kim. I do feel, that I have a good blend, some of my colleagues are quite impractical, and have a difficult time filling out a simple form. But, I am probably not quite as creative as they are.

  30. 61

    By the way, you mentioned something about “Black Tiger” tomatoes on my tomato review a few weeks back. I can find “Black Zebra,” a striped variety, on a few different seed sites, but nary a mention of a “Black Tiger.” Can you fill me in on where you got yours? I’m intrigued and would love to try it!

    • 62

      I got my Black Tiger tomatoes from a local grower at my farmers market. It is striped, not as dark as Black Krim. Maybe the grower got the name wrong? I have in the past found plants mislabelled, hopefully that is not the case here.

  31. 63

    Wendy said,

    wow, this was so cool to see what you’ve done! First the little garden – what a charming garden. The second garden is really nice – quite a different theme and feel – equally beautiful!

    I see that you have always enjoyed those overhead shots! 🙂

  32. 65

    catmint said,

    Hi Deborah, thanks for sharing this about yourself. it is a bit like a preface to KG, and a perspective on your development as a gardener. Travelling, moving, is mind-broadening but also a wrench. As you know, this is my first and only garden, and sometimes I hope I will garden in it untll they cart me off. I know you feel the same way about KG although you may prefer not to put it so starkly? cheers, catmint

  33. 67

    Catharine said,

    Straight up love that A you are better looking than the lion and B fancy having such a good archive!

    • 68

      Thanks Catharine, for both A and B, although more for A, lol. I didn’t think my archive was that great, I had to look through a lot of pictures to find one that I could share, but I am glad there was.

  34. 69

    Barbara said,

    Deborah, not only are you obviously a great gardener, you are a great writer and I love reading your posts. Thanks for sharing this background with all of us. By purchasing Kilbourne Grove you have made yourself independent of further professional moves, great idea. But after such an exciting life, will you really be satisfied to retire there? If you ever decide to visit Europe again, please let all your European blog fans know!

    • 70

      That is such a lovely compliment, Barbara, thank you. I do hope that we will be able to settle down in one place, but I do hope to do more travelling in the future. I will let you know if I am planning on coming to Germany.

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