Barbara Grace has a secret. As an interior decorator, she is often required to follow strict design formulas and create muted, pristine indoor schemes for many of her clients. But while this formal, subdued style may be her calling card in business, it’s a wild card that rules Barbara’s personal design style, which she shows off to full effect in her Sudbury, Ontario, garden.
The property was nothing more than a large, barren lot when Barbara and her husband, Bryan, purchased the land in 1979 and quickly went about building a home and creating a modest garden. However, in 1993, unhappy with her patch, Barbara decided to start over: “I wanted an English-country-style garden, yet something free-flowing, not formal,” she says.
She realized her dream. For the past 15 years, Barbara has enjoyed a landscape rich with informal, lush beds in a kaleidoscope of colours, punctuated by playful touches and whimsical vignettes.
Approach the Graces’ home from the front and you’re greeted by a deceptively staid, manicured yard—a nod to Barbara’s restrained businesswoman persona. But peek past the stately cedars toward the gated backyard and you’re welcomed by an ebullient display of gardening at its most riotous.
Push open the gate and you discover Barbara’s favourite part of the garden, a shady area filled with a variety of mosses, woolly thyme and periwinkle. “I love this spot because it’s the first thing visitors see, and coming from the front, it’s so unexpected,” she enthuses. Here, you also immediately get a taste of her love of whimsy: an empty birdcage hangs from an oak (one of the few non-cedars in the garden) and a charming wooden bench completes the scene.
With a garden that’s as much about hardscaping as it is about plants, it helps to have a handy husband. Bryan built the bench, as well as the shed, sauna room, deck—in fact, pretty much everything that isn’t growing.
The petunias (visible on left side of photo above) disguise a large deck leading off the back of the house. It’s perfect for entertaining—one of Barbara and Bryan’s favourite pastimes