Couple’s ‘collect and create’ attitude flows into the garden
A big, billowy sweep of tall grasses defines a handsome Victorian home on a corner in the Gibson Neighbourhood.
Above an arching clump of miscanthus, a black cube structure catches the eye.
Other elements offer intrigue: the grassy knoll, the metal shed like a Gypsy caravan and a maple leaf as big as a billboard displayed on the side of the house.
Creativity is in full bloom in the garden of Natasja Bischoff and Mark Hadala.
“We went to Holland years ago and discovered ornamental grasses,” Hadala says.
They poured passion into the garden. “It was our baby,” Bischoff says. Until the real babies arrived, four boys now ages 10 to 20, and the garden took a path toward turnkey.
“It’s low maintenance now, almost zero maintenance,” Hadala says.
But that doesn’t mean it’s mundane, far from it. Those grasses form a gorgeous hedge. Northern sea-oats, fountain grass, maidenhair grass with patches of milkweed poking through, all waving in the wind to form a friendly sort of privacy fence.
“They get a buzz-cut in the spring and that’s it,” Hadala says.
Just visible over the grass is a wooden sculpture — two big blocks of interlocking cubes.
Hadala made it out of packaging material used for core samples. The wood was found near a dumpster.
Nearby is a tin shed, previously the kids’ playhouse.
“I built that during my Dwell Magazine period,” Hadala says of the corrugated metal-curved roof, a bit of whimsy.
Though one would think that Hadala is the artist in the family, it is really Bischoff (instagram.com/natasja.bischoff ) who’s in the trenches making art. She has a show on now with fellow artist Stephanie Seagram at Oswald’s Gallery on James Street North (oswalds.ca). Her big abstract pieces, in black and grey, are influenced by Hamilton’s industrial heritage. Free and fluid, the paintings on Mylar make a bold impression, like the factories lining the waterfront.
But it’s also possible to see the same sort of confident image-making in the couple’s garden. There’s the board and batten addition painted black with a bright red door, and the just right curves of the grassy knoll bordered by an ivy hedge.
The big structures in the garden
were built by Hadala, who teaches grades 3 and 4 at Rosedale Elementary School.
But Bischoff is a builder and constructor too. In her home studio she worked with a dremel tool, etching metal for her collaboration with artist Dave Hind for his installation piece, “Raising the Barn,” in front of the Hamilton Farmers’ Market.
Both share an attitude of “collect and create” that is evident in the garden. Railway ties covered in metal make an elegant edging material, stones collected from a quarry are enclosed in wire cages and disguised with ivy to make green walls.
They make good use of natural and inexpensive material in the garden: paths are pea gravel, a flagstone patio was built after many trips to a quarry, and a clever fence at the front porch acts like a giant California shutter, with movable louvers.
“The garden has grown into a series of rooms,” Bischoff says, “we like a modern edge with some bold design and large scale plantings, and it’s manageable too.”
Manageable and magical: a corner garden that reflects the confidence and vision of this couple, as they collect and create.
The garden has grown into a series of rooms. ARTIST NATASJA BISCHOFF
A walk to another part of the garden leads underneath a stack of mingling cubes created by Mark Hadala.
A path among the grasses leads to the front porch, where the fence boards open like louvers to let a breeze through or create more privacy.
Mark Hadala and Natasja Bischoff stand among the ornamental grasses in their low maintenance garden in the Gibson Neighbourhood.
Reuben Bischoff-Hadala peeks over the grassy knoll that was inspired by Southern Ontario drumlins.
Using wood destined for the dump, Mark Hadala created this modern sculpture. It sits on a raised rectangle of grass where a reflecting pool used to be.
Natasja Bischoff’s current show at Oswald’s Gallery on James Street North is influenced by Hamilton’s industrial landscape.
The whimsical garden shed, found objects and a few pots are framed by a giant maple tree.