Cou­ple’s ‘col­lect and cre­ate’ at­ti­tude flows into the gar­den

The Hamilton Spectator - - STYLE - KATHY RENWALD

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

KATHY RENWALD PHO­TOS, SPECIAL TO THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

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.

KATHY RENWALD PHO­TOS, SPECIAL TO THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

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.

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