Helping of inspiration
Six homes, six gardens designed to cultivate your imagination
If you are feeling design or green deprived, set aside a couple of hours next Saturday for a hefty dose of inspiration. Six homes and six gardens scattered across Kanata and Stittsville have been polished and edged to perfection in the hopes of raising $10,000 to bolster a scholarship fund set up by the Canadian Federation of University Women/Kanata to send seven young Kanata women to university. No one has worked harder than Sharon Tobin, a recently retired landscape designer.
“I like playing in the dirt. I have since I was a kid,” says the former owner of Exterior Expressions, during a tour of her meticulous garden that backs onto a fairway of the Kanata Lakes Golf and Country Club.
There isn’t much dirt in evidence, since the professional gardener is a big fan of various groundcover plants, plants that squeeze out weeds, while showing off a kaleidoscope range of light to dark greens.
Tobin typically spends 10 hours a week tending to business in the elaborate gardens surrounding her Langford Crescent home.
“This is how I relax. I like to make things look beautiful.”
Tobin is a master of beautiful, combining more shades of green in a wide variety of evergreens and the many scents of summer in her completely secluded gardens.
There is a dining area with an overblown, orangy peony in a glass vase on a round table, partly shaded by a hefty pergola and protected from the golf course by a thick line of trees.
Tobin and her husband, Richard, bought their two-storey brick home 15 years ago, and within five years, the gardens were mature.
“Then again, I had my crews who did a lot of the work when our other jobs were finished,” says Tobin, who brought in truckloads of soil to spill between the rocks between the official line of her backyard and the golf course. “They (golf course officials) know what I have done and they are OK with it,” says Tobin, who is always making changes in her garden of trees, flowering bushes and perennials. “A garden is always changing. It is never done.”
The Kanata resident has used the same philosophy on the inside of her home, recently finishing a thoughtful renovation of the family room and kitchen and then two decidedly different bathrooms on the second level.
New potlights in the ceiling, the ad- dition of hardwood flooring and sandy-coloured granite countertops have rejuvenated the sunny kitchen, which has a full view of the garden. Tobin removed years from the house by ripping out spindles separating the kitchen from the family room, adding smooth sophistication with the addition of a wall with storage in the lower half and open shelving and spots for favourite sculptures and treasures on the top portion.
Even the 50-inch flat screen television disappears into the slate front of the double-sided fireplace, proving you can have technology and design at the same time.
One of the highlights of her transformations hangs over the dining room table made by her father, a Saskatchewan farmer who also loved furniture making. Albert Reynaud also made modern coffee tables in the family room.
The fixture tells a lot about Tobin, showing off her love of textures, while mixing styles of design. Crystals from a chandelier drop below a large shade, combining the sparkle of glass and the softness of ivory silk.
Upstairs is a spa bathroom for guests or her daughters when they come home for a visit and off the master bedroom is a renewed bathroom, combining a glass shower across from a new but old-fashioned-style tub with silver-coated feet.“I wanted something familiar and comfortable.”
If Sharon Tobin is finishing off renovations, then her neighbours, Anna and Denis Colbourne, are thinking about getting started.
There are plans for renovations and Anna is already rearranging plants in a most unusual garden with a distinc- tive feeling of Newfoundland.
This isn’t surprising since Denis, a retired technology executive, born and raised in Twillingate, designed the bungalow for his first wife, who was confined to a wheelchair. Accessibility and wide hallways make for openness inside the bungalow and his roots to the island inspired the artwork of Ted Stuckless and Ben Ploughman on the walls.
Many days, the Newfoundland flag flutters over the garden that resembles a seaside village if you squint your eyes and let the imagination flow.
A weathered network of raised wooden bridges lead to a screened gazebo where the couple eat dinner most summer evenings. And yes, fish, including cod, is often on the menu.
Below the decking are rocks left behind after builders blasted away chunks of granite that cover much of Kanata. “Denis had about 15 loads of rock trucked away,” says the Scottishborn Anna, who taught elementary school in Kanata for three decades.
Landscapers then created dry riverbeds with small stones and pieces of driftwood. “This is a work in progress,” says the amateur gardener, who is busy replacing old plants with new varieties.
On the tour is a stone house on Carp Road that was built in 1870 by John Holmes, who became one of Canada’s first Members of Parliament in 1867. The simple house is certain to tempt history buffs, while thoroughly new bungalows in Stittsville on the tour will appeal to modern souls.
Homeowners, including Sharon Tobin, will be on hand to give gardening advice. This tour is supported by several businesses and real estate agents, including the presenting sponsor, Royal Lepage agent, Mary Nute. Tea, snacks and goodies will be at the Kanata United Church.
“This is our largest fundraising event to support young women” going on to university,” says Mary Williams, chair of the tour which has been in the planning stages since Christmas. “It’s going to happen rain or shine. But it is going to be sunny.” Sheila Brady is the Citizen’s Homes Editor. You can reach her at email@example.com .