Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spadina House Garden in October

The Pergola, 1909.  The begonias and clematis terniflora are still in bloom
The garden surrounding the stately Spadina House goes back to 1818 when the Baldwin family first lived at Spadina and lives on, as it has beautifully aged through the Victorian and Edwardian periods to the present day.  The design and plantings were enhanced by James Austin's family and descendants from 1866 to 1978.  It is divided into a large lawn area with flower beds, a perennial garden including a kitchen garden, and an orchard with berry bushes and grapes.

The grand Victorian house we know as Spadina was built by James Austin in 1866 on the foundation of the Baldwins' house.  Between 1897 and 1913, James' son Albert and his wife added late-Victorian and Edwardian extensions to the house, including the Carrère and Hastings glass and wrought iron porte-cochère in 1905.  A better view of the porte-cochère is in my March 2011 blog post Spadina House.   
A glimpse of the front door, and the porte-cochère, 1905
I visited in early October before the first frost and entered the garden through the stone pergola toward the front of the house where the deep red dahlias were dazzling and in full bloom.


I took time to enjoy the majesty and detail of the urns dating from 1912 on the terrace balustrade. 

The large lawn area with its carefully placed trees gave me a sense of peace, and invited me to stay for a while.  This is where the family and their friends played lawn tennis and croquet.

Looking toward the edge of the escarpment
The old oak trees date from prior to 1866

The land lies on the Davenport escarpment to the south where through the trees, it overlooks the old city of Toronto and Lake Ontario in the distance.  It was from the edge of the escarpment that James Austin and his family watched the fireworks celebrating Canada's Confederation on July 1, 1867. In 1905, Albert Austin built a low semi-circular red brick crenellated wall around the concrete platform where the family sat to enjoy the view, and called it The Battery.

The Battery ca. 1905
Seeing the European beech reminded me again of the Austins' impeccable taste.  Its magnificent crown is fitting for this grand garden.

The back of Spadina House looked imposing as I walked toward the perennial border and kitchen garden. .

Spadina House, eastern façade
The kitchen garden of perennials, cutting garden, and vegetables was in the final stages of the growing season before the imminent autumnal frost.

The red cabbages were ready for harvesting.

Beyond the cedar hedge north of the kitchen garden, I found the orchard filled with many varieties of apples. Many have had to be replaced over the years, but some of the existing apple trees were planted in 1900.

Looking back from the orchard at the dignified Victorian house, I was impressed by the superb harmonious garden design, even in this utilitarian part of the garden.  

The grape arbour is on the right
When you visit Spadina House, take time to enjoy the romantic old garden.  Spadina is a jewel in the city, and has become my very favourite museum.

The Facebook page Save Spadina House was created to build awareness of preserving this important museum, an historical treasure.  I hope you will like the page.