We like to think we can do what we want on our own property, but truth be told, city hall often has us on a fairly tight leash.
Recently we looked into adding a small garden shed and discovered that there were a long list of rules and regulations governing even these simple structures. (In the city of Brampton a shed must be located in the backyard and cannot be placed at the front or side of your house. It must also be located at least 2' inside the property line, and unless you obtain a special permit ($$), can be no bigger than 8' x10' and no higher than 9.5'....)
Last week a sneak preview of the gardens on this year's Through the Garden Gate, the Toronto Botanical Garden's annual tour of Toronto's best private gardens, got me thinking even further about the rules, both real and unspoken, that govern our lives.
This year Through the Garden Gate features gardens located in Hogg's Hollow a small enclave in the heart of the city that has managed to retain much of its original charm and character.
A much sought after address, the homes here are grand and ostentatious.
Very often professionally designed and maintained, these gardens are all
scrupulously groomed and ordered.
What a surprise then, to come across a garden like this one (also included on this year's Through the Garden Gate tour):
Now here was a garden rebel; a homeowner who dares to swim against the current. In this particular front garden, there wasn't a blade of grass in sight!
Instead the garden was free and unstructured; some might even say "wild".
There was a time when "natural" front gardens were highly controversial.
That was years ago though! Surely we have moved away from the limitation of thinking the only thing that belongs at the front of a house is a lawn and a few tidy flowerbeds?
Or have we?
So for fun, I looked up the regulations governing front gardens in my own city.
Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis
The City of Brampton website states that homeowners must:
"Cut grass and weeds regularly to make sure they don't grow higher than higher than 20 cm (8 inches). If you don't cut your grass and weeds, the City will cut them at your own expense. The cost for this is at least $313."
Hmm....this speaks more to traditional lawns. But what about "natural" grasses and gardens? What is one's man's weed is another man's flower!
I decided to call the City for clarification.
Siberian irses and daffodils
When I finally got another human on the other end of the line, she immediately seemed to be flustered by my questions about "natural" front gardens.
"No one has ever asked me about this before!" she said apologetically, "I am going to have to put you on hold while I ask someone."
When she finally came back on the line, she told me a little uncertainly,"There are no regulations in the City of Brampton restricting you from having a natural-style front garden. Did you want to file a complaint?"
That's funny, I thought! She thinks I am calling to turn in one of my neighbours. " No, no!" I assured her, "I was just curious about the rules and regulations."
When I hung up the phone, I couldn't help but think back to all the by-laws concerning the garden shed we want to build.
Now, our neighbours have a huge garden shed that's practically a cottage. Hardly regulation! But the cottage is somewhat hidden at the very back of the yard, so the only ones who are likely to turn them in for by-law infractions would be us. But we have never complained, nor do I imagine we ever would. Sometimes, I think it is okay to turn a blind eye.
Is that the true hurdle to be overcome then: keeping the neighbours happy with whatever you choose to do in your own yard, so they don't make life difficult by filing a complaint against you?
Gosh! Does that mean that we really do have to worry what the neighbours think at least on some level?
More information and links:
Through the Garden Gate is one of Ontario's largest and certainly is its grandest garden tour. This year there are 19 private gardens in the secluded and quite enclave of Toronto known as "Hogg's Hollow".
" This neighbourhood was selected for the extraordinary mature gardens that punctuate its hill-and-dale topography and for the winding roads that provide stunning views around every turn, "explains Mark Cullen, 2014 Honorary Event Chair. "This is truly 'where the river meets the ravine', just steps away from Yonge Street and the urban core of North York. Hogg's Hollow shows once more that Toronto is a city of gardens."
Date: Saturday, June 14th and Sunday, June 15th, 2014
Time: 11 sm to 4 pm
Tour headquarters: Tour headquarters are located at the north end of York Mills Park. Access is adjacent is adjacent to the south exit from York Mills subway.
Free shuttle buses depart from tour headquarters along two garden tour routes. Show your wrist band and hop on and off the buses as many times as you like.
Tickets to Through the Garden Gate:
One-Day Pass: $45/TBG members $40
Two-Day Pass: $60/TBG members $55
New student pass: One-Day Only $25 ( with I.D.)