Yorkville on a Sunday afternoon

The rose window of the Toronto Heliconian Club, for women in arts and letters.

A colleague of my husband’s invited us to hear her perform a Bach concert at the Heliconian Club on Sunday. The club, celebrating its 100th year in 2009, is a place I passed daily when (long ago) I lived in the only inexpensive flat on Hazelton Avenue.

The concert was beautiful, and afterwards the blue sky beckoned me and my camera on a stroll around the streets of Yorkville, while my husband went in search of coffee.

Yorkville has come a long way since its hippy and coffeehouse days in the 1960s and 70s. I came here then, not to hang out, but to get my teeth straightened; or sort of straightened. Our dad had a knack for finding off-beat medical professionals, and our dentist on Cumberland Street – who gained notoriety at the time for stating that smoking pot prevented cavities – had methods as unconventional as his opinions.

Though a little past its au courant peak, Yorkville remains an attractive part of the city. Much of its original architecture is intact or tastefully updated, especially on the residential side streets. There are posh shops, galleries and restaurants. Plus the high-end hotels here make celebrity-watching a sport during the Toronto International Film Festival.

Scooting through Old York Lane between Cumberland and Yorkville Avenue, I headed for Yorkville Park, designed to suggest different regions of Canada, including a massive hunk of the Canadian Shield.

I like this park, although late afternoon in early fall doesn’t show it to best advantage. A rectangle of Amelanchier trees with leaves shading to a subtle orange was the only, very gentle splash of colour.

A last few rays of sunlight over the surrounding towers added sparkle to the park’s water curtain, through which you can see the huge rock that was moved in pieces from Canada’s Great White North, then stitched back together like an immense granite quilt. Its sun-warmed surface is a pleasant place to sit to hear street musicians in fine weather.

The original plan for the park was, I believe, that it be planted largely with native species. However, the reality seems more catholic in its application. There’s an orchard planted alongside the pines and alders or birches, and I noticed Silver Lace Vine (Polygonum aubertii) on the steel pergola.

My goal for 2010 is to fill the large gap in my knowledge that is ornamental grasses (in a quest to find some I can actually grow). So I don’t know who or what is making this airy cloud of seedheads, but it looks like quiet fireworks against the modern backdrop.

As a (de)parting shot, who said we ordinary gardeners can’t learn from the lifestyles of the rich and, well, even richer? The placement of this garden divan in the archway illustrates the universal value of having a focal point. And on that point, I will head back to reality.


  1. Wow! Am I glad I visited your blog today. This was a very fun and interesting post. Luved the background information about the dentist and his recommendation on how to prevent cavities. The photos are well done and I especially like the water curtain photo. My Sunday was rather boring compared to yours.

  2. Helen,
    All these photos are grand,but the last one blew me away with the lighting coming through the tunnel. Simply stunning.
    Good luck with the grasses!

  3. What a wonderful place to visit. I loved the huge rock – imagine shipping it in pieces and putting them back together…

    I love ornamental grasses and think that they become the focal point in an autumn and winter garden.

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