An artist’s garden in Port Hope

I’m truly thankful for the ideas that come home from our visits to artists’ gardens. Simple leaf cut-outs and a can or two of window frosting will get you this one. Much more fitting than curtains for balancing privacy and light in a garden shed!

July 2015 was our first visit to the Port Hope Garden Tour, organized by the local branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (for the next one, you’ll have to wait till 2017). Sarah and I were thankful for the invitation and tickets, because (as we saw right away) Port Hope has a plethora of nicely preserved historical architecture and large gardens.

But the garden we both developed an instant crush on was comparatively modest. It was the home and studio of artist Fiona Crangle and her family; a small space full of big ideas.

Isn’t this a great front gate? Plates of coloured glass are sandwiched between painted plywood sheets with matching cut-outs. Light behind them lets the colours glow. The flowers embedded in the concrete or cement bricks are probably made like the ones we wrote about a few years ago. Clever, and neither will break the bank.
Wish I could show every single seating option in the garden. All were arty and somehow sculptural. This we both loved for the vibrant colour of the glider bench as well as the repurposed stove. Great what can be done with a tiny courtyard.
Flower meets Flour. The bold orange zinnias and pot echo the colours of the seating we just saw. And the weathered shelf easily and inexpensively adds serving space for outdoor dining or entertaining.
This scene is one reason I almost called this post, “Blessed are the rule breakers.” (It’s been done. So I didn’t.) A trellis can be anything you want it to be, even a tangle of peeled sticks, brightly painted.
Gap in the garden? Who cares. Hang up a screen of vintage tea towels to distract garden visitors. Trust me, it worked.
On the left, the open door to Fiona Crangle’s studio in the cottage she and her family call home. On the right, the colourful bunkhouse for guests that drew garden tourists that day like bees to a honeycomb. In between, plantings of common garden flowers – nothing rare or fancy, yet clearly a gardener’s well-loved garden.
Now we’re inside the bunkhouse, and both of us were ready to move right in. The ladder leads up to bunks on either side, and a couch folds out to sleep two more. Crangle transformed the 60s bucket chair on the right with a blue-willow painting. Oh! On the left, simple wire glove forms become cool artwork that changes with your perspective.
As if my vintage travel scarf addiction weren’t bad enough. Now I want to start trawling thrift shops for vintage tea towels.
A rusty bed frame and old fridge crisper drawers get together as planters and supports. If the light had been better indoors (and if I weren’t so flash-averse), you’d also get a picture of the collage of old bread boxes the artist uses as cupboards.
And here is Fiona Crangle with one of her paintings – blame the soft focus on my hatred of camera flash. If Vermeer were painting “women’s work” today, he might have been reborn as Crangle. Explore some of her paintings here. She’s working on a new show now. If you’re lucky enough to live in or near Port Hope, give her a call. You might thank me.


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