At the time it was acquired, Hosaic Creek (now renamed Nash Creek) actually flowed through the property at the south-east end on its way to the St Lawrence River. As seen today, Seven Willows only borders Nash Creek along its west side. Given its location in a designated Number One wetland area, the landscaping initiative had to take cognizance of the wetland designation and strive to ensure that the layout was in harmony with its surroundings, however formalized the garden may seem. The landscaping is deliberately simple, retaining the flat surface and clear long views from any point that encompasses the broader wetland and the open cultivated fields.
The impact of the animating landscaping vision can be gauged from the raised beds immediately adjacent to the creek on the eastern fringe of the property, as can be seen from the photo below.
Tolley Gardens was home to A. T. “Trevor” Tolley (1927-2018) and his wife Glenda, who now lovingly maintains the gardens. It has been designated by her a Memorial Garden in his honour, and in recognition of his persistent effort in the expansion of the lawn, and dedication to preservation of the wetlands.
The property purchased by him in 1973, was at the time, a working farm comprising 168 acres located in rural Eastern Ontario in the County of South Dundas. Seven Willows has been home to A.T. “Trevor” Tolley and his wife Glenda since 1974. It consisted of, and remains, equal parts cultivated and bush land. Over 80 acres are actively cultivated with traditional crops. The private display garden occupies about 7-1/2 acres, and its creation was designed to enhance the appearance of the house; it has been in continuous development.
At the time it was purchased there was no garden; nothing presently viewed existed except for the one Manitoba maple that shades the sundeck over the garage; it was a small weed tree at the time the property was acquired. From a gardener’s perspective the property did have one distinguishing and admirable feature – five majestic elm trees adorned the south-eastern front of the property. All died within three to four years. Trevor engaged professional help to save them, but to no avail. The seven majestic willows, now seen and for which the Gardens are named, were an intentional replacement for the five elms covering the same ground. Except for the elms, there were three peonies (two pink and one red) and a flowering rose bush embedded in rough grass to the east front of the house. The peonies have survived and are incorporated into the cottage style garden that wraps around the front verandah of the house, the area giving rise to the very first attempt at establishing a garden.
As seen today, the garden borders Nash Creek (formerly Hosaic Creek) that flows into the St. Lawrence River. Trevor treasured the wetland location and the seeming endless expanse of cat tails, tall grass and murky water. There is a distinctiveness to the overall ambiance created by the wild ducks and Canada geese inhabiting the adjacent side of the property. The landscaping initiative had to take cognizance of the wetland designation and strive to ensure that the layout was in harmony with its surrounding landscape, however formalized the Creek Side garden may appear. Trevor was determined to preserve the natural beauty of the existing vegitation and the habitat it created for birds and other wildlife. The landscaping is deliberately simple, retaining the flat surface and clear long views from any point that encompasses the broader wetland and the open cultivated fields. He eschewed the notion of “garden rooms” – Seven Willows is an open expanse of ground with no hidden nooks or surprises around corners.
On the creek side, the formal raised beds transition seamlessly with the natural habitat. The drooping willow branches skimming the surface of the water add to the considerable enchantment of the eastern fringe of the property. Seven Willows is now the property of Carleton University through a donation made in 2007.
Whether the visitor is looking for expansive ideas, to downsize, reinvent their own garden or just savour the experience, Seven Willows offers something for each visitor. The gracious layout of the 7-1/2 irregular-shaped grounds of sweeping lawns contains eight separate and distinct gardens consisting of 50 flower beds; each garden encompasses at a minimum six flower beds, and each garden displays its own individual character and unique design in both the shape of the beds and plantings. These gardens are identified for reference and to facilitate effective strolling through Seven Willows.
Garden visits are by appointment only. Hours: 11 am to 3 pm. June 1st to September 15th. Admission is Free!
13075 County Road 18Williamsburg, OntarioK0C 2H0
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