Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Testing out my green thumb

When I first saw our house, one of the things I loved most was the generous-sized yard. For Toronto standards, it's pretty big. But one of the things I liked least was the chain link fence that encompasses the yard. By my estimates, we're looking at at least 150' of visible chain link fence. Blech.

This fence space is shared with 5 different neighbours, so we're also dealing with not a lot of privacy. The thing that strikes me most odd, is that most of our neighbours have been living in their houses for decades, and none of them ever changed their fences. In fact, none of them have even done anything to make them more private, or to disguise the chain link at all.

Why would you not want to do something like this?

Source: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/look-modern-fence-50175

Or even this as a partial solution:

Source: http://aubreyandlindsay.blogspot.ca/2010/07/diy-privacy-screens-how-to-by-aubrey.html

We moved in to the house towards the end of summer 2010, and by that time, some Morning Glory vines had covered portions of the fences.  Morning Glory is really pretty when the flowers open up, and that stuff can GROW! It tends to grow a little wild once it gets going, and it was all over everything.  So last summer I made it my mission to take it away from the places we didn't need it, and tried to make it to cover as much of the fence as possible.  The problem is, it doesn’t really fill in until August or so, and I still experienced fence hatred for most of the summer. 

Since a new fence isn't in the budget for now, Matt and I made a trip to the garden centre, and here’s what we came away with:

  • A Climbing Hydrangea
  • 2 Honeysuckle Vines -  one is a male ("Hercules") and one is a female ("Diane"), and apparently they need to be planted in close proximity in order for Diane to bloom
  • Clematis

Additionally, I added 3 more perennials to the mix, because who doesn’t love a plant that comes back year-after-year without too much effort?! 
  • Peony plant
  • Hydrangea plant
  • “Double knock-out” rose bush

I strategically planted the vines in front of the metal poles that support the fence.   Those are the most unsightly part in my opinion.  Once those get hidden a bit, the green fence will not stand out quite so much. 

I'm not much of a gardener, so I'm hoping I don't kill these plants.  I am already so excited to see their progress, and I visit them almost every night after work to see how they are doing.  Apparently peony plants often don't bloom in their first year, so I'm trying to keep my expectations in check. 

I'd love to properly landscape the backyard at some point, but for now, these are just sort of randomly placed to hide the fence. 

At some point, I will probably have to put up some sort of supports for the clematis, which is already growing quite a bit (!).  I saw these cool screens on the IKEA website, and I feel like I could use them to change the look of the yard quite a bit:

Source: http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/80204927/
But I'm not sure the protocol on privacy screens. Can I just put one up, or do I have to consult with my neighbours, whose sunlight would be affected?
While I worked on Operation-Hide-the-Fence, Matt worked on Vegetable Garden Year 2.  Last year went pretty well, and with a little experience under his belt, he’s aiming bigger and better this year. 

Here's a sampling of the homegrown veggies we hope to be eating by the end of the summer.

Have you done any gardening?  Do you have any tips for hiding a chain link fence? 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Wishlist of Retailers

A few weeks ago, I posted about the new condo developments coming up in southeast Etobicoke, and how I hope they bring some promising new retailers to the area.

This area of the city is full of big name retailers - we're within a few minutes drive of Best Buy, Future Shop, IKEA, Kitchen Stuff Plus, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Canadian Tire, etc. 

So what is missing?  I think local/independent retailers make a huge difference in creating a community feeling, and in defining the area as a neighbourhood. 

Keeping in mind the demographics of the surrounding neighbourhoods, I've created a wishlist of the types of retailers that I think would be welcome in the area.  I've also provided examples of these types of retailers that have been successful in other neighbourhoods around the city:

Many of these retailers took the risk and ventured into "up & coming" areas, and stuck it out while the areas really took off.  If only some of them would venture towards The Queensway and Lake Shore Blvd West, and provide us with some great local shopping & eating!

Don't get me wrong, there are already a whole slew of fantastic retailers in the area.  Among the businesses that have thrived are:
I would love to hear from some of the neighbours - what are your favourite retailers in the area?  What else would you like to see come to the neighbourhood? 

(* Yes, I'm still calling it "The Beaches" and haven't yet adapted to the new official "The Beach".... sorry, it's years of habit, and a bit of stubbornness)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A condo with a view

Anyone who has traveled or commuted along Toronto's Gardiner Expressway lately has undoubtedly seen this:

Yes, that is a condo being built, and yes, it is a mere 15, maybe 20 feet away from the Gardiner Expressway.

Matt and I gawk as we drive by.  There have been many times that we've driven by and practically looked in the eyes of the construction workers, while they worked on the levels that are closest to the height of the Gardiner.  It's not often that cars move at full clip through this stretch.  In fact, it's usually more like a crawl.  So when these condo-dwellers move in, they will have quite the audience.  I can't imagine living with so little privacy, and such a sad view. 

I can only hope that the levels closest to the Gardiner are the floors where ammenities such as a gym, a theatre. and party rooms will be housed. 

I'm not the only one talking about this.  I've heard a number of people joking about how the condo-dwellers can sell snacks to commuters stuck in traffic, or speculating about whether the insurance rates will be higher since their condo could be involved in a car accident.

The 207-unit development is apparently called "Garrison at Fort York" and is being developed by Onni Group.

Among the building features listed on the site, are:
  • Fitness centre with yoga/aerobics studio
  • His & Hers spa washrooms with showers and saunas
  • Party lounge with bar, caterers' kitchen and separate formal dining room
  • Theatre room and games room
  • Furnished rooftop terrace with BBQ area
  • Rooftop garden
You can *just* see the Gardiner behind the building in the rendering (conveniently faded out).
Source: http://www.onni.com/new-homes/greater-toronto/now-selling/garrison-at-fort-york/

Now don't get me wrong, I think any opportunity to get into the housing market is a good one, and there are probably a lot of happy condo-owners out there who can't wait to move in to their little piece of downtown. 

But I also am intrigued to see how much more interesting my commute home is going to be, when there are people living here: