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Artists' Gardens bloom with three new installations

TORONTO, July 4, 2005
— Harbourfront Centre unveils three new Artists’ Gardens designed by Toronto visual artists Ben Smit, Alia Toor & Farheen Haq and Robert Wiens. From July through October, this unique programme presents 24 diverse gardens, including 21 mature gardens from past years. Since the programme’s inception in 1990, landscape architects, designers, craftspeople, performing artists and visual artists have created living installations across the Harbourfront Centre site.

All 24 Artists’ Gardens are situated outdoors on the Harbourfront Centre site, 235 Queens Quay West. A free self-guided tour map of the gardens will be available in early July at the Info Desk and at York Quay Gallery. Admission to the gardens is free. For details, the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit

 Garden Tours

Larry Sherk, horticulturist and consultant for Sheridan Nurseries Limited, conducts free walking tours of the gardens at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 23 and Saturday, August 20 (weather permitting). Larry was Chief Horticulturist at Sheridan Nurseries Limited for 32 years and has worked closely with the Artists’ Gardens programme since the beginning. Larry discusses the choice of plants and their viability in an urban environment, as well as how the artists have used them and how the gardens have evolved over the years on this site. The tour begins at garden #13B, Gene Threndyle’s The Unnatural Garden.

 New Gardens

In Urban Pastoral, Ben Smit shows that a garden, by definition, is not natural. The use of topiary, a traditional, if somewhat extreme gardening technique, acknowledges the gardener as control freak. Smit’s use of a boxwood topiary waterfowl refers to the garden’s location at the harbourfront.

An honours graduate of O.C.A, Ben Smit is a sculptor, carpenter and sometime gardener. He has exhibited across Canada, including at Toronto’s Sculpture Garden and has work permanently installed at Harbourfront Centre as well as the Windsor Sculpture Park. The 15 foot by 15 foot front garden of his Toronto home contains 15 different rose bushes as well as a pollared ash tree. In his back yard, there are 3 espaliered fruit trees guarded by a topiary dog.

Shisha means little glass in Hindi. It is unique to the Indian subcontinent as a textile art form. Like a richly decorated piece of fabric, The Living Stitch by Alia Toor & Farheen Haq emulates its intense colours, strong patterns and intricacies through the placement and palette of flowers. The artists see the garden as a union of the spirit of the Islamic garden and the beauty of the mirror work. In contrast to the modern Western garden, which is customarily a place for extrovertism, the Islamic garden is introverted: a mental and spiritual experience. The forms of the shisha embroidered techniques integrated with the principles of the Islamic garden give the viewer a clear yet limitless space for imagination.

Farheen Haq is a video and photo-based artist who recently finished her MFA at York Universityand has exhibited her work across North America, including New York, Los Angeles, Vancouverand Toronto. Alia Toor is an artist and media educator who completed her MA at Columbia University,NY. Her art practice explores issues of religion, sexuality and language within an Islamic context.

Post Glacial by Robert Wiens is a planting of indigenous small trees, shrubs and plants native to the northern shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario. As the last glaciers retreated, plants from the unaffected areas of the southern Appalachians made their way north to form a vast continuous broadleaf woodland. Much of this forest has been removed or broken up by land clearing, and a kind of intermediate urban driven glaciation has taken place. This garden allows the return of a small selection of those ancient wild plants to take root once again along these shores.

Robert Wiens is a sculptor who, in the past seven years has also been painting full scale watercolours of old growth pine trees.

 Returning Gardens

The returning gardens are The Unnatural Garden and The Wrecker’s Rockery (Gene Threndyle,1995, 1996), Curious Yellow (Glenn Beech and Kai Chan, 1999), Planting a Birdhouse (Linda Irvine, Dan Nuttall and Frank Infante, 1999), Return from Nature (Bob Wilkie, 1999), Swamped (Brad Copping and Sue Rankin, 2000), Changing Channels (Janet Morton, 2000), Fancy Plants (Sarah Quinton and John Armstrong, 2000), Eden Vulgaris (Lily Yung, 2000), An Evening in the Russian Hanging Garden (Sean Breaugh, 2001), Green Man Mummers (Brad Harley and Anne Barber for Shadowland Theatre, 2001), Play (Shawn Kerwin, 2001), Curtain Call (David Rayfield and Edward Kotanen, 2001), You Can Lead a Horticulture (Soulpepper Theatre Company, 2001), Raked: A Garden for Harbourfront (Jeannie Thib and Bruce Holland, 2001), Toronto Island Construction Site (Michael Davey and Delwyn Higgens, 2002), Whirligig Garden (Libby Hague, 2002), Ode (Anne O’Callaghan, 2003), Play and delight, the possibilities are boundless (Ted Rettig, 2003), A Butterfly Garden (Michael MacDonald, 2004), China Bower (Liz Parkinson, 2004) and Daisy World (Sandra Rechico, 2004).

Artists’ Gardens are made possible with the continuous support of Sheridan Nurseries Limited and the Ontario Arts Council.


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 Media Contact: Linda Liontis, 416-973-4381,

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