a curator, writer and prof has cultivated a space that reflects his two main passions: plants and books
inspiration grows here
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contributors TR ACY SHUMATE photographer
NAOMI REID illustrator
Tracy is like the sculptor of photography. Her images explore the space around an object almost as much as the object itself. We’re so excited that she’s taking pictures for Covet Garden . Her work has appeared in Chatelaine, Canadian House and Home and Style at Home . And her studio space will be featured in one of our upcoming issues. Stay tuned—it’s amazing!
Naomi creates alternative comics and has a bold, graphic style and a knack for capturing her subject’s character. Dennis is also her dad, which may give her special insight.
ANDREW KINES employee of the month Film and television editor by day, by night Andrew has helped us out on everything from tech support to making us cool playlists.
on the cover: photograph by Tracy Shumate, styling by Lynda Felton
We got lost in a few (thousand) good books. Growing up, we loved the book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. And now we have finally discovered a real-life hidden hothouse! Professor, curator and author Dennis has a cool and modern plant-filled Kensington Market loft. This urban oasis is also filled with history—especially the story of Canadian art. Books about artists share wall space with contemporary Canadian paintings. Yet somehow the mix of past and present feels alive and inviting, not archival or overwhelming. We were inspired by all the aspects of Dennis’s home: the lush greenery fired up the idea for The Project feature—making a terrarium. In our Q&A section, he recommends favourite books and albums. And the library caused us to crave bookish things, as shown on our Inspiration pages. As always, if you covet anything, just scroll over the images for Where to Buy links.
Come on in, pull up an arts and crafts chair and get lost in this book- and plant-filled space photography by Tracy Shumate
ennis, an art historian, lives in a curious condo. It is packed with books and plants, like a jungle reading room. Yet it is an open place where one never feels that the tomes or vegetation overpower. Perhaps because of his vocation, the space is arranged to highlight the objects, so they become more than just visual wallpaper. covetgarden.com
When he started looking for a new place, he had three conditions: room for his books; being close to the University of Toronto and the Art Gallery of Ontario (where he worked until recently); and space for his plants. Fortunately he found a two-storey loft conversion that not only allowed him to amass a wall of literature but also provided a light-filled space for his plants to grow as tall as they wanted.
Dennis found many of his magic carpets in a shop on College Street that bought from old-money estates. He got into carpets through his friend (the late Toronto painter) David Bolduc: â€œHe travelled extensively and became quite expert.â€?
e has a practised eye when it comes to furniture and decorative objects. “My mom and dad were veteran market prowlers—a lot of the glass you see here comes from them.” An example: for paperweights he uses decorative jar lids that his mother collected. “Things have to have a function,” he says. “I’m not interested in cluttering the space up—though I’ll always make room for new plants and books.” covetgarden.com
And works by friends like Greg Curnoe, Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland, Robert Fones, and Ron Martin inhabit his comfortable home. In fact, almost every piece in the place has a personal history. All the books have a research purpose—Dennis is also an author of several books on Canadian art and artists; he’s currently writing the third edition of his Concise History of Canadian Painting.
The roominess also allows Dennis to display some of the flotsam and jetsam of his life (such as the buttons, books and records).
almost every piece in the place has a personal history
one of the most interesting things about Dennis’s objects is that they are all in use
A photo of Chairman Mao, acquired after a life-changing trip to China in 1975, surveys the bathroom. Meanwhile, in the bedroom, an antique dresser conceals the neatest sock drawer in the world. “I’m anal retentive,” says Dennis. “I guess that’s why I’m a curator.”
Despite its antique appearance, the claw-foot bathtub pictured here is new. As is the hardware in the sleek, modern kitchen (even though it is covered in vines like an ancient Mayan pyramid).
the plants are starting to claim the lessused parts of the condo
he plants provide a kind of living history. Dennis has always been a gardener— even as a child in Burlington, he grew raspberries and gooseberries with his mother. In Ottawa, working at the National Gallery, he had a vegetable garden and grew his own asparagus. When he returned to Toronto, he tended a woodland garden in the backyard of his downtown home for almost 30 years. On his condo deck, he indulges his old habits with new techniques to deal with the full sun and strong wind.
Walking into the loft is like breathing the oxygenated air of a greenhouse. Vines creep down walls and into unused spaces, and trees reach up toward the impossibly high ceiling. (All, of course, rooted in pretty yet functional pots.) While talking about his prickly and poisonous crown of thorns (or was it the carrion plant with its evil smell and fabulous blooms?), we asked which of his many plants he would save if there were a house fire. “That’s like asking which child is my favourite,” he said. “I can’t choose.” covetgarden.com
When did you realize DENNIS: I’m not like
illustration by Naomi Reid
What is your favourite guilty pleasure? DENNIS: A fine meal and wine. Guilty?
which would you give up forever? And why? DENNIS: Chocolate. Cheese is an essential food.
Where in the city do you most like to indulge in a coffee (or coffee-related beverage)? DENNIS: La Palette on Augusta Ave makes a great espresso.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever made? DENNIS: With my wife, our two daughters.
Forced to choose between chocolate and cheese,
What do you carry with you everywhere? DENNIS: Glasses, watch, wallet, keys, cash, comb, fountain pen, penknife.
e you weren’t like other kids? e other kids? books he can’t live without
Dennis Reid is well-known in Canadian art circles as an independent curator who was previously the chief curator at the AGO. He is also a professor in the art history department at the University of Toronto and a writer. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1998. He was instrumental in the recent Frank Gehry renovation at the AGO and in acquiring and displaying its phenomenal Thomson Collection (assembled by the late Ken Thomson), which consists of some of the most important pieces in Canadian art history. He is also a cool cat who has hung out with the Nihilist Spasm Band. ’Nuff said.
• U of T faculty bio • recent published works • The Nihilist Spasm Band
desert island playlist
Befitting a man who studies art for a living, Dennis’s style is all about signatures
ennis’s signature look—a red shirt and ponytail—was constructed to be as simple as possible. What began as a counterculture statement eventually turned into a practicality: just tie it back and forget about it—no time-consuming maintenance and haircuts necessary. And the wardrobe of red shirts means that he doesn’t have to waste energy deciding what to wear every morning. This sense of tradition extends to his toiletries. Before he shaves he lathers up with Santa Maria Novella Crema da Barba, a 100-year-old brand enriched with coconut oil, menthol, eucalyptus and camphor. And from the 87-year-old Shanghai Soap Company, he likes the hand-milled, naturally scented Bee & Flower Sandalwood Soap. Basically his credo is this: Find one thing that works and stick with it.
He’s lost the striped pants since this was taken in 1972, but his signature style has remained virtually unchanged. left to right, top to bottom: Thiers Issard Hand Turned Badger Hair Shaving Brush, $46; Bee & Flower Sandalwood Soap, US$15/12; Polo Custom-Fit Suede-Patch Shirt in Stamford Red, US$85; Santa Maria Novella Crema da Barba, US$52.
rtist Holly Procktor was making very cool crocheted and felted baby rattles that look like mushrooms, and baby bibs from fabric printed like tree-bark. In a moment of crafting inspiration, she decided to plant some of her (non-rattling) toadstools in a terrarium, and the rest is history.
Self-described “dork, dreamer and discerning bibliophile” Shannon Gerard couldn’t keep her plants alive so she started crocheting “PlantsYou Can’t Kill.” Both Procktor and Gerard will be showing at City of Craft (December 18 and 19) inToronto.
not a green thumb? Perfect plants for non-gifted gardeners
photograph by Tracy Shumate
Terrariums, a staple of many a â€˜70s home, are back again. Hereâ€™s how to grow a garden in a jar photograph by Tracy Shumate
how to make a jar terrarium No matter what the weather outside, you can have a little oasis inside with an easy-to-make moss terrarium. All you need are a few supplies and a container with tight-fitting lid to capture the condensation that the moss requires to thrive.
Directions 1. Wearing gloves, fill the bottom of the jar
with about an inch of stones like pea gravel.
2. Cover the drainage material with horticultur
alist’s charcoal, available at most nurseries.
3. Add a layer of potting soil no more than
an inch thick. If you are feeling adventurous, experiment with making hills in the dirt.
4. Cover the soil with sheet, cushion or clump
moss available at florists and nurseries.
5. Spritz twice with water, and place the lid
on the jar and voilà—moss jar.
Tips Keep the terrarium in a spot with diffused light. If too much condensation forms, give the terrarium a little less light, or remove the top for two hours. Moss requires more sunlight than you may think. Aim for 5-8 hours of indirect sunshine a day. Your terrarium will require very little water. Keep it lightly damp at all times, and don’t be alarmed if your terrarium only needs a little spritzing every month.
botany 101 If you’re looking for easy-to-care-for plants, try sansevieria trifasciata—snake plant. These can be grown in the indirect light from a window and like the same indoor temperatures as most people (55 to 75° F.) Plus, they require very little watering. If you’re feeling more adventurous try a phalaenopsis orchid.They like plenty of indirect light and a room temperature of about 60 to 65° F. They should be kept consistently moist—not damp. Once they’ve finished flowering, trim back the stem just past the lowest visible “joint,” and tend to the plant as normal. With patience and a little nitrogen-rich orchid fertilizer (a 30-10-10 should be used while the plant is growing and then a 15-30-15 fertilizer while it is in bloom), your orchid will produce new flowers every year.
The hand-blown Armadillo globe from Botany Factory houses up to seven varieties of succulents. It also comes with a mix of horticulturist’s charcoal and gravel. Only available in the Bay Area, these terrariums were just too pretty not to share with the whole class. botanyfactory.com
Tweedy fabrics, supple leathers and witty papers prove that word nerds are far from hidebound
1. Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eye Pen, $11 2. lovelydesign Address File, $65 (photo courtesy of Julie Edition Puffin Designer Classics; shown here: Treasure Island designed by Frank Gehry, £100 5. T Text Yellow Journal, $14 8. Handmade Leather Photo Album, US$40 9. J. Crew Langford Wool Oxfo Bottle, £3 12. Battersea Sofette in Lager, $4,698 13. Moleskine Folio for the iPad, $90 14. Typewrit
10 7 11
at Duet Letterpress) 3. John Varvatos by John Varvatos Eau de Toilette Spray, $68 4. Limited Thomas Paul Luddite Book Pouch, US$24 6. Alma Mater Jacket, $188 7. Regional Assembly of ords, US$295 10. Regional Assembly of Text Typewriter T-Shirt, $30 11. Vintage Carter Oval Ink ter Cufflinks, US$30 15. Anthropologie Rommel Bag, $238 16. Y&B Bookshelf wallpaper, ÂŁ68/roll