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Home of the Week: A Guildwood oasis of natural delights​

Home of the Week

A Guildwood oasis of natural delights

The Scarborough property is surrounded by lush gardens.

Like the placement of the plants and the layout of the interior, every detail – even the angle of the pergolas – has been thoroughly thought out by the owners

LISTING 66 Hill Cres., Toronto

ASKING PRICE $1,389,000

TAXES $4,649.73 (2017)

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LOT SIZE 85 by 123 feet

LISTING AGENT Michael Carr, sales representative, Re/Max Realtron Realty Inc.

The owners transformed the property from a generic bungalow with only four trees to a verdant bird sanctuary.

Blaine Drover keeps a reference book of North American birds, along with a sheet of circular stickers in primary colours, in his house on Hill Crescent.

"[My spouse and I] aren't not officially birders," he said. "But we have this book."

Each time Mr. Drover sees a bird, he pulls out the book, identifies it and puts a little sticker beside it. The book is now filled with circles.

"We get these stragglers who just stop here [in our yard] during their migration and they stay for a few days," Mr. Drover explained.

And for these little feathered creatures, Mr. Drover's yard is basically the Ritz for birds.

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The majesty of the gardens is one of the main selling points of the home.

The backstory

Part of the reason birds love Mr. Drover's home is because the lush gardens that surround the property. These landscapes are enclosed by more than 400 cedars that form a tall green barrier, protecting birds from the street and any possible predators.

"They have their own mini-ecosystem here," Mr. Drover said. "They live and breed in the cedar hedge, we feed them and they have the pond to bathe."

But before Mr. Drover's Guildwood house, which is near Markham and Kingston Roads, boasted botanical garden-level yards and became a bird sanctuary, it was a ho-hum bungalow with only four trees on its lot, three of which were diseased.

"It was a blank slate," he said. "Everything you see here, we planted."

Through trial and error, owner Blaine Drover figured out what combination of trees and plants would thrive.

Now, the garden is bursting with life, including forget-me-nots in the spring, daylilies and black-eyed Susans in the summer and burning bushes ablaze in the fall. There are also dozens of small trees, such as the Arctic willows that create an archway over the back deck, a redwood that turns golden in the fall and a flowering dogwood that always blooms around Victoria Day. And tucked into the backyard is the one original tree still standing, a horse-chestnut tree.

How the garden went from vacant to verdant actually started with a lot of trial and error. For example, Mr. Drover tried to bring in some white birch trees to his yard, but they didn't last. However, a combination lilac tree he planted did and now blooms dark purple, lavender and white blossoms. Over all, Mr. Drover has had more successes than failures.

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"The reason the gardens have been so easy to grow is because this was actually farmland," he said. "The soil is extremely rich here."

Much like the gardens, the house itself has undergone a massive transformation since Mr. Drover bought it in 2000.

Two ground-floor rooms were merged to create a large master bedroom.

The renovations started with the relocation of the stairs that connect the ground floor to the lower level. Originally, this staircase was in the kitchen. Now, they are anchoring the front of the house, so when you come in, you can either go up or go down.

"It makes it more like a raised ranch," Mr. Drover said.

Moving the stairs caused a cascade of other renovations, including the merging of two ground-floor rooms into one big master bedroom, as well as a redesign of the kitchen and upgrading all of the old "popcorn" ceilings.

"Basically, the whole upstairs got redone in that first 18 months," Mr. Drover said.

The entire main floor, including the kitchen, was renovated in the first 18 months.

After that was done, Mr. Drover and his spouse worked on their weekends for about two years to renovate the lower level. Now, that area is home to a third bedroom, full bathroom, home office, home theatre and wet bar. All told, the inside of the house has about 2,500 square feet, three bedrooms and two full bathrooms.

The final stage in the renovation happened about seven years ago, when Mr. Drover added a small addition to the front of his home to create more space at the entrance and add some more south-facing windows.

"I wanted all windows so we could capture all of the morning sunlight coming in," he said.

Birds use the pond in the front yard to bathe.

The garden, meanwhile, was transformed plant by plant all throughout the interior renovation, with the front yard, including its pond, being completed after the new front entry was added.

Now, it's a matter of maintenance, which Mr. Drover and his spouse, Ron, say is only a few hours a week and is mostly weeding and pruning. (They don't worry about watering because they installed a seven-zone, in-ground sprinkling system about seven years ago.)

The majesty of the gardens is no doubt one of the selling points of Mr. Drover's home, but it also provided realtor Michael Carr with a challenge when it came to figuring out how to price the property.

"You can do some pluses and minuses to a degree [when it what has sold in the area], but this is an emotional place," he said. "It's hard to price that part – there's no formula for that."

The pergolas provide shade and add to the Frank Lloyd Wright feel of the property.

The best features

Mr. Drover has a few favourite places to sit in his home, but it's dependent on the time of day. In the morning, he likes to sit out on the front deck with his coffee, overlooking the front yard and basking in the morning light. In the evening, he likes to sit out on his back deck with a glass of wine.

Over these decks are pergolas that Ron built to provide shade and add to the "architectural integrity" of the house, which has a Frank Lloyd Wright feel to it with its low roof and slight slope.

Like the placement of the plants and the layout of the interior, every detail – even the angle of the pergolas – has been thoroughly thought out by Mr. Drover and his spouse.

"We're hoping whoever takes this place will love it as much as we have," Mr. Drover said.

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