Fit N Fun Walk: Toronto Music Garden

One of my favourite go-to spots in the city is the Toronto Music Garden. I try to come here often and share it with any of my family members or friends who may be interested in coming with me.

The Toronto Music Garden springs from the imagination of renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and garden designer Julie Moir Messervy. Inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, the garden is made up of six “movements” whose forms and feelings correspond to that suggested in the music: Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Menuett, and Gigue.

It’s a fun experience to listen to Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello while walking through the well-maintained garden and imagine the six movements.

1. Prelude section imparts the feeling of a flowing river. Granite boulders that came from the Canadian Shield represent a stream bed. Low-growing plants soften its banks. Circular designs on the ground and at the edge of the boulders represent the water movements. The trees with straight trunks are native Hackberry trees. This is the only section in the garden that is not a dance form.

Prelude in Toronto Music Garden
Prelude: An undulating riverscape

2. Allemande section imparts the feeling of a forest grove of wandering trails. The allemande is an ancient German dance. The trails swirl inward and move higher and higher up the hillside. A circle of dawn redwood trees and a small birch forest provide shades to the various contemplative sitting areas that look over the harbour.

Allemande in Toronto Music Garden
Allemande: A forest grove of wandering trails

3. Courante section imparts the feeling of a swirling path through a wildflower meadow. The courante is an exuberant Italian and French dance form. The trails swirl upward in a spiral form, through a lush field of grasses and brightly-coloured perennials that attract bees, birds, and butterflies. At the top of the swirling path is the maypole, with Celtic-patterned spirals and iron wheel, designed by Anne Roberts.

Courante in Toronto Music Garden
Courante: A swirling path through a wildflower meadow with a maypole at the top

4. Sarabande section is envisioned as a poet’s corner with a centerpiece. The sarabande is based on an ancient Spanish dance form. The trails go in an inward-arcing circle that is enclosed by tall needle-leaf evergreen trees. Japanese maple trees are also grown here. The centerpiece is a huge stone that acts as a stage for readings, and holds a small pool with water that reflects the sky.

Sarabande in Toronto Music Garden
Sarabande: A poet’s corner and its centerpiece

5. Menuett section imparts the feeling of a formal parterre garden of flowers. The menuett is a French dance movement. Its formality and grace are reflected in the symmetry and geometry of a circular pavilion. The pavilion is hand-crafted with ornamental steel by Tom Tollefson. It is designed to shelter small musical ensembles or dance groups.

Menuett in Toronto Music Garden
Menuett: A formal parterre garden of flowers

6. Gigue section imparts the feeling of a series of giant grass steps that offer views onto the harbour. The gigue, or “jog”, is an English dance. The steps form a curved amphitheatre that focus on a stone stage set under a weeping willow tree. In the summer, informal performances are held here.

Gigue in Toronto Music Garden
Gigue: Giant grass steps that dance you down to the outside world

The Toronto Music Garden is a magical place to visit in all four seasons. This past spring, look what I found at the garden:

Bird nest at Toronto Music Garden
Mama bird in her nest at Toronto Music Garden

I love that the Toronto Music Garden is open year-round, wheelchair accessible, and there is no admission fee. Free guided tours and concerts are available from June to September. I hope you enjoy the garden through my lens.

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56 thoughts on “Fit N Fun Walk: Toronto Music Garden

  1. Joanne Sisco August 25, 2019 / 9:00 am

    Nice!! You’ve written the post I’ve wanted to write for a few years now and have never gotten around to.

    This garden has always intrigued me and makes me wish I had a drone so I could get an aerial view.

    Just now I had the thought that the person responsible for cutting those grass steps might not feel so enamoured with them πŸ˜‰ You must have been out there pretty early. I don’t recall ever seeing the steps without people sitting on them.


    • Natalie August 25, 2019 / 9:45 am

      You’ve been busy living, blogging can wait πŸ™‚ I usually walk to the TMG around 8 AM. In the summer, I see people practice Tai-Chi in the pavilion. The steps are full of people when the summer concerts are on. Did you know that initially the music garden was proposed for Boston? I’m glad it ended in our city.


      • Joanne Sisco August 26, 2019 / 6:49 am

        I did know that … although I don’t recall ever reading why Boston rejected it. The waterfront has come a very long way over the past 30 years.


        • Natalie August 26, 2019 / 10:06 am

          The waterfront has changed a lot over the years and large-scale developments are still in progress or being proposed. Green space like the TMG is so good to have.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Erica/Erika August 25, 2019 / 9:12 am

    Music and a garden, beautiful combination. I will be finding some Yo-Yo Ma music again. I forgot how I used to enjoy listening to him. A very interesting place! Impressive how the music wove around many of the existing structures, such as the stone as a stage. This place is a magical place to visit. I will look it up next time we are in Toronto. Extra magic on the nest! A very enjoyable and informative post, Natalie:)


    • Natalie August 25, 2019 / 9:53 am

      Hi Erica – The TMG is a lovely place to visit. That mama bird kept me coming back to watch her babies from a distance with a zoom lens. Eventually they all left the nest. Next time you are in Toronto, perhaps we can walk there together. Thank you for your kind comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Suzanne@PictureRetirement August 25, 2019 / 12:31 pm

    Natalie, what an interesting garden. Joanne’s comment made me go back and take a second look at the grass steps. That looks like a nice place to recline on a summer night and listen to music. I’m particularly drawn to the Poet’s Corner; water and rocks are very soothing and I can see why it was designed as a reading space.

    Your love of this place comes through in your writing, which is the thing I love most about blogging and bloggers – the world is a little smaller and a little brighter because you took the time to share.


    • Natalie August 25, 2019 / 1:59 pm

      Thank you, Suzanne, for your kind comment. Likewise, I love learning about Florida from your posts. I plan to attend a free cello and violin concert in the TMG this afternoon. Those steps will be full of people while the musicians perform under the willow tree. The Poet’s Corner is a very nice place to contemplate. It’s kind of hidden and when I go there, in the summer, usually it’s just me and the birds that occasionally come to drink water from the small pool.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. August 25, 2019 / 12:58 pm

    What a gorgeous place and you described it so beautifully! I would love to sit on those steps and listen to a live performance. My list of reasons to visit Toronto again keeps growing.


    • Natalie August 25, 2019 / 2:05 pm

      Thank you, Janis, for your kind comment. There are free live performances at the TMG from June to mid-September and the musicians are top notch. I plan to go there this afternoon for a cello-violin concert. Whenever you plan to re-visit Toronto, please let me know. I love to share a few hidden gems in the city.


  5. Retirement Reflections August 25, 2019 / 2:48 pm

    Thanks, Natalie -I’ve just added TMG to my list of β€œmust see” places. Also πŸ’• the Maypole!


    • Natalie August 25, 2019 / 5:54 pm

      Thank you, Donna, for adding TMG to your ‘must see’ places as I hope it means you’ll visit Toronto in the future πŸ™‚ Up close, the maypole has a neat design and the material seems to withstand all kinds of weather.


  6. Deborah August 25, 2019 / 8:35 pm

    Oh wow, that’s so amazing. I’m so not a visual / perceptive person that I am fairly sure I wouldn’t understand the relevance of the garden to the music but guess it’s well explained and love your descriptions! Such a pretty place.


    • Natalie August 25, 2019 / 9:29 pm

      Thank you, Deb, for your comment. One can imagine the garden with Bach’s music or visit the garden without music, or with music that is not Bach’s. It’s a pretty place to relax.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jo August 26, 2019 / 12:40 am

    I love the idea of a garden inspired by music – and specifically, the movements within a piece of music. I need to di that piece out for another listen. I’m in awe of designers who can work like this – it’s creativity at its most inspiring. Thanks so much for starting my week with this.


    • Natalie August 26, 2019 / 9:54 am

      I think the TMG garden designer did an outstanding job with the TMG overall design and her selection of plants that grow through four seasons and that portrait the music movements. The gardeners who maintain the garden have been doing a fantastic job, too. Have a great week, Jo!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Darlene August 26, 2019 / 9:56 am

    What a delightful place! Thanks for the grand tour, the pictures are lovely.


    • Natalie August 26, 2019 / 10:28 am

      Thank you, Darlene, for your comment. I’m glad you like my pictures.


  9. restlessjo August 26, 2019 / 12:58 pm

    What a nice idea this is, Natalie! I feel better just for reading it πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Many thanks for sharing!


    • Natalie August 26, 2019 / 1:54 pm

      Thank you, Jo, for your kind comment. Glad my post made you feel better πŸ™‚ Music and garden do wonders for our mind and body.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Laurie August 26, 2019 / 3:47 pm

    We take a trip each summer with friends and have just decided to visit Toronto next year. I will bookmark this page. Several of our friends are master gardeners and would love this music garden. It is just beautiful!


    • Natalie August 26, 2019 / 5:03 pm

      Your travel plan to Toronto sounds wonderful. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to meet up. I have a Contact form at the top bar of my blog.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie August 27, 2019 / 4:44 pm

        Thank you, Natalie. I will keep that in mind.


  11. Mary-The Boondocks Blog August 26, 2019 / 9:09 pm

    Natalie what a great place for an afternoon walk. I would love to see the manuette in person.


    • Natalie August 26, 2019 / 9:48 pm

      Good choice, Mary. I was there for a Sunday concert and saw lots of roses in bloom around the Menuett pavilion. Thank you for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Lydia C. Lee August 27, 2019 / 4:47 pm

    Just lovely – and a great way to exercise too…#MLSTL


    • Natalie August 27, 2019 / 5:16 pm

      Yes, It’s a good place for me to keep fit and have fun at the same time. Thank you, Lydia, for stopping by.


  13. Min Write of the Middle August 27, 2019 / 7:45 pm

    What a beautiful concept! A garden inspired by music, and so wonderfully described and captured by you Natalie. I enjoyed reading what each section represented and makes us feel and your photos matched with your descriptions so well. Isn’t it wonderful to have places like this to visit for free in our cities! πŸ™‚ xo


    • Natalie August 27, 2019 / 8:02 pm

      Thank you, Min, for your kind words. They made me feel happy that I did a good job describing one of my favourite go-to spots. Have a beautiful week!


  14. betty - NZ August 27, 2019 / 7:46 pm

    What a fantastic place! I guess you have to love your job to keep it looking so good πŸ™‚

    Great post on ‘My Corner of the World’ this week! Thanks for linking up!


    • Natalie August 27, 2019 / 8:06 pm

      Thanks, Betty, for hosting and for your comment. I let the gardeners know that I appreciate their work efforts to maintain this beautiful garden whenever I see them.


    • Natalie August 27, 2019 / 8:52 pm

      Thank you, Donna. Have a beautiful evening!


  15. csuhpat1 August 27, 2019 / 9:04 pm

    What a super cool place. I would really love to walk around there. Very nice.


    • Natalie August 28, 2019 / 8:36 am

      Thank you, Patrick, for your comment. I greatly appreciate it.


  16. Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond August 27, 2019 / 11:31 pm

    Hi Natalie, it is wonderful having green space in a City that we can escape to. Brisbane has several areas and I love running through the Botanic Gardens and Southbank by the river. Thanks for sharing Toronto with us at #MLSTL and enjoy your travels. xx


    • Natalie August 28, 2019 / 8:40 am

      Hi Sue – How wonderful it is that the Botanic Gardens and Southbank by the river are on your running route. The scenic course would make the runs more enjoyable. Thanks for hosting and have a beautiful week!


  17. Denyse Whelan August 28, 2019 / 4:29 am

    How wonderful to combine the aural with the visual in such a way.


    Thank you for linking up for Life This Week. Next week’s optional prompt is 35/51 Share Your Snaps #7 2/9/19 and I hope you will join in. Denyse.


    • Natalie August 28, 2019 / 8:42 am

      Thank you, Denyse, for hosting and for your lovely comment. I look forward to joining in next week’s link-up.


  18. leannelc August 28, 2019 / 7:30 am

    This garden is just gorgeous Natalie – I love all the differently themed areas – and the Maypole made me smile. You get to visit and photograph some lovely areas and I’m so glad you share them with us.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM πŸ™‚


    • Natalie August 28, 2019 / 8:46 am

      Hi Leanne – In the summer the TMG shows off gorgeous flowers and the pollinators love them. It’s beautiful year-round thanks to the smart selection of plants and the gardeners’ maintenance efforts. Thank you for hosting and sharing.


  19. Sydney Shop Girl August 29, 2019 / 4:40 am

    How fabulous is this garden, Natalie? I’m not musical these days but your descriptions of each section of the garden brought back memories!

    SSG xxx


    • Natalie August 29, 2019 / 7:26 am

      The TMG is enjoyable even when there is no music πŸ™‚ Thanks, SSG, for stopping by.


  20. Jennifer August 29, 2019 / 6:24 am

    Wow. That looks and sounds lovely. We have Lake Eola Park in Orlando, which is in the middle of the city. Music plays throughout the park, but it’s electronic versions of more recent pop songs. And while the gardens are pretty, they are nothing compared this musical garden.


    • Natalie August 29, 2019 / 7:30 am

      I find the TMG unique and different from a typical garden as it’s designed with Bach’s music in mind. The aerial view of the TMG design shows how nice it is, too except I need to find the photo to add to my post. Thanks, Jennifer, for stopping by.


  21. BoomingOn August 29, 2019 / 8:49 pm

    What a gorgeous idea! I’d love to visit this garden. Canada is high on my ‘to do’ list so Toronto might have to be added. Love the little bird in the nest.


    • Natalie August 29, 2019 / 9:00 pm

      I’m glad you consider adding Toronto to your list. A visit to the TMG would be well worth your time when you’re here.


  22. Susanne August 30, 2019 / 4:42 pm

    Wow, I really love how this garden is planned! What a lovely idea to built it around a music theme too. I love both gardens and music. πŸ™‚


    • Natalie August 30, 2019 / 5:05 pm

      Thank you, Susanne, for your visit and comment. Now you can add the TMG to your ‘to see’ list πŸ™‚


    • Natalie September 4, 2019 / 8:02 pm

      I’d love to visit the RBG in Sydney. Thank you, Leanne, for stopping by.


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