Lorne and Ruth Campbell’s garden isn’t likely to be featured in Canadian House and Home any time soon and that’s just fine with them. Their mismatched menagerie of statuary, which ranges from stone and cast iron animals to Greek Godesses and Japanese pagodas is a local landmark in Toronto’s well-to-do Kingsway neighbourhood.
Lorne, a retired firefighter and later, magazine publisher, proudly tells me that he built the house himself in 1955. He started collecting the sculptures about 15 – 20 years ago and apparently the only thing he loves more than finding a great new piece is negotiating a good price for it. Lorne was born to haggle, which is handy because life-sized statuary doesn’t come cheap.
The alligator in the top shot, “came out of a castle in Europe,” relates the homeowner. “The dealer wanted $9,000 for it but I got it for $6,000. I told them it had to be delivered — it weighs 1,200 pounds and they only charged me $60 to bring it all the way across town from Kingston Road.”
Some people collect stamps or blue and white porcelain, Lorne collects statues. I counted 21 on my visit although that doesn’t include the two-dimensional cast lions watching over the side yard from their perch in the ivy.
Lorne takes enormous pleasure in his wide corner lot, which is tended by a hired gardener who comes every Friday during the spring and summer months. “School children stop at the fence and have to be pulled away by their nannies,” says Lorne, “and every summer we get people asking if they can take their wedding pictures on our lawn.”
Lorne loves all his pieces but his favorite may be the pagoda fountain, which is lit at night. “We sit on the veranda in the evening with a glass of wine and just enjoy it,” he tells me. “Some people spend their money on golf, my hobby is this yard and these statues. It’s just something I really enjoy.”