{ Archive for the ‘garden design’ Category }

Jenni’s tree chair

With my landscaping overhaul two years ago and various articles this spring, I’ve been thinking a lot about garden furniture this year. It’s a major element missing in my yard.

Being of humble means, and not into grabbing the cheapy trend-of-the-moment patio set from the big box store, (translation: picky, but not rich enough to be) I’ve been biding my time until the right pieces come along. This approach to shopping problems has always served me well. (Pair of black dress boots, my size, exactly the style I wanted but couldn’t find, mint condition, for free, at a garage sale. Oh yeah.)

I’ve thought a lot about the style I would like, and I’m leaning towards rustic without being too stereotypically “cottage” style. (See? Picky.)

I think my sister Jenni is right on the money. And this chair suits her, being an arborist. Custom made by her husband, I’m seriously debating commissioning a couple. With my riches, you know.

Through the Garden Gate: A peek at Swansea Village gardens

Tuesday morning, I discovered a gorgeous pocket of Toronto: Swansea Village. I’m not originally from the city and I live in the east end, so I wasn’t familiar with the streets that have homes perched above the shores of the Humber River and Grenadier Pond. That’s the beauty of the Toronto Botanical Garden’s annual “Through The Garden Gate” garden tour. You get to discover magical little neighbourhoods in the city and see how people style their yards (or how their gardeners style the yards depending on the home).

A dedicated group of volunteers and the Toronto Master Gardeners, led by co-chairs Carole Bairstow and Eleanor Ward, have worked throughout the past year to make this fundraising event possible. It takes place June 11 and 12.

I got to preview five of the homes that will be on the tour. On the tour bus, the inimitable Sonia Day, who writes a popular column for the Toronto Star, provided some colourful commentary about this quaint area that until 1954 was an independent village—and apparently many of those who live there still fancy it so. Speaking of colourful, Sonia will be displaying some of her paintings of Bloor Street Shops at tour headquarters, which is at Swansea Public School. For $10 you will be able to purchase a poster with some of the proceeds going to the Toronto Botanical Garden. Full details on tickets, prices and everything else you need to know can be found on the Toronto Botanical Garden website. Tickets sell out quickly, so be sure to get them soon if you plan to go.

Here’s a teaser of what you’ll see. But it’s only a small fraction of the gorgeous gardens that await!

Stunning views. Stepping into the backyard of 4 (top) and 19 (bottom) Woodland Heights is like entering cottage country. Both these homes feature gorgeous gardens sloping down toward Grenadier Pond.

Hopefully the peonies will still be as showy for the garden tour! This one is at 19 Woodland Heights.

Interesting art, water features and sculpture. Clockwise from top left: 27 Woodland Heights, 19 Woodland Heights, 4 Woodland Heights and 14 Riverside Crescent.

A view from the deck at 4 Woodland Heights. I loved this boxwood knot garden with the stone bird bath in the centre. If you peek over the hedge, there is an herb garden.

14 Riverside Crescent: This is my dream. A little potting shed tucked away in the corner of my yard.

Garden decor I’ll be checking out at the One of a Kind Show

This Wednesday I’ll be heading down to the One of a Kind Spring Show + Sale in Toronto with my friend and colleague, Heather Camlot. We’ll be checking out all the crafty amazingness for our respective writing gigs, but also because we’re pretty crafty ourselves and always come away feeling inspired. I really enjoy the spring show because there tends to be more outdoorsy stuff. And since I’m in the midst of creating spring gardening content, the show couldn’t come at a better time. There are also lots of other cheerful things you can pick up for spring, like clothing (I’m always on the lookout for cute frocks), jewelry and Easter gifts.

The show starts this Wednesday, March 30 and runs until April 3. Details (ticket prices, directions, hours, etc.) can be found here on the One of a Kind Show website.

Here’s a preview of some of the outdoor furniture and accessories I’ll be checking out:

Peter Trollope has modernized the Muskoka chair with an easy-to-assemble design. The seat is like a puzzle (no nuts and bolts required), which makes for easy storage.

Chad Arney scours his adopted hometown of Muskoka for old junk that he can recycle into some interesting garden sculptures. I love the idea of displaying art alongside your bushes and blooms in the garden. It looks as though you could put tea lights in the lanterns hanging from the little bird on the right.

These colourful chairs by Jardinique remind me of the wooden chairs I used to curl up on as a kid on the deck at the cottage.

A tartan Alfred Sung exclusive

Last night, I got a glimpse of spring at a special event to launch the SUNG Outdoor collection. Based on the success of last year’s inaugural Capri and Barcelona lines, Alfred Sung himself was there to present their return to the Bay, as well as some special-order pieces and a fashion-inspired collection called Blackwatch. Sung, who has always had a thing for tartan, described this hand-woven black, green and navy resin set as “sleek, sophisticated and simple.”

If you, like Sung, are partial to plaid, you will want this stylish set to greet summer guests on your patio. But—and this is a big but—you only have this weekend to get it. Created exclusively for the Interior Design Show (IDS) in Toronto and available through the Bay, it is only available this weekend (January 27 to 30). So snap it up before your neighbours do.

From grass to garden part 4 – fall colour and a path closeup

It wasn’t intentional, because I really just planted what I had on hand, but my new front yard garden has some brilliant fall colour. I took photos last weekend as we were painting our trim. It’s been a busy summer as we first got a new door, then new siding and then the garden makeover. Because our windows are old, we’re giving them a fresh coat of white paint until they can be replaced. That’s why you can see the 3M Blue Tape lining the windows and front door. Up next? In the spring we’d like to work on the other side of the yard!

Even after a couple of months, some of our plants have started to fill in a bit and others have provided unexpected pops of colour.

Our path was lined with red bricks that used to divide our side garden from the front lawn. Originally we were going to go for more of the cobblestone look, but decided on these colourful pebbles instead.

From grass to garden part 3 – after photos!

Based on our rough garden plan, my mom, dad, husband and I got to work on the Saturday of the August long weekend. While the boys worked on the wall, my mom and I worked on shovelling dirt and mulch to the new garden and placing the plants we had on hand.

Here, the wall is partially finished and you can see the big rocks we got from our neighbour that divide the existing garden from the new one.

I had put aside a few that I received at gardening events and the rest we divided out of my collection of perennials.

Here’s what we planted:

1. ‘Starbright’ mock orange: I picked this out at the annual President’s Choice Lawn & Garden preview.

2. This is a lovely ornamental grass that I planted after last year’s PC Lawn & Garden preview. I was able to divide one plant into three.

3. This rhododendron was shaded by a purple sand cherry and a couple of big trees in my neighbour’s front garden, so we rescued it and placed it front and centre. Hopefully it comes back next year because it has very pretty pink blooms.

4. The two shrubs you see pictured were planted in the original garden that was decimated after our sewer pipes were replaced. Luckily the workers dug them into another garden, so they weren’t lost forever–unlike my poor hens and chicks.

5. You can’t see it very well, but I bought this Proven Winners Black Lace Elderberry for about 80% off at an end-of-season Loblaws sale.

6. It’s not in this picture, but we later planted a Crimson Butterflies Gaura from Sheridan Garden Classics– courtesy of a Garden Writers Association luncheon I attended at the Toronto Botanical Garden. It took awhile, but these gorgeous magenta blooms finally appeared in late summer.

7. This is a type of sedum that my mom calls Dragon’s Blood. It is a lovely spreader in her Port Perry garden, so she had lots to spare.

8. This Autumn Joy sedum was transplanted from one of my back gardens.

9. Ellagance Ice lavender from Freeman Herbs: I also received this plant from my GWA luncheon where Freeman Herbs was a guest speaker.

Not shown in the photo are a couple of boxwood we planted at the very end of the yard by the sidewalk, a Silver Mound Artemisia schidtiana, a pink rosebush tucked up against rocks, some scented geranium from my mom’s garden and a couple of chrysanthemums that were tiny little seedlings when we first dug them up that developed into gorgeous, flowering fall blooms.

We celebrated all our hard work with a big family barbecue!

There are definitely still some holes to fill and once some of the smaller plants take root and grow, that will fill things in nicely, too. We are really happy with the results – and it seems the neighbours are, too, after all the compliments we’ve received. What feels so nice is the fact that we designed it ourselves.

Hopefully everything survives the winter!

From grass to garden: Part 2 – the garden plan

This past summer, after having our sewer pipes replaced, my husband and I decided to give up on grass and turn our front lawn into a garden.

It’s been a long time coming, but I wanted to share what we accomplished that long weekend in August. While my dad and husband worked on building a low stone wall to cut the yard in two and add a bit of depth, my mom and I worked at spreading new dirt and mulch, and deciding where all the plants were going to go. You will see below the rough plan that we were working from.

After finally sitting down one night and drawing up a plan on a piece of scrap paper, my husband and I discovered that we had pretty similar ideas when it came to our vision of the garden.

1. I love window boxes and the idea that I could change them up according to the seasons. Since our windows are so old, we’ve put that plan on hold for now. Once we get new ones, we’ll consider adding window boxes to the new sills.

2. Even though there was grass there before, we’ve always used this area as a path to get around to the side of the house – and the mailman (depending on who it is) will use that route to get next door. We were originally going to use small paving stones, but modified our plans by using stones we already had to create the border and filling it in with pebbles.

3. Our neighbour is an engineer who works for a company that owns several quarries. These are some stones he had leftover from his own landscaping, so we knew we had those to work with.

4. My husband and I both agreed that we wanted some type of retaining wall to separate the upper garden from the lower area.

5. We originally thought we wanted a path curving around the front of the wall and joining the one at the top. We realized our yard might be a bit small for that, but may add some small stepping stones next spring.

6. The quarry stones mentioned above were used to separate the current garden from the new one. My husband would eventually love to add a garden bench as drawn.

The philosophy of undoneness, or how I stopped worrying and enjoyed my yard

Yay! We got through August without snow!

Why are you laughing? I’m serious.

This has been a year of absolutely abysmal weather in southern Alberta. Rain, rain, and more rain, and next to no heat to get anything growing. We got our first frost last night, though it didn’t kill anything, but the mountains out my window are dusted with white. I’m trying to count my blessings, but at this point it’s easier to count the things I was hoping to have done before the snow flies. It’s a long list.

I got some inspiration and perspective from an unlikely source this week though. Being inside (as there wasn’t much chance to be outside) I caught up on some of the podcasts that have accumulated on my computer. While listening to an old one from CBC’s Ideas, I was introduced to the sociologist and urban planner Richard Sennett. He articulates thoughts about different parts of a system working together like instruments in an orchestra. I imagined the different plants in a garden placed to create a cohesive picture. He advocates craftsmanship; my time spent arranging flowers just how I want them seems less frivolous. He talks of a city being a growing thing, unfinished, not static, and this is a good thing, because it allows room for growth, opportunities for the people residing there to contribute their talents and energies. It means the city is dynamic and alive. As he spoke, I pictured my yard, with areas on every point of the spectrum between undone and finished. Indeed, my garden is very much alive, waiting to be worked and enjoyed. I kind of hope it never is “done”, I guess. What a revelation! Of course, he’s talking cities, and I’m just talking about my little corner of the world. Maybe I’ve got gardening on the brain, but I’ll take truth where I find it.

From grass to garden: Part 1

This spring, my husband and I contemplated turning our front lawn into a garden after an ongoing battle with grubs decimated our grass for the second time. Warm spring evenings were spent wandering through neighbourhoods looking for ideas–and furtively taking the odd photo. But a busy schedule and the sheer enormity of the task–ripping up all the grass (for the second time in five years) and then finding plants to fill this bigger space gave us pause.

Then an emergency sewer pipe repair saw half our lawn being dug up leaving a pile of sand in its wake. This bigger mess overwhelmed us into inaction as we struggled to figure out what to do and where to start. We were so embarrassed by the state of our yard, we left the Roto Rooter sign up for longer than we would have so anyone walking by would take pity on our pipe repair and not judge the disaster zone.

I took a 'before' photo after the dirt was delivered. The end of the lawn is where we started to dig up. Crab grass obscures much of the sandpit that stretches from the middle of our lawn up towards the windows on the right.

I took a 'before' photo after the dirt was delivered. The end of the lawn is where we started to dig up the grass. Crab grass obscures much of the sandpit that stretches from the middle of our lawn up towards the front of the house. Two junipers were pulled out during the sewer pipe repair leaving an empty front garden.

We were tempted to hire a professional to sketch out a garden plan, but our creative side wanted to see if we could do it ourselves. And so we looked through magazines and websites, I read through Liz Primeau's fantastic new book called Front Yard Gardens: Growing More Than Grass and we finally sat down together one night to sketch out what we each envisioned.

It turns out we both had similar ideas in mind, so a plan started to take shape. We decided to cancel our long weekend plans and devote our three days off to our garden redesign. And my sweet parents–Sensei Gardener (Mom) and Sensei Landscaper (Dad)–were eager to help out.

Our first step was to order triple mix to enrich our soil and a nice dark cedar mulch. This was delivered on Friday afternoon by Arnts Topsoil: The Landscape Supplier. During the week we had started tearing up the grass and worked at finishing this Saturday. We also managed to get our hands on some fabulous big rocks left over from a neighbour's project. My husband used these to separate our side garden from the new one we were going to create. We took an afternoon break to meet my dad at Arnts and haul a load of stone back to our house. This would be used to replace a rotted wooden retaining wall and create a bigger wall that would separate our garden into two tiers. We also picked up a bag of multicoloured pebbles to experiment with a garden path.

With a house full of refreshments and our tools gathered and ready for action, we awoke on Sunday morning ready to tackle our plan. It’s not quite finished, but wait and see what we came up with!

Decisions, decisions

Okay, people, I need help.

Photo #1

Photo #1

Last fall, my sister Jenni built some stone steps from our gravel driveway down a short slope, and then a little bit of a walkway curving around a flower bed, as shown in photo #1. They look pretty good, no? Jenni did 99% percent of the work because I was eight months pregnant at the time. That was my excuse anyway; the reality, frankly, is she knows what she's doing, and I don't. At least when it comes to this.

Jenni only had a couple of days to help us, so she got the steps built and got the walkway kind of planned with randomly placed stones (photo #2), and left the finishing to us. The plan was to put the sod back in around them and cut the edge of the bed spring and fall to keep it neat. Well, the kids went back to school, I had a baby, winter set in… and now I have the mess you see in photo #3.

Photo #2

Photo #2

So here's my problem: I started thinking. (Uh oh, right?) Could it not be grass on one side of the path, flower bed on the other? Wouldn't it be nice to plant thyme and creepy things amongst the stepping stones? How would I keep the grass out of them? Can I afford (in time, money, and back muscles) to run the path solid the rest of the 12 or so feet I want it?

You must understand, I have spent a lot of time getting this flower
bed cleaned out. I have pulled a lot of grass out of here. I have done
the layered newspaper thing with very good success, but quack grass does not
give up without a fight. I do not want to open the door to re-invasion.

Photo #3

Photo #3

So, what do you think? Is Plan A still my best bet?

My priorities are:

1. Ease of mowing
2. Looking nice
3. Not cost the earth in the aforementioned currencies
4. Death to quack grass.

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