{ Archive for the ‘garden design’ Category }

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.

A garden tour of The Beach

I've seen half numbers in addresses before–usually on a house subdivided into apartments. But as I approach 44 ½ Victoria Park, I'm greeted by a gate of sorts framing a path, right between two homes. The path takes me past both houses and their backyards, and leads me to this amazing, magical lot, perched on a ravine. I want to move there. This house is the first on a preview of Toronto Botanical Garden`s annual Through the Garden Gate garden tour. This year, for the first time, the tour takes place in the Beach neighbourhood of Toronto. June 19 and 20, visitors will be allowed to take in 26 private gardens like this one, which you would never know even existed. Apparently it used to be a cottage with its own little road that was eliminated over time–hence the half-numbered address. The other homes we preview each boast their own unique attributes, including a couple with spectacular lakefront views, one with over 50 Japanese maples, and another with a contemporary water feature in a cosy backyard. I will definitely be going back next weekend to take in the other 21 homes on the tour–or at least most of them!

Scroll below the event details for a few preview pics!

Here are the details:
When: The tour takes place Saturday June 19 and Sunday June 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tour headquarters: Neil McNeil High School at 127 Victoria Park Ave.
Ticket includes: Comprehensive Garden Guide, access to the 26 gardens with experts in each garden and complimentary shuttle service.

Tickets can be purchased online at the Toronto Botanical Garden website (prices are listed there, as well) and at the following outlets:

  • Shop TBG, 777 Lawrence Ave. E
  • Blossoms Rosedal, 1 Rowanwood Ave.
  • Bill's Garden Centre, 903 Pape Ave.
  • Plant World, 4,000 Eglinton Ave. W
  • Sheridan Nurseries, 2827 Yonge St.
  • Sheridan Nurseries, 784 Sheppard Ave. E
Enter this gate at 44 1/2 Victoria Park and you'll never want to leave!

Enter this gate at 44 1/2 Victoria Park and you'll never want to leave!

This is my favourite garden, so I'm showing another photo. By the way there are two other ponds as well as a swimming pool. This lot is an anomaly in the city. What I love about it is the owner and her family all contributed.

This is my favourite garden, so I'm showing another photo. This is the one with over 50 Japanese maples. The lot is over an acre, an anomaly in the city. What I love about the gardens is the fact that the whole family has contributed. And the owner has such an eye for flow and colour and texture.

This water feature at 51 Northern Dancer Blvd. (and the garden) were designed by Kim Price Landscape. It cleverly hides the garage that is mere steps from the back door of the house.

This water feature at 51 Northern Dancer Blvd. (and the garden) were designed by Kim Price Landscape. It cleverly hides the garage that is mere steps from the back door of the house.

Planning a summer BBQ party

Tis the season to enjoy the backyard and all the work you’ve put into the garden. We’re having a big summer bbq party on Saturday and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain.

I’ve trid to keep up with my weeding, deadheading, and other garden chores, but it’s amazing what still needs to get done outside in the next few days. The grass needs to be cut, the patio swept, gardens weeded, phlox tied up, apples picked from the lawnwe have a huge apple tree in our yard, which is lovely, but the lawn looks like a minefield of apple bombs that hurt when you step on them.

And then the menu needs to be decided. Luckily local produce is in season at the farmer’s market. I’m sure fresh corn on the cob, beans, tomatoes, and peaches will grace the table.

If you’re looking for some great backyard party tips, check out these great articles at CanadianGardening.com. I know I’ll be reading them in the next day or two!

Tips for planning a backyard potluck picnic

Garden party

hamburger-cupcake

Here is a photo of the hamburger cupcakes I made for my backyard BBQ. They were quite a hit!

Gotta love the city’s street tree planting program

anjablog6-400

Of the 36 trees to choose from, I picked a Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) to be planted in my front yard by the City of Hamilton's Street Tree Planting Program.

Shortly after moving into my house, I called an arborist for a quote on having an old maple tree removed from the corner of my property. It had been dead for sometime and was leaning precariously towards my driveway. The arborist came to look at it and told me it would cost $350 to remove it, but then he mentioned that since the tree was on city property, I should call them to see if they would remove it free of charge. I certainly appreciated his honesty and willingness to save me some money, even if it cost him the job.

After calling the city to enquire about removing the tree, they came out to verify it was on city property and it was! They came back a few weeks later, removed the tree and left behind some brochures on the city's tree planting program. Not only did they remove the tree and stump free of charge, they also offered to plant a new one. I was surprised I had never heard about the tree planting program. Occasionally the city will canvas neighborhoods to plant trees in suitable locations, but otherwise, it seems the program is one of the best-kept secrets in the country.

anjablog3-400

The gingko, also known as a Maidenhair tree, has an angular crown and erratic branching pattern. The fan shaped leaves are truly unique.

Whether you live in Kelowna, Simcoe, Kingston, or Charlottetown, most Canadian cities offer a tree planting program. These programs were created to plant trees on city owned street allowances fronting residential properties for free. Homeowner are able to choose from a variety of trees native to North America, imported from Europe and Asia and hybrid varieties. Some cities have taken the program a step further by offering residents subsidized backyard tree planting. LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests) is a non-profit group dedicated to improving Toronto's urban forest.

The home renovation tax credit and your garden

Hopefully you've been hanging on to all your garden centre receipts this year because the Home Renovation Tax Credit covers a number of garden related items. This is the perfect excuse to buy more plants! I'm planning on building a pond in the garden next year, so not only am I going to wait until the garden centres have their annual summer clearance sales, I'm also going to use my receipt for the tax credit. Who could ask for anything more?

So what landscaping projects and garden items qualify?
• perennials
• trees and shrubs
• garden rocks
• new sod
• decks
• retaining walls
• irrigation
• garden lighting
• fences
• driveways
• ponds and waterfalls
• garden sheds
• large permanent garden ornaments
• professional landscaping services
• professional landscaping contractor services

For a complete list of eligible expenses, visit Revenue Canada.

A final note

img_30251Happy Canada Day, everyone. While economic times are still uncertain, those of us lucky enough to live in this country have much to celebrate tomorrow.

After I stepped down last January as editor-in-chief of Canadian Gardening, I promised myself a lazy gap year before I returned to the fray of the working world. So the second half of 2009 will be spent–doing whatever I feel like. This means less writing, more reading. Less talking, more listening. Less looking, more seeing. You get the picture. This entry will be the last one before my blog goes on hiatus.

But how can I leave you without showing a few more photos of my garden, and making an observation or two? The large image at the top of the page is a little corner filled with various pots. It looks a bit messy but there’s a reason for it. The winter brought with it a leaking roof underneath an old deck off my bedroom. This meant the deck needed to be demolished and the roof replaced, with everything that had been up there brought down. It was a big expense, so I did it in two stages. Stage one was the installation of a new flat roof last winter. Stage two was the building of a sturdy and handsome new deck a few days ago. Little by little, some of the myriad pots dotted around my garden will make their way up to my roof. But there will be far fewer than normal this year, and no veggies. Oh well, there’s always next year. Gardening is for optimists.

There are many things I’m enjoying about my garden right now (not the least of which is having some time to sit in it). Here in Toronto, it’s been a coolish and wettish early summer, and my garden has made huge amounts of lush, verdant growth. There’s very little weeding to do, because the plants are so densely packed together. So far, I’ve seen very little insect damage. There have been a few snails about, but the giant leaves of my ‘Frances Williams’ hostas are intact. Fingers crossed this may continue.

img_29881The plant shown here is my Chinese flowering dogwood (Cornus kousa chinensis), which is bursting with health and absolutely covered in starry white flowers. Divine. I heartily recommend this small tree for narrow urban Zone 6 gardens like mine, as it truly offers four seasons of beauty. Smooth, grey bark and graceful, compact form in winter, followed by attractive leaves and white flower-like bracts in late spring/early summer. These bracts (“flowers”) persist for many weeks, turning pinkish as they mature. Their berry-like centres go a brilliant red and are relished by squirrels and birds. And the leaves go a lovely burgundy fall colour as well. If the flowers were scented, it would be perfection.

Lastly, a word about containers. Don’t be afraid to combine shrubs, perennials, annuals, grasses and herbs to create the look you want. One of my favourite shrubs for this purpose is the ubiquitous purpleleaf sandcherry (Prunus x cistena), which is overused in the landscape but seldom seen in pots. Cheap as chips, open and spare in habit with showy burgundy leaves, it’s hardy (Zone 4) and easy to plant under because it’s not a space hog. (Whatever shrub you choose for a container, be sure it’s at least two zones more cold-hardy than where you live. Here in Zone 6, this means Zone 4.) Yes, the sandcherry overwinters outdoors in its pot.

img_29911And try growing some of your invasives in pots as well. Seen here is an old galvanized washtub (be sure to add drainage holes in the bottom with a drill) filled with various types of mint. I harvest the leaves to make fresh mint tea: take a generous handful of leaves and stems, rinse them, put them into a teapot and bruise well with a wooden spoon. Cover with boiling water and steep to taste. Pour into cups and float a few mint leaves on top for colour. Sweeten with honey, or not. This makes a lovely clear drink that’s delicate and refreshing. You can do the same thing with lemon verbena, which is another rambunctious plant.

Or use fresh mint leaves in mojitos or as part of the quintessentially British drink of summer: Pimm’s number 7. You can find recipes on the internet.

So that’s it from me for now. Cheers to you and happy gardening. And thanks for reading my blog.

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