Gardens - Featured Gardens

Cause and effect

Liza Drozdov
Photography by
Roger Yip

Liza Drozdov has applied the Darwinian approach to gardening

Although a new seating area was installed at the far end of the garden, I didn't want to abandon the original patio, since it was conveniently located next to the kitchen and the barbecue. The challenge was to make it pleasant again while waiting for the tree screen and pergola plantings to fill in. I opted for a sunken seating area, which can create feelings of intimacy and enclosure, even if the change in level is only slight. I dug the area down less than 30 centimetres and used the soil to mound the raised bed, or berm, between the seating area and the boundary hedge. The berm is densely planted with tall grasses such as amur silver-grass (Miscanthus floridulus) and giant reed (Arundo donax), large-leafed perennial fuki (Petasites japonicus) and the tender Gunnera manicata. These bold foliage plants are real workhorses; they absorb sound and enhance privacy; they also set off the tropical container plants placed around the patio.

The process of reclaiming my garden forced me to step back and evaluate what I could save and what had to be remade. Beds were taken apart, plant by plant, features were altered and the focus was shifted. Through all of this effort, I've learned that a garden is naturally dynamic. It is still-always-evolving, and I've come to appreciate the benefits of renewal. I wouldn't have chosen to make any of these changes, and certainly the pace of the changes wasn't comfortable, but I think the space will actually be the better for them in the long run.

Closet sun-seekers
When Liza Drozdov's garden lost its shade, some of her plants adjusted, while others couldn't cope with the light. Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), false hellebore (Veratrum album), yellow wax-bells (Kirengeshoma palmata and koreana), all the ferns, toad lilies (Tricyrtis spp.) and hardy orchids (Cypripedium calceolus var. parviflorum and Bletilla striata) scorched very badly and had to be moved after the first summer. A 'Sum and Substance' hosta, even though recommended for sun, fried.

Meanwhile, many native shade plants such as lilies, sedges, sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) and Viburnum x juddii continued to thrive, but the biggest surprise, she says, was her hellebore collection, including Helleborus atrorubens, H. niger, H. orientalis, H. corsicus and H. foetidus. All took the full sun beautifully and are thriving. This may be because the hellebores are planted in a rich bog garden; their roots never dry out, regardless of the temperature and exposure.

Noises off
Liza Drozdov has discovered some useful ways to keep external noise at bay in the garden:
• Soil is a great sound insulator. Create a raised bed or berm between you and the source of the noise or dig a sunken seating area.
• Densely plant a mixture of woody and herbaceous perennials; ornamental grasses are especially useful, as they grow quickly.
• A tabletop fountain or a wind chime will distract you from unpleasant sounds. But keep it in perspective. For instance, a large-scale waterfall may drown out city noises, but it can also drown out conversation.
• In extreme cases, professional sound baffling, while costly, is very effective. Not particularly attractive, extruded foam insulation can be masked with lattice and climbing plants. Check local bylaws regarding allowable height, appearance and proximity to property lines.

Uphill battle
When Liza Drozdov inadvertently built a stream that flowed the wrong way, she created a system to reverse the flow. She dug a series of long, narrow pools connected by shallow waterfalls. Beginning at the main waterfall, water flows into, and raises the water level of, the first pool until it brims over the shallow rim that separates it from the second pool. This overflow causes the water level in the second pool to rise, and therefore it brims over into the third pool, and eventually into the existing pond. The bottoms of the pools are lined with stones and edged with rocks, so the overall effect is of one stream flowing down to the pond.

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