Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Paper Garden...

Reduce your plan to writing. The moment you complete this, you will have definitely given concrete form to the intangible desire.
~ Napoleon Hill

Well, we have come up with a plan! Our mature yard, unloved for so many years, decades even, is coming to life!

The plan below represents two winters of dreaming out the window and one summer of evening meanderings. Last summer we got the old stumps that were along the borders all ground out and we got a fence up. Why so slow, you ask? Well, with a toddler to enjoy and home renovations underway, it's all we could manage.

This year so far, we have settled on a landscaper to do the excavation work of taking out all the gravel and concrete pavers and about six inches of clay. He will bring in topsoil and lay the sod and prep the beds with bark mulch. That will be our foundation for gardening. I know all the experts say to do your hardscaping first, but we haven’t decided on exactly what we want for hardscaping yet and I simply can’t wait another year before I garden!

Although we know we want either a patio or deck out there and have a vague notion of the shape, I am happy to sit out on the grass until we do decide.

As you can see in the plan, there will be lots of areas to plant. Everything marked “mulch” is prime planting space! I will have an almost 10 ft deep semi-rounded bed for shade plants, some shrub areas around my spruce in the back and lots of sunny areas for some hardy roses and other flowering shrubs and perennials.

Along the north side (right side of image) I want to put a privacy screen of a variety of columnar trees and some high shrubs. I want a mix of deciduous and evergreen so that there is winter interest. These have to been quite narrow or standard-shaped as I only have about eight feet of bed there between the fence and the area where we will have a patio or deck.

On the south side (left) I want to put one deciduous tree with a high and rounded, but not too dense, canopy to screen out the view of the side of the neighbour’s house. I would also like this tree to have some winter interest so I am thinking of something with an interesting bark, such as Prunus maackii ‘Jefree’ (Goldrush® Amur Cherry). Around this tree will be shrubs and perennials for shade. (Maybe even a water feature someday. One must continue to dream!)

So many decisions to make! I am working on a list of plants, shrubs and trees I like and what might be suitable to the particular locations in my garden.

Right now, we have to pot up what I do have planted out there already (treasures I couldn’t resist even though I knew we were going to have a major upheaval!) and pick out the stepping stones.

Oh, did I mention the landscaper said they should have it done in May? Cross your fingers with me, dear gardeners, and think positive thoughts that they stay on schedule!

Edit: I have tried to post this so that the picture of the plan will enlarge as you click on it- to no avail, I'm afraid. It seems to be random in that some do and some don't. If anyone knows the secret, please share!

Friday, April 24, 2009


So. We woke up to this familiar white stuff this morning. In late April. *cough*

I thought snow had left us for more arctic climes, but it appears that life was just so good here that it doesn't really want to leave.
It lightly dusted everything and warned the weatherman it may be back for more mischief.

I rushed out to see how my little plants were doing that I covered in plastic the night before.

Not so good, it seems. A little floppy and worse for the night.

So I did what I should have done earlier. I put them up in the garage window where it is insulated but not heated. (Never really gets below zero in there)

Aren't they sad? I really, really hope they make it back to their perky selves.

In brighter news: We have a landscaper coming tomorrow morning to talk to us about our plans for the yard. Wish us luck!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Just a teensy weensy bit of shopping...

Did I shop while I visited the display garden at a local garden centre over the past weekend? Yes, yes, I did. Not until the end, though! Can I possibly blame my friend for my weakness? I can try. She did tell me that the special items tend to go quickly and might not be there when I am ready to garden. Oh, and being Easter weekend and all, there was a great sale on Easter items! I would have been foolish to pass it by. I tell myself with stern conviction.

So of course I was very practical. I bought an Easter serving tray and bowls that were on sale for half price. Who could blame me at $12.50? It would have been foolish to walk by. Um, really.

And then: Three very adorable plants

I got this lovely hosta, ‘Touch of Class’. While we were there, I was describing to my friend a beautiful hosta that I had seen once and thought gorgeous. I think this is it. The centre is a soft lime green with blue and green margins that look like they were painted on by a water colourist. My great aunt was a water colourist, and one time she painted all the wild flowers of her home province in one painting. This hosta looks like something she would have painted.

Next was a lovely and finely drawn Adiantum pedatum ‘American Maidenhair Fern’.

I am smitten with this plant. I had one in my first garden and loved its shy beauty. If I were a fairy, I think I would make a long skirt of layers of maidenhair fern lace. It adds such texture to a garden and makes other plants around it shine. The kind of plant you want on your team.

Finally, I bought this Heuchera 'Plum Royale'. Quite frankly, it dazzled me as soon as I entered the garden centre. There was a guy leaving with a trolley that had the bottom shelf of it filled with these. I found myself saying “wooooo” as they wheeled by me. The silvery sheen laid over the plum colour is like an evening dress with silvery tissue over a plum satin. Every girl should have one once in her life.

So now I have to keep them all alive until it gets warmer. If the garden is going to be in upheaval this summer for any amount of time, (as I suspect it may well be) then I think I may put them in the ground right in their pots until things settle down and I can find them a permanent spot. I hope that will work.

But really, I must hold off on buying plants until the ground is ready for them. I must. Really.

Except for annuals. For the pots. I can’t ignore my pots. Now that would just be rude.

"There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments." -Janet Kilburn Phillips

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Inspiration feeds the dream...

A friend and I slipped away to a local garden centre this past weekend for a little inspiration.

This was my second visit, as I had been to see this year’s display garden a few weeks ago. It stayed in my mind and I knew I really liked it. I wanted to go back to look at it more analytically and find out why I liked it so much.

The first thing that jumps to mind is the garden’s focus on foliage and texture. The array of hostas is amazing, as it the variety of textures in all the plant materials. My first garden (two oh-so-short summers!) was mostly a shade garden and I fell in love with textures and foliage. I like green, I really, really like green, in all its shades.

I also find I like structure. The bones of a garden are important to me. I like the variety of heights and shapes in this garden. I think the cedars in the background and the standards in the beds create a sense of enclosure and intimacy in the garden. They also bring the garden up to eye level so that everything isn’t below you. It all seems a little more lush as you feel you are moving through the garden, not just stepping over it.

I have to say I like the colours of the large man-made structures as well: they really let the plant material take centre stage and allow you to accent with whatever colours and blooms you choose, without competition. So while they provide a frame for the garden, they really do step back and let the garden itself be the star.

Now, mind you, this garden is something of a blank slate to me as well. It is crying out for blooms and accents. It is like a gorgeous room waiting for rugs and curtains and art and sparkle. I think in that sense it provides me with inspiration as a starting point.

This pot of perennials I spotted there would be a perfect addition to that garden. I thought it was absolutely sublime. The colours are subtle and the shapes are very architectural.

So, as I dream and plan my first real I’m-not-going-anywhere-for-a-while-garden, my lessons learned from this display garden are this:

1. Form matters – I must give my garden some good bones.
2. Don’t forget texture – it adds great depth and interest.
3. Bring some of it up to eye level – it connects you to your garden and makes you feel in it.
4. I want a water feature. There were several in this garden and they were mostly understated, but the sound was somehow joyful.

Next up: Did I leave the garden centre empty-handed as per my intentions? Of course not!

When your garden is finished I hope it will be more beautiful than you anticipated, require less care than you expected,and have cost only a little more than you had planned. - Thomas D. Church

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spring lives here!

We are still working on a plan for the back yard. In the meantime, the real spring found us; slipping softly into our yard with an early morning shimmer of gold that the snow simply couldn’t resist, so it melted at spring’s feet.

It couldn’t have happened at a better time – the beginning of the Easter long weekend. Time to finally go into the yard and listen to the sound of the returning birds.

I took this photo from the second storey of the house to show you the big picture.

Here is the south facing side of the yard. Pretty empty, hmm?

And here is the north…

Here is a small sampling of the caragana runners that had taken over under the spruce along the west of the yard.
Before we put the fence in last summer there was a chain link fence that ran under the spruce to divide us from the back lane. Along this fence was a 40-something year old caragana hedge gone rampant. We cut it down and had the stump man grind it out; however the runners remained.

While the toddler napped yesterday afternoon we hacked and clipped and loped. Hubby even cut down a dead tree and tore down a long-dead shrub with his bare hands and a few tools.

The best part for me, though, was when I pushed on a dead spruce and it started to wobble! I gave it a few pushes and…

Voila!! I winked at hubby and told him he could just call me Wonderwoman.
*hee hee*

Oh, and as I poked around the garden, I even found a sign of life

The Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy' I planted on the side of the house peeping out from under some well-established Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley).

Because our soil is such hard compacted clay (water pools on it), I didn’t have to worry about compressing it as I walked on it (or the gravel), so to top this luxuriously warm day off, we pulled out the wee toddler’s new play set and when we woke him from his nap he squinted at the sun and seemed hesitant to step out the door. (At just-turned-two, he is probably too young to remember anything but winter!) Once he tapped his way across the gravel and made his way to the play set, he too found the joy that is Spring.

"If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall." ~ Nadine Stair
Next up: After all my hard work yesterday, today I slipped off with a friend to one of my favourite garden centres to be inspired…not, ahem, to actually buy anything...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

As spring settles in to stay, we begin to create...

Spring is springing! Yesterday we went into the ravine and the creek was opening...

...the freshets were gurgling.

and the snow was retreating...

This morning we made it official as we decked our little toddler out in spring gear and he made his first splash in the puddles in his new alligator boots!

We played in the park and...
collected pinecones. (His new favourite word)

Next up: We have drafted a plan of our lot...

...made copies and are sketching ideas for a dream backyard.

Then we hire a landscaper to take the gravel out of the yard, clean up some of the brush at the back, bring in some nice, rich topsoil, a little sod (so the wee toddler can run free!) and, if we can afford it this year, perhaps a stone patio.

I think the rest may have to wait to be done in stages as we can afford it. But, hey, with the beds prepared I can always start hitting the sales for trees, shrubs and perennials!
In the meantime, I foresee us BBQing in the snow!