Saturday, October 18, 2014

UNDER CONSTRUCTION - digging up the old sun garden

In order to have foundation work done in our basement, the Old Sun Garden outside our living room window has been completely dug up.

July 27, Old Sun Garden
I very much like where I have ended up with this particular bed, and I can see an even better version of it now that I have the chance to rebuild. The optimized bed will have half the Heliopsis, a taller grass with bigger seed heads than the Panic Grass I added earlier this year (now transplanted to the Sun Garden), the few New England Asters struggling in the Monet Garden and of course the all important combination of Liatris and Sea Holly (more of the former than the latter). 

October 15-30, Old Sun Garden
 Many of the plants I plan on leaving where I have transplanted them, only the LiatrisNew England Aster and Sea Holly wait patiently on a tarp in the garage. I will not be putting the full garden back together this fall, instead improving the soil and taking my time to carefully plan this bed's evolution.

These Heliopsis have been placed further under the large Spruce tree in hopes of turning the border that I introduced last year into much more of a patch.  Let us hope they get enough light under here. 

Heliopsis and Lamium groundcover (from the Monet Garden) are helping to make the space between my gardens feel less like a driveway and more like somewhere we could host a dinner party. There was enough material to plant on both sides of the cedars, though it remains to be seen if they will get enough sun here as well.

I am willing to take these gambles with sunlight because I learned last year how prolifically the Heliopsis self seeds and how properly spaced seedlings quickly grew to the same heights as more well established clumps, so I am not worried about replenishing them no matter how big a hit they take.

Wish me luck as I take full advantage of this "opportunity".

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014


 Since starting a plethora of bi-coloured Rudbeckia from seed two years ago I have fallen in love with these long-blooming, vibrant, stalwarts of the Sun Garden.    It takes more than one frost to put these beauties down.

Upon looking at these Gaillardia I am immediately struck by how much it looks like they have been sugared and are ready to eat for dessert...unfortunately they are not amongst the edibles in my gardens.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


I recently went to Atlanta for a work conference and spent the afternoon at their botanical gardens.

Having seen photos of 'plant sculptures' before I was generally not impressed.  Too unnatural I thought. 

Seeing them in person changed my mind however and now I find that they add charming whimsy to the garden.

 Who does not love orangutans?

 This grand sculpture/fountain combination was spectacularly impressive.

I liked the understated feeling of this massive fountain which was situated in the middle of a woodland, set quite a distance from the paths.

The horticulturalists created many different environments including this semi-shaded stream bed.

 The grasses in the foreground have a lovely spray effect and convey a sense of volume without 'blocking the view', so to speak.

I am 6'1" and these yellow beauties had to have been at least 8' tall. 

Colour-blocking with some late-season Asters. 
Simple and effective.

I highly recommend making the trip to the Atlanta Botanical gardens if you ever have the opportunity.


Monday, October 06, 2014


I certainly never thought of Forget-Me-Nots as a plant that bloomed throughout the summer, but the ones I transplanted from a friend's cottage landscape where they were growing wild certainly have.

It is well past the spring blooming period I expect to find them in, so you can imagine my surprise and delight to see these delicate beauties making an appearance to brighten up my end of season garden.

Out of season blooms can be some of the most magical, catching one unawares and reminding us that nature is never fully predictable.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


In my last post I discussed how I have moved away from my strictly colour-coded gardens to what I feel will be a more thoughtful design, one that allows contrasting colours to play against one another in the same bed and considers form as much as colour.

 A great example of how far I am allowing things to change is the incorporation of pink back into my gardens.  

Regular visitors will know that I have avoided pink flowers, and even avoided colour blends for fear they would contain too much pink.  I have even gone so far as to transplant pink flowers from my garden into my parents' garden and the guerrilla garden we started at my work.

Some pinks however will get a pass. The "salmon" hyacinths will be able to stay and so will the "peach" Foxglove now blooming in my Monet Garden.

 I have been trying for a couple of years to grow Foxgloves and now that it appears I have finally found a suitable habitat for them I am not about to be turned off by something as simple as their colour, besides "peach" is not just a euphemism, they are more pale than a dreaded 'hot pink' and fit nicely within my so-called "Monet" colour palette.

Welcome back peach, salmon, cerise and amaranth.  Shocking pink, rose, fuschia and magenta - you are still out of luck.

Friday, September 12, 2014


This is the one, this is the plant combination that broke the camel's back, this is the one that has made me officially soften my stance on my strictly colour-coded gardens.

Sea Holly and Liatris make for a fantastic combination in both colour and form.

I have been headed in this direction since reading Piet Oudolf's absolutely fantastic book this winter, 

Planting: A New Perspective. After he proclaimed that understanding why anyone would rely primarily on colour as the foundation of their garden design was beyond him, given how many attributes there are to consider with every combination, it got me thinking.

Quite a bit. 
After all I think the man is genius. 

There were other signs that this change was coming:

Last week when I extended my gardens to beside our new fence, I combined yellow Heliopsis with an underlay of purple Lamium.

 While these purple Liatris were originally moved from the Monet Garden because of lack of sun, I could not be more happy with the improvement they have made to the Sun Garden - and I will be moving the scraggly Sea Holly there to join them! 

My gardens will probably always carry their colour-coded heritage with them, but a world of possibility has just been opened and I am certain that the inclusion of more variety will only improve them.

Come back next year and see for yourself! 

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Saturday, August 23, 2014


This is the second summer I am leading a group of volunteers at my work in an act of illegal guerrilla gardening on a 150 sq ft slice of dirt in the middle of a concrete desert - and we are having great success.  

Have a look at the before and afters and I hope you will agree we are making a difference in our neighbourhood.
May 2013
August 2014
One of the wonderful things about perennial gardening is the difference a year can make

Sept. 2013
Even at the end of last year summer it was not as full as it already is now and next year many plants such as the Peony, Phlox, Ninebarks, Stella D'oro Daylilies, Lamb's Ear and Hardy Geranium should all be back and bigger than ever.  

The new mulch this year must certainly be helping and it does not hurt that every day there is a volunteer to water the gardens by hand with a couple of watering cans and a  faucet on the building next door. 

Did I  mention I have a dedicated team of volunteers behind me?

The quotes in the garden are encouraging comments from readers of this blog after last year's posts.
Keep 'em coming!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

GARDEN BLOGGERS BLOOM DAY - seriously beautiful

Today I had the privilege of having a private tour of an absolutely beautiful garden by a friend of mine, who happens to be the landscape architect behind the design.   

These are simply some photos I snapped with my iphone to share with you all for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

If only I could share the gorgeous scents wafting about the yard on the warm breeze, some familiar some exciting and new...the buzzing of the bees...


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RAISING THE WHITE FLAG - lily beetles win

Now that I have started to focus more on the back yard I am somewhat surprised by the extent of the decisions that need to be made. For example, I generally like to try and work with existing flora to reduce costs and respect whatever planning was initially in place. In our backyard this means working with the chives, mint, Lamium, daylilies and Asiatic lilies.
However the aggressive mint was pulled out this spring and the chives followed suit just recently, and now I am officially done with the Asiatic Lilies as well - through no fault of their own, mind you.

The Asiatic Lily Beetle have won two consecutive summer battles and I do not need three strikes to know I am out...if the lilies looked like this because I had been ignoring them that would be one thing, but I have been as vigilant as I am prepared to be and yet still they look horrible at this point in the season.

Not only that, dealing with the beetles is unpleasant work.

So while it is with some sadness that I bid my lilies adieu, there is a silver lining: I will be opening up space in the backyard where there is less sun than the Sun Garden but more than the Monet Garden and opportunity abounds.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

END OF THE MONTH VIEW - july sun garden

The Sun Garden is far and away the most eye-catching garden at the moment.  
I did not imagine when I started them from seed two years ago how large and plentiful the Rudbeckias would become, dominating the whole Sun Garden.

I believe the seed blend was called "Chocolate-Orange".

My favourites are the ones that have a bronze hue to them rather than a golden yellow colour.

This dwarf dwarf variety is an improvement over last year, but I have enough yellow in the garden and next year will look for strictly orange Nasturtium.

Fertilizing Nasturtium can make the leaves grow without additional blooms, so this year I have not fertilized them and I have been deadheading the leaves on occasion.

The Milkweed is just starting to bloom as well.

The Gaillardia are blooming but not as profusely as last year, could it be that the Rudbeckia are stealing some of their sunshine?

Lots of Rudbeckia in vases inside the house as well as at work, there are just SO many.

The red Monarda did not bloom at all last year in its first year so I am glad to see it showing off this year.

The purple Liatris in the old Sun Garden are looking magnificent intermingled with the golden Heliopsis.

There is plenty more blooming in other gardens at the moment. Stay tuned for further updates.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Last week I explained that I would be renewing my focus on the backyard gardens which up to this point have been lower priority.

My how fast things can change - as you can see, the garden is quickly filling up!

The first step was to remove the enormous quantity of chives which immediately made it look much cleaner.

The biggest source of plants to fill the void have been:
  • those that the deer eat in my unfenced front gardens
  • those that I find on sale once they are past their best for this year
  • those that are unsuited to where I originally planted them

Deer rescues include:
- lovely orange Oriental Lilies that were completely eaten by the deer last year and heavily pruned by them again last week when they were just about to bloom!
- a few Malva and the lone Lupine from the Monet Garden that the deer also snacked on last week

Sale plants include:
- 5 "Popsicle Mix" Lupine.  Regular price $11 on sale for $3.50, done blooming for this year. I have  to admit it feels quite freeing to purchase a colour mix and it will be exciting to see what comes up next year!
- 3 red and white carnations that would not have fit into my colour-themed gardens, which after a hard pruning should come back for a second bloom this fall. Also on sale for $3.50 from $11.
- 5 Primula with a great spike of purple bloom for the Monet Garden where I have created space by taking out the deer-chomped Malva.

Plants getting a second chance include:
-5 or 6 Rudbeckia that have grown much larger than I imagined when I direct sowed their seeds last spring
- 5 or 6 large-flowering, yellow Primula that have been completely overshadowed by their enormous Rudbeckia neighbours and need to see the sun again

Next I need to dig up the Dutch Iris that clearly did not get enough sun in the Monet Garden. While they may have been the perfect colour match but that does not matter if they do not bloom, does it?

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