Monday, October 13, 2008

Diary December 2005 - Shades of Green

December 2005
Even though many gardeners want colour from May till October, very few perennials or shrubs actually retain flowers that long. I used to love 3 season colour but lately I’m becoming very fond of the many relaxing shades of green!
Blue, green and purple are known as cool colours. They promote feelings of peacefulness and calm. Evergreens, which have no flowers, come in shades of dark green, light green, golden-yellow green, silver and many hues in between! Besides that, they have varying types of needles: soft, sharp, long, short and even curved and curly.
Here is a photo I took while on a Garden Tour – doesn’t it evoke a sense of peace?
Not only are the plants differing shades of green, but they have varying sizes and textures of leaves. Included are a number of hostas, some silver-edged lamium and some grass-type plants. Stones, rocks, a small tree and lovely aromatic cedar mulch add to the atmosphere. I can imagine myself with a cup of tea after work, de-stressing just by sitting in this gorgeous garden!
It’s interesting that traditional Japanese gardens usually are a green monotone with only a splash of colour. You can understand why they refer to “the music of the colour green”. Japanese gardens often incorporate water, rocks, sand and greenery which, when properly placed, produce an artistic sense of serenity and invite quiet meditation.
I guess all my years of having a southern exposure garden with small, young trees casting no shade have sparked a wish for darker, quieter corners.
I have learned that shades of one colour are just as interesting as a riot of hot colour. In fact, they have a completely different sense of beauty – much more serene and calming.
I will certainly attempt to include these shady spots in my “perfect garden”.

Diary November 2005 - Outdoor Rooms

November 2005
Lots of books and magazine articles give tips on making a small garden seem bigger. Well, I’m spoiled - presently I have a third of an acre. I don’t want a retirement garden that’s small but looks big. I want a garden that IS big (not just looks big) regardless of how much work and effort it will require. But can a large garden have a cozy feel to it? Can it have intimate corners that invite admiration and relaxation? How can I achieve that?
I think “The Daily Muse”
says it accurately: “…I want to shape the backyard so that visitors will feel compelled to explore each of the very distinct spaces along the garden path. There will be no one single destination, but rather, a series of them, all interconnected; one will lead to another, yet each will have its own identity.” Another article by Lindsey Bond Totten says: “Even experienced gardeners struggle with the concept of garden ‘rooms’ perhaps because it has less to do with growing plants than it does with their special relationships to each other.”
So what destinations or rooms could I create? Well, I have always admired wrap-around porches, so maybe I could have one at the front of the house.

I envision it with a polished wood floor, a rattan area rug, wicker furniture with big, fat striped cushions, hurricane candle-lamps on the floor beside white railings and columns and for a final touch – baskets of flowers and some hanging plants!
I’ve always enjoyed a deck or patio in the back of the house, off the kitchen or family room. The retirement garden should have one cozy enough for an intimate dinner party or big enough for a celebratory family gathering. My husband has always preferred wooden decks but I long for a flagstone patio. (We’ll have to negotiate on that one). Really nice comfy chairs, a big table with a sun umbrella surrounded by pots of colourful flowers and more hanging baskets.
Wouldn’t it be fun to have a small private patio off the master bedroom (because of course, I want a ground floor Master Bedroom, just like every other aging Boomer!)
Maybe a small area with enough space for 2 oomphy chairs, an end table for cups of coffee or glasses of wine, all surrounded by plants and flowers. This would be an ideal spot for tiny beauties that are best viewed close up: Viola labradorica, with its purplish-green leaves; Sempervivum ‘Purple Beauty’; Sedum ‘Silver Moon’; Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’ and ‘Limerock Ruby’; Primula veris (English cowslip)which has fragrant, nodding light yellow blooms; Knautia macedonia “Mars Midget’, which is a sturdier, only 16” high version of the super-tall species; many lovely types of aquilegia and of course Epimedium x rubrum or x youngianum. I would surround this delicious private area with French Hybrid Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris ‘alba’ ‘Madame LeMoine’.) The double white flowers would smell so lovely in June!
I’d like to repeat one area that I have in my present garden: a wooden trellis which invites a short walk along a flagstone pathway past shrubs and perennials. When my husband was building the wooden arch, I asked my oldest son how he liked it. He said it looked like “a vortex to another dimension!!” We’ve called it the Vortex ever since!
If the new area incorporated a few large, sturdy trees, maybe I could set up a hammock for aforementioned hard-working hubby! In the Perfect Garden maybe some dependable climbing roses could go up and over: the continuous blooming ‘Blaze Improved’ with its dark red flowers and also ‘Blush Noisette’, a light pink and white blend that has repeat blooms and smells like – baby powder!! Other interesting border specimens could include: Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ with carmine petals; Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’; early blooming peony ‘Festiva Maxima’ with its fragrant, large, white double flowers with crimson flecks, strong, tall stems and dark green foliage; an early blooming daylily like 30” high, rich, deep velvet red ‘Ed Murray’ and a mid-season tetraploid one, perhaps ‘Strawberry Candy’. Add a few clumps of Shasta daisies, a very vertical grass like Feather Reed grass ‘Karl Foerster’; some deep green prostrate junipers and a few lovely shrubs like Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ for bone structure.
Lastly, maybe hidden farther into a corner of the property (maybe near a pond or creek??) a screened-in cedar Gazebo, with bench seating, flowered cushions, candles and lanterns, surrounded by dark green Emerald cedars and a few large shade trees like Pin Oak or Sugar Maple. Clematis could climb up the lattice sides of the structure, maybe 3 different types: an early one C. Montana ‘Tetrarose’, then a June-August bloomer C. lanuginose candida and finally sweet autumn Virgin’s Bower C. dioscoreifolia. A variety of wonderful plants could surround the gazebo: Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (burgundy leaves in spring, dainty white flowers in June); pale yellow and dark purple Siberian Iris, fragrant ‘Casa Blanca’ and ‘Black Beauty’ Lilies; Scabiosa ‘Fama’ (pincushion flower) and a dramatic combo of golden ‘On Stage’ Hosta with Heuchera ‘Velvet Night’ (as suggested by John Valleau, Corporate Horticulturist for Valleybrook Gardens).
Wow!! That’s pretty greedy, all that stuff! I think I may have gotten a little carried away there, but hopefully it gives both you and me LOTS of ‘outdoor room’ suggestions to think about!

Diary October 2005 - Autumn

October 2005

I love spring. I love summer. I love autumn. (I could do without winter, but oh well, can’t have everything).
I find autumn to be a very exciting season. As much as I like being warm in the spring and hot in the summer, I relish that fresh, crisp chill of an autumn morning or evening.
As I walk through my present garden, I see great combinations that I would surely repeat in my ‘perfect’ garden:
(a) Behind a boulder stands Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ – plush, full, and 5 feet tall (without the plumes!) In front of it is an annual fountain grass (Pennisetum) and my sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, which just turned pink and is full of bees.
(b) In the backyard, some black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’) are either still in bloom or their heads have already turned into little black knobs.
(c) Beside the mugho pine and within a sea of periwinkle, my autumn-flowering bulbs – Colchicum ‘Lilac Wonder’ – are starting to open. They will stand 6-8” tall with delicate pinky mauve flower.
(d) The grey-purple kale and dark burgundy chrysanthemums look wonderful beside the bright red burning bush (Euonymus alata)
(e) The elongated flower cones of my beloved oakleaf hydrangea have already turned from white to pink to brown. I now eagerly await the leaves to start turning a bronzy orange and deep maroon.
Years ago I bought gardening columnist Allen Lacey’s book The Garden in Autumn.
“Autumn is a time of sweet disorder and permissible procrastination” writes Lacey, in the first chapter, while later he says: “I was suddenly struck by the accumulated evidence in my own garden that autumn could be the very best of seasons.”
Lacey gives many examples of great plants and combinations that often ‘come into their own’ in September and October. Some of his favourites include:
(a) Boltonia asteroides ‘Snowbank’, tall white, daisy-like flowers that he shows spilling over a white picket fence (p.10)
(b) Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) with annual Centranthus’ pink bachelor-button type flowers, pale pink Anemone ‘September Charm’, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and the variegated leaves of Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’. (p.24-5)
I love how he writes: “The autumn perennial border tends, in particular, toward tapestry, as the red stems of the tall seaside goldenrod lean into the more upright stems of the even taller tatar Aster. The autumn garden becomes, to be honest, a little tatty around the edges. Slugs have long since had their way with the hostas and leaf-miners with most of the aquilegia. Boltonia ‘Snowbank’ and Aster ‘Hella Lacy’ refuse to sing a duet; the Boltonia has put in its final note when the aster begins to sing.”
But I digress….
More combos:
(c) Pale mauve Aster frikartii ‘Monch’ beside bright yellow Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’.(p.40)
(d) Hosta sieboldiana, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ all in front of a bright orangy-red Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)(p.55)
(e) Viola ‘Blue Elf’, Ajuga ‘Burgundy Glow’, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ and Japanese painted ferns.(p.74)
(f) Viola ‘Molly Sanderson’ (almost black in colour) amid a golden sheet of Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’).
(g) Clematis tangutica, with its multitude of little yellow nodding blossoms, Clematis ‘Lady Betty Balfour’ a large flowered purple hybrid with reddish overtones (looks beautiful when draped over a Quince bush (Chaenomeles japonica)(p.96-7)
(h) Bronzy-orange Hellenium ‘Moorheim Beauty’ with pale lime-green Artemesia lactiflora and the silvery purple cone-heads of Echinops.(p.109)
Some shrubs really shine in the fall: Japanese maple, Ilex decidua and Ilex verticilata (Hollies), Aronia or chokeberry, viburnums (especially ‘Mariesii’ and opulus) and Asian Dogwood (Cornus kousa).

I try to enjoy every minute of autumn, because just like the other seasons, it’s gone in a flash!

Diary September 2005 - Spring Bulbs

September 2005

Every spring, I eagerly wait for beautiful tulips to appear in my garden, and when they come up “leaves only”, I remember that I didn’t plant anything new the previous fall!
Well, this September I’m going to invest a bit more thought and cash and replenish my poor depleted bulbs.
Most of my daffodils and small bulbs – snowdrops, scilla, and iris reticulata and iris danfordiae - are still in pretty good shape. (I must make a note, though, to fertilize the bulbs after flowering next spring – something I always neglect to do! And I forget to mark where they are!)
I’m going to designate 8 small niches in my present garden to feature new bulb groupings.
Even though I always imagine seeing hundreds of new tulips in my garden, I must remind myself that tulips are a squirrel’s favourite lunch! Nothing is more frustrating than seeing all your hard work undone by hungry, pesky squirrels a day or two after planting!! Nope – I’ll stick with daffodils, crocus, allium, muscari and puschkinia – the bulbs that the little rodents don’t like.
First area:
Some early colour right beside the driveway: purple and yellow crocus in among the dark purple ajuga, along with some white snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa gigantea alleni.)
Second area:
8” ‘Tete a Tete’ (Jack Snipes) golden yellow daffodils with 14” white, fragrant ‘Thalia’ daffodils – both so tiny and dainty surrounded by anemone blanda “Blue Star’ (St. Brigid) and pale blue, striped Puschkinia scilloides (libanotica). If I feel bold, I may throw in some bright red 8” kaufmanniana ‘Showwinner’ tulips.
Third area:
3 great daffodils: lemon yellow ‘Baby Moon’ (7”), white ‘February Silver’(10”), fabulously fragrant ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ (16”), in a sea of blue and white muscari mixture.
Fourth area:
Strong, tall 16” white ‘Mount Hood’ and 20” bright yellow ‘King Alfred’ with dark blue-purple muscari armeniacum.
Fifth area:
Here are some of the double early tulips I cannot resist: soft pink-on-pink ‘Angelique’
(16-18”) and double white 12” ‘Schoonoord’. They look like baby peonies, come a month early! I could plant dark purple Johnny Jump-ups around them.
Sixth area:
A section devoted to peach and pink daffodils, which I will plant in the shade so they don’t turn yellow-ish: 16” ‘Mrs. R.O. Backhouse’ (this used to be THE pink daffodil from the 1920’s and 1930’s); 16” white with pink corona ‘Accent’ and the 12-18” ‘Easter Bonnet’.
Seventh area:
Sorry – I can’t resist – this one’s going to be a squirrel’s buffet, just like the double earlies: 3 beloved tulips: (26” deep rose pink) Renown, (30” ivory) Maureen and (26” soft pink) Menton, surrounded by dark purple pansies and a sea of white perennial candytuft.

Eighth area:
I used to have a lot of these and they truly deserve to planted again: 24” ‘Estella Rijnveld’, white and red striped parrot tulips, 30” ‘Queen of the Night’, the it’s-so-dark-purple-it-almost-looks-black! tulip, 24” Lily-flowered tulip ‘White Triumphator’ and super tall (3 ½’!) Allium giganteum ‘Globemaster’. Maybe I could plant them near the lilac bush.

Wowee!! Am I going to love spring 2006!!

Diary August 2005 - Containers

August 2005
This summer I needed more knee surgery. I knew that creating and maintaining containers for the deck would be tricky – dragging the bags of dirt, buying annuals, planting them, etc. My mobility would be limited but I really wanted the pots to be full of flowers.
Hey! What if I bought hanging baskets, cut the wires off and placed them in my ceramic and clay pots? Easy technique – same result!!

As usual, I made sure there were some tried and true standards in the pots: helichrysum (licorice plant which creates a soft, silver background), wave petunias in many colours, potato vines – bright lime green and dark eggplant purple – trailing geraniums, ageratum and bacopa.
I also have my herbs in pots under the kitchen window: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (Hey! That would make a great song!! Ha ha), oregano, basil, marjoram and mint.
There’s nothing nicer than fresh herbs in a dinner recipe.
And under my Linden tree, I have a wonderful flowering maple tree that my Dad gave me last summer and I overwintered in the house plus one of his variegated-leaf pelargoniums (that he picked up at Canada Blooms years ago and has grown from cuttings ever since) called “Vancouver Centennial”. They’re happier in the shade than on the hot sunny deck.
One last note about successful container plants. At Sheila’s last weekend, she showed me her magnificent containers that she hopes to enter in the Fine Gardening magazine’s “Container Contest”. They were spectacular – I think she has a great chance of winning.
She promised to take some cuttings from a most unusual coleus called “Kong”. Huge leaves, I mean HUGE! Would they ever be spectacular in my front porch urns next summer. Now if I could talk a deal with my Dad to grow them under his gro-lights over the winter…..hmmmm……let me work on this……

Diary July 2005 - Basics of Design

July 2005

Last weekend I had a chance to visit one of my dearest friends in Elora, Ontario. Sheila, a Master Gardener, is as obsessed about gardening as I am. We spent hours admiring every single plant in her garden and both enjoyed every minute of it.

I told Sheila about this website and she was quite excited. When would it be ready? What was it about? I answered that I was going to plan my retirement garden and make it as close to “perfect” as I could.

“What are your concepts ?” she asked
“My concepts???” I echoed, looking blank.

Gee whiz – what were my concepts? Had I even formulated concepts yet?
Well, OK – let me think (quick!) Ummmm…. Let’s see:
The garden will need STRUCTURE. I want an arbour, a patio, a bench, sculpture, flagstone walkways – structural elements that will ground the plants. So the first concept would be structure.
The second concept would be a LAWNLESS FRONT YARD. No grass. No maintenance. NO fertilizing, no mowing. Something much more unique to look at than boring turf. (I may have to fight my husband on this one, though).
The third concept would be drought tolerant plants. Summers seem to be getting increasingly hotter and drier. A lower maintenance garden would have plants that can manage on little rain or watering.

There- I knew I could come up with concepts that would form a great foundation for my future plans. Throughout this planning section on the website, I will expand on all 3 concepts and more.

Diary June 2005 - Getting Started

June 2005

OK! So let me start planning my next garden.
It’s so difficult to know where to start! Should I try to plan out the basic landscape design? How can I? I don’t know where we’ll end up buying the “retirement” house or how big the lot will be.
Should I start digging through the shoebox of ideas I’ve collected? Start highlighting favourite sections of books and magazines from my library?
I know! I’ll start by looking at my present garden, which has so many pockets of hidden delights that maybe I can re-create some of them in a future spot.
Here are some of my favourite little areas right now in June:
1) Explorer roses ‘John Cabot’ in front of variegated green and white Dogwood leaves (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’)

2) My 2 ft. statue of “Elaine” (a little girl holding an apron full of seeds to feed the birds) surrounded by Hosta ‘Golden Tiara’ and annual Lisianthus (Eustoma) in deep purple
3) My deck surrounded by white, pale pink and deep fuschia peonies
4) Hostas “Great Expectations” and “Paul’s Glory” in front of a golden Euonymus and beside a dark green prostrate juniper
5) In a quiet corner near the garden gate are climbing roses “New Dawn” (pale pink) and “Don Juan” (dark velvety red), golden juniper, variegated phlox paniculata “Nora Leigh”, 2 painted Japanese ferns, a nicely shaped rock, a fat clump of European Ginger all surrounded by pale pink impatiens and white alyssum
6) On one side of the wrought-iron/wooden bench: red geraniums and purple allysum in front of a boulder with variegated Karl Forster reed grass rising behind it

7) Beside the bench on the other side: my 2 foot statue of Brer Rabbit in his little waistcoat surrounded by 2 dwarf daylilies “Fairy Tale Pink” and “Little Wine Cup” and red geraniums
8) Near the neighbour’s fence, listed in layers from the back: Marie’s Viburnum, yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata), Salvia “Ostfriesland” and Hosta “Night Before Christmas” with variegated white and green leaves
9) Dark green columnar junipers, Karl Forster reed grasses and silvery Himalayan potentilla with its deep red flowers
10) Weeping Norway Spruce with tall apricot lilies (ready to bloom soon), my Koa fish statue and red geraniums
11) Tall, deep purple Siberian Iris surrounded by Hosta “Blue Cadet” and white baby-mum flowers of feverfew.

Sigh…………Remind me again why I want to move??