My adventure garden, two years old now, is filling in nicely. There's a saying about planting perennials that "the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap". This is leap year and I'm looking forward to big things!
The kids have been using the dry stream bed as a "slide" recently so I'm going to have to get some more gravel to fill in the top - the rocks seem to keep collecting at the bottom! But I love that they use it to truly be IN the garden.
Pathways for kids are one of the best ways of helping them enjoy the garden without worrying about things getting trampled. Best thing I ever did!
Here is the last of my posts which look back at the garden this year, what did or didn't do well, and what I'd like to change for next year. They start from the Welcome Garden at the front sidewalk, and work their way around to the back of the house. This Adventure Garden is in the center of the backyard and can be viewed from the sunroom, an addition on the back of the house which is one of the things that made me fall for this fixer-upper of an old house...
The majority of this garden was new last year. One of the best things I've done here is to put in a couple of pathways so that the kids can run around in the garden. They love their little hideaway in the back, and they play chase and run circles around the garden too. I really wanted them to feel free to explore the garden, and I highly recommend pathways through a garden for anyone who has little kids!!
The Adventure Garden (year 2)
Mid-June. The top photo is the garden viewed from the back Shade Garden beside the garage, and the bottom photo is the garden viewed from "England". Bergenia, iceland poppies, geraniums, anemone sylvestris, iris germanica and hesperalis matronalis are in bloom here.
Early July. My favourite time of year for this garden! Iceland poppies are continuing to bloom, plus nepeta (catmint), painted daisy, peonies, blue salvia, shasta daisies, sea thrift and more. It looks a litlte bare at the back of this garden because I took down some spruce trees last year and planted some very small shrub roses and a lilac bush - which should start to make more of an impact next year.
Early August. Annuals such as snapdragons, lavatera, borage, verbena bonariensis and nicotiana sylvestris, which I planted to fill space at the back while the perennials are still small, are really taking off now. I'm not sure I'll have room for them all next year but I'm not sure which ones to get rid of since I like them all so much!!
Late September. The lavatera was cut back since it was starting to look straggly - all other annuals still doing well. Asters and rudbeckia 'Golden Glow' are now blooming in addition to the perennials still blooming from early September.
Other parts of the garden:
Way back in spring I planted some lavatera, nicotiana sylvestris cardoon and verbena bonariensis from seed, in order to "fill up" this garden which was only started last year. Yikes!! They're all huge and blooming away now. You can't even see the cardoon at the back and I have to keep cutting the self-seeded borage back. But still, annuals are a great way to fill up space while you're waiting for your perennials to mature. I think I'll skip the nicotiana sylvestris next year, though. It just takes too long to get big - in the spring you wish it would fill up a spot faster, and now it's so huge you can't walk on the pathway beside it!!
The best idea I've ever had for a kid-friendly garden was to make some pathways through the deep garden on the hill at the back of our yard. The kids love to wander through the garden, as well as to play chase. And this way they're allowed to run through the garden and I know the plants are safe. But since it's a hill, I decided that a dry stream bed would look really nice. Way back a year and a half ago I dreamed up the idea, planned it, then planted it that spring. Here's what it looked like then.
I finally got around to finishing it this week! Yay! It's been on my big project to-do list for a while!! Actually, I don't know what took me so long because it didn't take much work at all. First, I weeded the pathway, dug out a couple inches of soil and levelled it.
Looks better already, don't you think?
Then, I put down landscape cloth (the only place where I have used the stuff in my yard, by the way) and a couple hundred kg's of 'rainbow rock' from Burnco.
I'd like to spend a little time arranging some larger rocks on the edges, but there's no point in doing that just yet. My 18-month old has already starting moving the rocks around the yard for me...! I'm hoping that once the dry stream bed isn't so new anymore, she'll find something more interesting to do. In the meantime, the kids have discovered that the rocks warm up nicely in the sun and they like to go lie on them to warm up after being in the freshly filled, freezing cold wading pool. I'd say the dry stream bed is a hit!
This 'Robinson's Red' painted daisy looks good with several other things in my garden. Clockwise from top left:
ornamental alliums and elder 'Black Lace'; siberian iris; helicotrichon (blue oatgrass); blue oat grass and ornamental alliums again; hesperalis matronalis (both purple and white); catmint, ornamental alliums, hesperalis matronalis and iceland poppies.
Something funny going on with the underline function today, but anyway...
Here is one of my blue honeysuckles that I planted last year. They are very new (just released in 2007, I think, and I got 2 small rooted cuttings last year) and I am thrilled they are growing and already blooming. The shrub itself as well as the flowers are supposed to be very hardy (zone 2) so therefore perfect for the prairies. They are being promoted as a substitute for blueberries (which don't do well here because they don't like our alkaline soil), are supposed to taste similar but not as sweet, and are similar in colour but much more oblong in shape.
I won't hold my breath for fruit this year since the plants are so small, but since they flower so early, they usually produce fruit in June, much sooner than cherries and other berries here. Can't wait!
I've read a lot about the debate on real vs. artificial trees in terms of the environment. For me it's a no brainer - it's got to be a real tree for emotional and nostalgic reasons. But there are still many factors to consider when you choose a real tree (how far was it shipped? was it sustainably grown and harvested? has it been sprayed with fungicide or who knows what else?) It's enough to make a person want to give up!!
This year I am happy to report that I didn't have to worry about any of these issues! I had a pine tree in my backyard that I've been wanting to take down for a while now - and I saved it until now. How's that for a locally grown, organic, small carbon footprint tree?!?
We're going to chop off the top to bring inside for our Christmas tree this year, and the rest of the branches will be put on the garden for winter insulation.
This is the last tree I wanted to get rid of in my backyard. It had to go because it was too close to a retaining wall we want to replace next spring. Besides, someone landscaped this yard nicely about 30 years ago but planted way too many trees and shrubs way too close together (a pet peeve of mine), so I don't feel guilty at all about taking down a tree or two (or ten). Now only one more tree to get rid of in the front yard, if I can only convince my husband...
Summer is great but when it's too hot I resent having to water my pots (and there are not many) and veggie patch every day.
This time of year we are enjoying the harvest of the veggie garden, still enjoying plenty of flowers, there's still lots of good weather to come, my big projects for the year are done, and the cooler weather means almost no watering. Ahhhhh (sigh of contentment).
Here is my back hill garden at the end of its first season. It stretches across almost the whole width of the backyard and is the widest and deepest bed I've ever designed. It can be viewed almost anywhere in the yard and also the house, so that made it more challenging as well. I spent all last winter planning it.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. Only a few tweaks in mind for next year. The left side here is shadey...
... and the right side is in full sun. That makes it hard to do the "repeat plants for unity" thing. I had to try to tie it together more with repeating colours rather than repeating plants. So I ended up with repeating silver and blue foliage (lamb's ears, russian sage, artemesia, blue oat grass and blue fescue), with red foliage (castor bean, elderberry, penstemon, ninebark, sedum matrona) and blue flowers (clouds of self-seeded borage, catmint, russian sage). I also like to have lots of bearded iris throughout the bed because the shape is so stand-out - the ones in more shade bloom less but the leaves still add great texture (it's my favourite "repeat plant"!). And finally, varying heights of things really helped make such a deep bed look interesting too (rather than just having short plants at the front, medium in the middle, tall ones at the back).
While I also love yellow foliage, I kept it mostly out of this garden because there would have been too much going on. There is lots of yellow in my shade garden, though.
This was a brand new area of the garden this spring and it looked fairly bare. Because perennials take a few years to get going, I started some annuals from seed to fill in the gaps. I don't really know what I was thinking though, because all the annuals I planted are giants by the end of the season! Here are lavatera, castor bean, cleome and nicotiana taking over the garden.
They look great but I can barely see my new perennials. I'm almost tempted to cut these annuals down just so I can get a better look at the permanent perennial composition. I already pulled out the floppy clarkia and added some 'Husker's Red' penstemon instead (not in this pic).
Hmm, what to do, what to do... Maybe we'll get an early frost and this will all be moot. Wait, did I just wish for frost? It must be getting close to the end of summer and I am getting tired!
There used to be a hedge of cotoneasters here, at the north edge of the back garden. I took them out (I do like their fall colour but I have more elsewhere anyway), and replaced them with 5 fruiting bushes. In a few years, we'll have a little Upik in our own backyard!
The two shrubs you can see are my two new cherries, Crimson Passion (at the top) and Carmine Jewel (at the bottom). I had trouble deciding on the varieties, but decided on these two. I picked Crimson Passion for its large, sweet fruit and Carmine Jewel for its earlier, sweet fruit with a small pit. Both are classified as sour cherries but are sweet enough to eat out of hand. The shrubs are big enough I should get a few cherries next year. Can't wait!
I have also planted 2 haskap (honeyberry) bushes and 1 saskatoon. They are all seedlings so you can barely see them in this picture. If you look closely, you'll see the wire cages that I put around them so the kids and dog don't step on them. Fruit in maybe... 3 years? We'll see.
I like to take pictures of the garden every few weeks so I can review them in the winter months and remember what I wanted to change. It is especially important to take pictures right now because now is the time of the Calgary Horticultural Society's garden competition, which I hope to enter in a few years! Yes, I do try to design the garden for year-round interest, but it doesn't hurt to pay extra attention to what the garden will look like when the judges come out!
I tried to deadhead the poppies before taking this photo but got stung by bees twice! The blue salvia and creeping sedums are just buzzing with them. Oh well, deadheading can wait.
Anyway, the cranesbill at the very bottom of this photo has got to be moved to a spot with a little more shade next year. Every year by July the leaves turn brown.
This part was new this spring and with the help of a few annuals from seed (castor bean, lavatera, nicotiana, cleome), is filling in well. In a couple years it will be a crowded jumble like the photo above. Also I can barely wait for the rose bushes at the back to get established!! I think it helps when you're making a new garden to always try to imagine it as it will look in 5 years...
It may be tempting to plant perennials really close together, but if you want to save yourself some work in a year or two (and save money by not buying too many perennials), remember to leave space for their full size.
There's a rule about growing perennials:
"the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap." This is because they take some time to get their roots established before their growth really takes off. So be patient, use mulch and wait until the third year before you decide you really need more plants!!
Here's what part of the same garden looked liked last year at this time:
Except for a few annuals I started from seed, my back hill renovation is complete! This area was all grass when I moved into my house 4 years ago, and I've gradually got rid of a little more every year. This year I decided to get it over with and finish the whole thing. I don't know what I was thinking... it was February when I started planning and I always get a little crazy by that time of year!
I was very motivated to get it done this past week-end because there's a playdate at our house tomorrow, and there may be up to 7 kids running around in the back yard! The pathways on left (bark mulch) and right (future dry stream bed) are meant for the kids to be able to run around the garden.
I've been so busy planting that I've fallen behind on the weeds - that's the next thing to do before I go on holidays in 2 weeks!!
After reviewing planting design books and my garden photos all winter, I am ready to re-work a section of the “back hill”, which is viewed from my sunroom. I learned a long time ago not to plant just one of everything, because it results in a spotty composition that is unrestful to look at. However, I have been grouping all my plants in roundish clumps of 3 or 5, which makes a bigger impact but still just results in bigger “spottiness”. Now I want to re-work everything in larger drifts, that are interconnected and interwoven to make a “tapestry” of plantings.
To truly follow the design process, the plants should be chosen last, after you have drawn a lay-out and specified height and width for each plant grouping, among other things. However, how many of us will do that? Normally we already have some plants we want to move around, or we are working with some pre-existing shrubs for background plantings, and we want to plant the flowers we know we like. So, I distilled some major design principles and some practical pointers down to these rules, which I used for the composition shown above.
The rules are in order of importance (I think), and they are also in order of difficulty, starting with easiest if you are a beginner gardener. Work your way down the list as you grow more plants and have more confidence combining them. Also, this year I will be posting photos of some great combinations under the “Captivating combinations” category on the sidebar, so check those out too.
There are more design principles such as balance and proportion, focal points, etc., but follow just the rules above and you will be well on your way to having a designer-quality garden. Then again, rules are made to be broken so remember to follow your heart. Add your own personality!!
It's hard to imagine the little pot from the garden centre is going to grow into a large tree or shrub, but please pay attention to the full size of something (height and width) when you're planting. That goes for perennials too, although at least they can be moved or split when they get too big.
These people have done a nice job of keeping their evergreens trimmed, but unfortunately, the beautiful trimming job just seems to draw attention to the poor tree that had its top cut off, don't you think? What do you think is worse - keeping a tree that looks silly because it's in the wrong spot, or putting it out of its misery?
This is "the hill" in the backyard as seen from my sunroom in March.
Well, there's nowhere to go but up, as they say! There is a lot of work to do here. On the right I have taken out two large spruce trees, and I am going to replace them with shrubs this year. We have 5 giant spruce in the (small) front yard and there were 10 in the back when we moved in. Apparently when someone landscaped the backyard about 30 (?) years ago, the only trees and shrubs available were spruce, pine, cotoneasters and junipers. Ugh. Boring.
The hose shows were I am going to extend the garden to this year. I also want to build in some fun stuff for the kids. They like to climb up to the back of the hill so I was planning to put in a mulch pathway for them (easy to remove later). But today we had friends over and had 3 4-year-olds and 2 2-year-olds chasing each other up and down the hill, and I realized I needed a circular path!! In a sudden flash of brilliance, I realized that one of the pathways could eventually be turned into a waterfall for the pond I'd like to put in in a few more years. Once I finish getting rid of those spruce trees...
(by the way, those are spruce cones, not doggie do's!)