This garden area hosts mostly spring-blooming plants so right now it is a study in foliage. (There's only a little white meadow rue and a hosta blooming at the moment.) Still pretty though, don't you think?
To see this garden at other times of the year, click here and scroll down.
It hasn't been much of a summer for getting things done in the garden. You understand how this goes, right? In fact, we've been meaning to move our arch, re-route the downspout and re-align the stepping stones at this corner of the front Shade Garden for two years... since the eavestroughs were redone. Sheesh!
Arches are a great way to allow a create path around the house and keep the downspout out of the way. Just make sure they are rigidly installed. Ours is fixed to the house for extra support.
I'm so happy it's done and look at that view through the arch! Does that not entice you into the garden? Next year there'll even be flowers in that pot. ;-)
Many (but not all!) of my shade-loving perennials in this garden are spring-blooming, so I paid close attention to foliage when planting here. The dark foliage of actea (bugbane) is up front in this picture, with ninebark 'Coppertina' in the bakground. Also lamiastrum 'Hermann's Pride', brunnera 'Jack Frost', epimedium rubra, hostas, and bergenia provide interesting foliage in this garden and seem to handle the dry shade.
Here's another view (re-routing the downspout over the arch is on the to-do list for this summer):
To see the development of this garden and what's blooming at other times of the year, click here and scroll down.
I recently decided that the epimedium rubrum I had, while pretty in spring, was just not showy enough to be front stage beside the steps to my front door, so I started re-arranging the front Shade Garden. I moved the epimedium elsewhere and switched in 3 Brunnera 'Jack Frost' (also from elsewhere in my garden) which is one of my favourite shade plants. Their silvery leaves with intricate green veins look great all season, not to mention they have pretty forget-me-not-blue flowers in late spring. I'm much happier with this garden now!
Here's another view from a little further back. Don't those silvery leaves look pretty? That's a new Persicaria 'Red Dragon' with the variegated leaves in the front left, which I've seen mixed information about, so I hope it will be hardy here. I'm going to mulch it for the winter to be safe. Does anyone have any experience with this plant?
And here's the garden as seen when coming around the side of the house towards the front door. The epimedium rubrum has been moved to the spot on the bottom right of this photo, where it will do just fine in the dry shade close to a spruce tree.
The path needs work, I know. It's on my list.
This garden area is finally starting to fill in, after struggling along in the shade of a spruce tree for many years (one spruce has been removed, but another is still nearby so this spot gets only very early morning sun.) Above you will see:
To see this garden at other times of the year, click here.
I can't tell you how many garden consults I did this year where people complained "My plants just don't seem to be doing very well. I want a more lush look." In particular, I had a lot of clients who had their gardens professionally landscaped 2-4 years ago and are not happy with the performance of their plants. When I ask them what they do to fertilize, they say "nothing." Many seem to think that putting bark mulch on top of their soil is enough. It is not. (For the people who had their gardens done 1-2 years ago, I also question the quality of soil that their landscaping companies supplied, but that is a subject for another post.)
Plants need food too! And by far the best way to feed your plants is to feed your soil. In terms of doing minimal work for optimal gain, I suggest putting a topdressing of 1-2" of compost on top of your garden as frequently as once a year if you can get to it, or at least every other year (let's be realistic here, we're all busy!) It just so happens that compost looks nice too - like beautiful, rich, dark soil.
When should I spread compost?
I find the easiest time to do this is in late late May/ early June, when all the plants are up and growing, but there is still enough space between them to make putting down compost an easy task. But really, it can be done anytime. I just did my front Shade Garden (above) this past week-end, because that's when I got around to it. (This area was newly planted this spring and yes I know it is a little bare still - it is a work in progress but at least it is easy to spread compost here!)
What about mulch?
Compost also acts as a fairly good mulch, in terms of helping to retain moisture in the soil, regulating temperatures and keeping down weeds. But bark mulch is better for that. If you have bark mulch, you can rake it off to the side, put down the compost, and rake the bark mulch back. Or, if you prefer to take the path of minimal work (this is what I would do!), there is nothing wrong with just putting the compost on top of the mulch. The compost will gradually decompose and work its way down through the mulch. Alternatively, whenever you are going to top up your mulch (this needs to be done every few years), put some compost down first then new mulch on top (I don't like this method only because it means you need to do 2 big jobs at the same time rather than spreading out the work - pun intended!)
If you have rock/gravel mulch, well then we have a problem. Compost on top of rock mulch is not going to look so nice. This is why I never recommend rock mulch to people unless they really, really like the look. It is just not as low maintenance as people think. If this is your situation, then perhaps pull back the rocks from around each plant and put some compost down around each plant - being careful not to have it touching the stems or leaves - then put the rocks back. Or get a water soluble, organic fertilizer and fertilize your garden that way. It's not optimal, but it's better than nothing.
I don't make enough to cover my garden. Where do I get compost?
Lots of places deliver by the cubic yard. Or you can pick up in bulk. I like Western Canada Compost in particular (they are not paying me to say this!) I talked to lots of people this year who were very unhappy with Burnco's compost, but that's second-hand information.
Sigh. I'm back to work now and barely have time to garden let alone blog about it. Summer days are numbered and I still have a lot to do! In addition to the persicaria and bittersweet I picked up at GreenGate's wine and cheese event a couple of weeks ago, I also got a couple new plants for the front Shade Garden which I haven't told you about yet.
I've never grown ajuga before, and I don't know why, because it is such a cool and versatile plant. I've recommended it to plenty of other people so I figured it was time to try it out myself. It has great texture and is a low maintenance ground cover in sun or shade. It comes in lots of cool foliage colours as well, this particular one 'Black Scallop' being black and shiny. Above it can be seen with pulmonaria and golden creeping jenny, the latter of which I will probably be phasing out to other areas of the garden as the ajuga gets bigger.
I've also been meaning for quite a while to get more lamiastrum to go all the way across the front of the bay window here, in order to better connect the garden to the house. Lamiastrum is one of the few plants that is tolerant of dry shade, plus its variegated foliage really brightens up dark places. This garden area is under a spruce tree (which can't get much drier or shadier!) and my existing lamiastrum is big and healthy. There are now 4 tiny little new plants on the right that will eventually fill in and be as big as the ones to the left.
To see this garden and these plants at other times of the year, click here.
Yay! The new Coppertina ninebark beside the stairs is actually a little taller and more visible now! OK, now imagine it at least twice as big, imagine the silvery lamiastrum going all the way across the width of the window, and imagine I've actually weeded this garden. Now, doesn't it look nice?
To see this garden at other times of the year and how it has evolved, click here and scroll down.
Meh. Nothing much happening here to report. This garden has mostly spring-blooming perennials in it, which have just finished up. The only thing worth noting here is that those little baby dogwoods and junipers in the foreground which were planted this spring are getting noticably bigger... but I doubt they'll impress anyone for a couple more years.
And that ninebark 'Coppertina' beside the front steps (also new this year) is not yet noticeable unless you get close up..
To see what this garden looks like at other times of the year, click here and scroll down.
This is not the most beautiful garden area at the moment, but here it is anyway for the record. The leopard's bane is just finishing flowering, and once I cut it back you will be able to see the tiny little Coppertina ninebark shrub that was planted behind it this spring... in a couple of years this dark-leafed shrub should make more of an impression! Bleeding hearts, lamiastrum and mertensia virginica (virginia blue bells) are blooming right now in this garden and look much better closer up:
To see how this garden area has progressed over time, click here and scroll down.
Above: You want pictures in mid-June? This is what you get! I haven't had time to do anything here yet, not even move the hose (oops!) But right now I'm thinking I need to get some more of that lamiastrum (silvery stuff) to go all the way across the bottom of the window, and I'm wishing the new Coppertina ninebark shrub was just a wee bit bigger so you could see more than just a hint of it behind those flowers...
Above: Ahh, that's a slightly better view! On a positive note, I can at least say that the plants seem to be doing much better now that the nearby spruce tree has been gone for one whole growing season (and that includes the weeds...)
To see pictures of this garden before the infamous tree came down, click here.
To see pictures of other areas of my garden at this time of year, please see:
Above: In the foreground of this garden I just planted some wee baby dogwood shrubs and junipers this spring. They should fill out nicely in a few years. (Oops, shoulda moved that hose out of the way before I took this picture. Oh well, like I said before, this is a reality garden blog!) There's also a new Coppertina ninebark shrub next to the steps, which I planted on Sue Gaviller's recommendation because it ties in with the colours of the house well. Or... at least it will when it gets bigger and more noticeable...
Above: closer to the house looks like this right now. I'm considering adding more of that lamiastrum (that silvery stuff at the top left) as an edging plant because it's so early and vigorous and bushy even in this dry shade garden. There is some epimedium here which is barely noticeable right now and is causing a hole in the overall view so I think I'm going to move it. If you look closely, you can see blue and striped siberian squill in bloom, plus a pulmonaria just starting to bloom. The doronicum in this area hasn't started blooming yet because it's in more shade than my other one in the back. This garden will look better soon, I promise!
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This garden is extremely dry and shady, so I don't have the moisture-lovers here such as hostas and astilbes that are blooming in the back shade garden right now. Mostly this spot is about texture and whatever will survive under the spruce tree which is very close to the house - most of the plants here bloom in spring, but for the record this is what it looks like in late August. I'm happy to report though, that I got the window trim painted since my last post! :-)
To see what this garden looks like at other times of the year, check out:
Here's another challenging spot in my yard - dry shade. Very, very dry shade! Most of these woodland perennials bloom in spring (epimedium rubrum (bishop's hat), pulmonaria (lungwort), lamiastrum, dicentra (bleeding heart)), but right now there are a couple hostas blooming (but not thriving - they prefer more moisture than what they get here) and a purple cimicifuga (bugbane) which will bloom soon. There's also some yellow creeping jenny sprinkled around for a hit of colour. Have you noticed how much I like yellow foliage? It goes well with the blue house!
Overall, as long as stuff will grow here, I'm happy with it.
Here's this same area at other times of the year:
If you've been following my blog, you know I've been campaigning to lose this tree for a long time. I first wrote about it last February in an impassioned plea to my husband entitled 'Confessions of a Sustainable Gardener'.
Hooray! It has finally happened. The tree was removed during the chinook a week or so ago, and the stump will come out in spring. (There's no taking-down-0f-trees that's going to happen around my house in spring/summer/fall for fear of smashing the garden!)
I found a company who would do it for much less than the original $1000 estimate I got and they did a great job. I still feel a little guilty for spending so much on taking down a tree when that money could have been easily spent on a more environmental project such as replacing a drafty window or a fun thing like taking the family on a little trip, but... not that guilty! The tree was in a stupid spot, too close to the house and too close to other trees. I'd already cut off all the lower branches to get some light into the house and improve the view from that bay window, but it was still UGLY. And I still have 4 50-year-old spruce trees in the front yard and 5 in the back so I can still comfortably call myself a tree-hugger.
Here's the view from the street now - you can actually see the front door and part of the window from the street!
The only problem now is that I've been blaming that tree for the fact that plants in my Front Entry Garden and Front Shade Garden do not grow very well, due to the huge uptake of water and nutrients from the spruce tree roots. This year there will be no excuses... Those gardens had better look good this year or I will eat spruce tree needles!
2009 garden reflections Part 4. (To go back to part 1, click here).
The front Shade Garden (year 4)
Ugh. I almost don't even want to post these pictures at all. The only reason I am is for comparison purposes - I am sure that next year, once I take down that tree that is smack dab in front and too close to the house, these poor little struggling shade plants will do a little better. You just wait and see.
Early July. There it is. The doomed tree. Oh, I can't wait to have it down!! Some environmentalist I am. But it's ugly, don't you agree? Not to mention the red shale below it that I have been trying to remove from my property since I moved in 5 years ago. Curse the person who put red shale everywhere...
Mid-July. I purposely put this mockorage shrub (I believe it is variety 'Waterton') beside the door because (a) it will bloom in shade, and (b) the flowers smell amazing! I love coming to the front door when this is in bloom, and it's only going to get bigger and better each year.
Early September. Here's a look at the rest of the front shade garden. Those stepping stones are temporary until I get around to putting in some kind of a nicer pathway here. As for the plants, there are hostas that don't flower, dwarf cranberry shrubs (virburnum 'Bailey's Compact') in front of the bay window that increase about 1 cm in size each year, and a struggling dogwood shrub on the far end that must be replaced with something else next year. I expect everything except the dogwood to do better next year. Even with that one spruce tree gone, this shrub still won't get enough light, water or nutrients. Hmm, any suggestions for what to put there? It must be shade and drought-tolerant.
Early October. There's a skinny little purple bugbane with a white flower in bloom next to the stairs - if you look hard you will see it! It should do better next year too, once that tree is gone. I topped this garden up with fresh compost this fall, in hopes that the compost plus the tree removal will kick things off to a great start next spring...
Seriously, this is the most embarrassing section of my garden. Please don't judge me on this garden! Please look at the other garden areas below if you don't believe me:
Other parts of the garden: