I have been thrilled with my front Welcome Garden this year. Everything is filling in and the little cuttings of dogwood shrubs I planted a couple years ago are finally looking like, well, shrubs instead of sticks! And when I walk down this path I really have a sense of being enclosed IN a garden.
That's sedum 'Autum Joy' in the bottom right corner, just starting to turn colour. Such a tough plant for being out at the drier, exposed edge of the yard.
Above: lilies, yarrow, phlox, daylilies and veronica are blooming in the front welcome garden in August.
(It's been a while, I apologize. It has been a busy summer with not much time for blogging. I'll keep posting picture updates of what's blooming in the garden, but if you're looking for gardening help you'll have to browse through my archives a little.)
I'm particularly happy with my ninebark Coppertina, whose foliage colour is standout, below. It requires nothing from me except a little trim in late winter. My new mantra: plant more shrubs!
To see this garden at other times of the year, click here and scroll down.
To see the evolution of this garden and what blooms at other times of the year, click here and scroll down
This grass is a relation of the popular 'Karl Foerster', but has variegated leaves which look great, and the plant is slightly shorter than brother Karl. Makes a great vertical accent in the garden! See Bluestem's description for more info and inspiration.
To see this plant in my front Welcome Garden at other times of the year, click here and scroll down.
I haven't got around to posting too many pictures of the garden this year, but the grasses at this time of year are just fabulous so I just had to!!
Those are groups of calamagrostis (feather reed grass) 'Avalanche' that are acting like vertical exclamation marks in the garden. That's sedum 'Autumn Joy' looking pinkish in the bottom right corner. Both plants I highly recommend for a fall garden. Closer up, echinacea purpurea adds colour on the left side:
...and on the right,a pot tucked in behind the grasses adds extra interest.
The pot also makes a nice view from the house:
To see this garden at other times of the year, click here and scroll down.
Have you been to the perennial gardens at the zoo? They are a great place to get both design and plant ideas as they are well landscaped, have a wide selection of hardy perennial plants, and almost all plants are labelled. I was there in July and found myself paying close attention to the orange and blue-flowering plants as I am still looking for a few more plants to fill up my new front entry garden with a blue-green-orange-red colour scheme. Here are my notes:
Above: When you're looking for orange, even these common orange daylilies suddenly look very attractive, especially when planted in gigantic drifts like this! Paula, if you're reading this, your orange daylilies are doing just fine, although not quite this impressive since they were just transplanted this spring!
Above: Anchusa azurea (alkanet) 'Feltham Pride Strain' is in the borage family so of course, boasts true blue flowers and bees love it. It is not the most elegant-looking plant but true blue flowers are hard to find so I think I might give this plant a shot. I'll be looking for seeds next spring.
Above: Gentiana septemfida (summer gentian) is another plant with true blue flowers. I actually have this plant already in my garden, but it was a gift and I wasn't sure what kind of gentian it was. Thanks to the plant labels at the zoo, now I know!
Above: This groundcover mix of Anagallis monelli (pimpernel) 'Angie Blue' and 'Angie Orange' also caught my eye but they are annuals and too short to work in my garden. But maybe I'll try them in pots - their colours are fantastic!
Above: And finally, this meadow-like planting of thyme punctuated with spikes of bearded iris was so gorgeous that I didn't care that it wasn't blue & orange. If I had just one more area in my yard where I could make more garden space I'd be tempted to try this!!
Alas, I do not have the space. Do you?
A few clouds finally rolled in yesterday so I had the opportunity to take a few pictures without crazy shadows everywhere! I can't believe I'm complaining about the weather but it has been a wee bit too much on the hot side for my taste.
I am slowly making my way through my spring gardening 'to-do' list... better late than never! As I have said before, I am not a fan of black plastic lawn edging. It looks yucky, it is a pain to install, and it doesn't even work that well! Plus, for me, a gardener who is constantly changing her garden (read: removing more and more lawn to make more garden space), I rarely want would to commit to something permanent like that. And finally, it is really not that much work to cut a clean edge once or twice a year (once if you're me, twice if you're a perfectionist) with a half-moon lawn edging tool. A sharp, fresh edge looks so much nicer than a strip of black plastic, in my opinion.
This garden is a work in progress, but right now you will see iris germanica, white shasta daisies, purple catmint and yellow-flowered sedum Kamtschaticum in bloom. To see this garden at other times of the year, click here and scroll down.
These two plants grow with almost no care in the dry shelter of a spruce tree in the front Welcome Garden. They don't exactly go with my new colour scheme (understatement! they couldn't clash any more than they already do!), but they are tough, suit the conditions, and don't bloom for too long. And they are so cheery in spring! So, at least for now, they stay.
Editing the garden is a constant struggle. It is hard to edit out plants that "don't go" especially if they are doing well! Plus, there are time and budget issues. I'm sure many of you will understand! I have vowed that at least whenever I add new plants, they must go with the new scheme. That's the best I can do.
Starting last spring, I have been doing a major re-do of the front Welcome Garden. After Sue's advice ("you need more green"), I have added a bunch of Calgary Carpet junipers to this area, which will eventually fill in and provide a low maintenance groundcover out here (I'm cheap, I buy small plants!) As they grow, I will gradually phase out some other plants that don't go with the new colour scheme, and move them to the other areas of the yard (the front Entry garden has lots of space!) I am really excited about this idea because it will make the garden closer to the street more low maintenance, and bring more of the flowering plants up closer to the house where I can enjoy them from inside as well as outside!
To see how this garden has evolved over time, click here and scroll down.
Do you have a colour scheme for your garden? In general, I have not bothered with this in the past. For example, I've stuck to warm colours in the Butterfly Potager, to give it a close, more intimate feel, and cool colours in the Adventure Garden, to make it look bigger, but that's about the extent of my colour adventures. I just find it way too hard to control myself when it comes to sticking to specific colours in my own garden, and instead I tend to focus on textures, using plants that suit the spot in terms of light and moisture requirements only.
But, I admit, a colour scheme can really tie things together and take your garden up a notch. So, after taking a 'Colour Theory for Gardeners' class last spring with Sue Gaviller, who I also had over to consult on my garden, I was convinced to give it a shot in the front garden. She used my garden as an example in her class, and put together the figure above to show the colour scheme she devised. What do you think? But wait, let me back up and give you the background:
Her first reaction, after coming over and seeing my blue house, and the towering blue-green Colorado spruce trees in the front yard, was "You need more green!" Green is considered a neutral in gardening colour schemes because your eye expects to see it. And it is a wonderful, restful colour. But what with the house and trees, and no lawn, I had shockingly little green in my front garden. Sue suggested sweeps of 'Calgary Carpet' junipers and lots of dogwoods to provide the restful green colour.
As for colour combinations, finding one for my front garden was rather difficult owing to the existing blue and red of the house, and the existing blue-green of the spruce trees. These colours do not fit into a traditional colour scheme (eg. complementary colours, triad, tetrad, split-complementary, etc.) So, Sue got creative and used the Munsell colour circle (with 10 hues, rather than the more commonly used artist's colour wheel which has 12 hues) to come up with a double complementary colour scheme of blue, blue-green, red, and orange (shown above.)
To demonstrate, she included the following plants in the figure above (left to right, top to bottom): my own Colorado spruce, dogwood 'Arctic Fire', ninebark 'Coppertina', heavy metal switchgrass, globe blue spruce, heuchera 'Peach Melba' or 'Southern Comfort', blue chip juniper, hosta 'Halcyon', blue oat grass, heuchera 'Mahogany', echinacea 'Tomato Soup', daylily 'Strawberry Candy', corydalis 'Blue Panda', heucherella 'Sweet Tea', and Kinnikinnick in the background of the bottom corner. Of course, there are many other perennials that would work as well.
I think it looks great. I'd add some white as well, to make sure things don't look too heavy, but otherwise I love it! But the question remains, can I discipline myself enough to stick to it? Well, first of all, I'm not going to just take out all of my existing plants and start from scratch - too expensive, and, well, I'm just too attached to some of them. So I'm going to start slowly by moving some of the big clashers to other areas of the garden and by making sure any new plants I add fit into the new colour scheme. Another reason I'm going to take it slowly is that I'm not totally convinced that I want every single plant to fit the colour scheme perfectly - I prefer a more natural look that says "this plant wanted to be here" rather than a highly designed look that says "the designer wanted this plant to be here". Maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough in my tastes yet. So it will be interesting to see how my tastes change (if they change) as I start to modify the existing garden.
For example, in this picture above from last summer, you can see I'd already added a small ninebark 'Coppertina' out front, which relates really well with the reddish-brown on the house. But the purplish-blue of the catmint... not so much. When you compare this garden photo with the colour scheme figure, top, it is obvious the catmint clashes. Dang! That's one of my favourite plants!!
This is going to be hard.
It has been a magically beautiful week, with all that snow hanging around on the trees and shrubs, hasn't it? I was sad to see it all starting to melt yesterday. Here's a photo of the front Welcome Garden I took last Sunday as the big dump was coming down. There are lots of perennials still standing for the winter - although some of them are completely buried in snow at this point!
To see this garden at other times of the year, click here and scroll down.
Winter finally hit Calgary this week - I walk to work and I finally had to dig out my gloves and hat a couple of days ago! It has been a long, mild fall so I'm not complaining one bit. I'm extremely busy in other parts of my life right now (job, family, gearing up for Christmas) so it's actually nice to take an enforced break from gardening. I will start blogging more again in the new year.
In the meantime, there's not a lot to do in the garden these days except shovel snow. Remember to shovel it onto your garden, not the street where it will be wasted...
I haven't posted pictures of this garden area in over a month. I missed the whole lily season, not to mention gentians, potentilla and other things! Sheesh, what have been doing with myself? Oh yeah, going out of town on holidays, going out of town for work, taking care of sick kids, dealing with a leaky basement window, yadda, yadda, yadda. Good thing I mostly grow low maintenance perennials!
This is a garden that I am starting to make major changes to - you just can't see them yet. I've added a lot of shrubs this year to add some structure, but at this time of year the baby shrubs are smaller than the mature perennials, so you can't see the structure yet. As the shrubs get bigger I'm going to be moving the perennials to a different area of the front yard and this area will look a lot simpler and less busy.
To see what this garden area looks like at other times of the year, click here.
They're so pretty even though they're weedy - mine seed everywhere if I let them! Which actually means they aren't shasta daisies anymore because shastas are supposed to be sterile. Shasta daisies can revert back to the parent plant, ox-eye daisy, which is a weed. So even though they're pretty, I cut these back as soon as the first flush of flowers is starting to finish so that they don't seed all over the place.
How do you tell the difference between a shasta and an ox-eye? Well, it can be difficult. Especially since reverted shastas can crossbreed with ox-eye, resulting in a hybrid that is difficult to distinguish from either parent, and can also be invasive. One presenter I listened to once said that the ox-eye has a spoon-shaped leaf and the shasta a tongue-shaped leaf, but then showed photos the opposite way around, so even she seemed confused! And pictures of the ox-eye leaves from Alberta Invasive Plants look tongue-shaped if you ask me. In fact, what I have is probably a hybrid and thus I cut it to the ground before it starts to set seed just to be safe. But technically I should probably get rid of it.
Other perennials also blooming right now: blue salvia 'May Night'; several varieties of achillea (yarrow); campanula glomerata; nepeta (catmint) 'Walker's Low'; veronica spicata 'Sunny Border Blue'; potentilla 'Miss Wilmott'; and an unknown variety of white phlox which is just starting to flower.
To see this garden at other times of the year and how it has evolved, click here.
Above (clockwise from top left): nigella started from seed in front of ninebark 'Coppertina'; campanula glomerata (which I might regret planting, it's a spreader) in front of nepeta (catmint); campanula glomerata in front of catmint; corally-pink herbaceous potentilla 'Miss Wilmott' started from seed last spring; nepeta and shasta daisies again. Not shown are some small salvia 'Blue Night', and several varieties of alchillea (yarrow) which are about to start blooming.
It's that time of the month again! In the summer I post pictures of my garden bi-monthly. They are mostly a record for myself to see how things have changed and what still needs to be changed, which means that the pictures are not all close-cropped pictures that try to hide the stuff that doesn't look good. I like to look at these pictures over the winter and come up with ideas of what to improve, so the pictures have to be honest and the bad stuff has to show. There, that's the caveat.
But I also try to explain what is blooming so that anyone looking for a little something extra for their garden right now will get some ideas of what blooms at this time.
Above is the view of the front garden from the street. It is east-facing, quite dry and probably only gets about a half day of sun due to all the trees. I still have tulips, euphorbia and a few dwarf bearded iris in bloom here (see mid-June's post), but the ornamental alliums, catmint and shasta daisies are starting to take over. A few more days of this sun and heat and things will look quite different... I'll have to post a few more then! Here are some close-ups from June 29:
Above (clockwise from top left): ornamental allium 'Purple Sensation'; ninebark 'Coppertina' blooms (which I got for its foliage colour, the flowers are just a small bonus) and nepeta (catmint); pink tulips and purple dwarf bearded iris; euphorbia (cushion spurge), white tulip and purple dwarf bearded iris; shasta daisies, ornamental allium, nepeta 'Walker's Low' and ninebark 'Coppertina'.
To see this garden at other times of the year, click here and scroll down.
Check back over the next few days as I post pictures of other areas of my garden as well.
Here comes my series of pictures for mid-June. We may as well start with the least impressive ones! Caveat: I did some major re-working of the Welcome Garden this spring. For starters, I planted 12 Calgary Carpet junipers and 9 Arctic Fire dogwoods - except they're all really small at this point so they won't look like much this year. I also moved the Karl Foerster feather reed grass I had in the front corner (behind the sign) and replaced it with the variegated 'Avalanche' variety for a little more 'pop'.
Above: RIght now there are grape hyacinths, tulips, euphorbia and dwarf bearded irises blooming. There's not much yet, but I will be planting more spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips once the major renovations are over in this area.
Above: And here's the view from the front bay window. I took Karl and divided him into 5 and planted him in a swooping curve around the base of the spruce tree. You can barely see them right now but they'll fill in, don't worry! I know it doesn't look like much yet but for me, this post will serve as something to look back on once everything has grown. In case you can't see where the Karl Jr's are, I circled them below:
To see pictures of this garden last year, click here.
To see pictures of other areas of my garden at this time of year, please see:
Blah. I know this garden doesn't look like much yet, but in the interest of providing a record, here's what it looked like on June 1 this year. As I said before, I like to plant spring bulbs in a garden once I'm happy with the overall layout of shrubs and perennials, but I'm planning a major overhaul of this garden next year so there aren't a lot of bulbs yet. (At least there's more greenery to look at now that I've added some junipers where that old tree used to be!) Here are some pictures from last year, or alternatively, check back in 2013 when this garden will look more colourful in spring...
In May I always have too much going on! It's always a rush to get everything planted (not to mention this is the busiest garden coaching month) but by June things settle down again and I can let the rainy season take care of all my new plantings, so it always feels worth it afterwards.
But this year I'm behind because of the late spring (I haven't even finished cleaning up last year's leaves yet!) and currently I'm out of town for a week (that darned real job getting in the way of gardening again!) so I'm just crossing my fingers and hoping that hubby remembers to water the veggie garden and that frost doesn't get the tomatoes that I didn't have time to protect before I left (there was none in the forecast but you never know - it was a bit of a gamble.)
I'm also behind on blog posts and responding to emails so I'm going to a rush job tonight of updating you on what I've been up to in the garden...
- got the rest of the veggie seeds in but not the seedlings or marigolds yet as I had planned
- had a brief distraction from regular spring activities when I unexpectedly found a bunch of Calgary Carpet junipers for CHEAP! and immediately had to plant 12 of them in my front yard (you can ony see 7 here) to fill the hole where a spruce tree used to be (more on front yard plans soon, and sorry for the shadows in the photo below, no time these days to wait for the right lighting either!)
- dug out concrete piles from where the greenhouse used to be to prepare for the new patio design as part of the north patio project (actually, I was on kid duty while hubby did this job); the section to the left of the board in the photo below is where the patio has been pulled up, which I started doing a couple of weeks ago... and look, I've already started planting! I just can't help myself - bare soil is just not safe in my yard!)
OK, I'm sort of caught up. Must go rest now...
After I posted that series of pictures of how my front Welcome Garden looked in 2010, I felt very dissatisfied. In fact, I almost didn't post them! Yes, I was sure to use caveats such as "this is a work in progress", this is an "experimental garden", "I don't baby this garden" and "this is only its second season and it still needs to fill in", but still, I felt this garden is not all it could be or should be. Time to plan a renovation!
Above: I'm actually fairly happy with the garden area close to the sidewalk, although it does need another couple of years to fill in. However, the area in the centre of the yard and directly in front of the steps needs help. Big time.
I actually consider it to be a skill to view a garden and be able to see what it will look like in a couple of years. This prevents you from planting too many plants too closely and then having to move them all in a couple of years when they reach a more mature size. (This is a skill you don't learn in a couple of hours BTW, but it comes with experience or a garden coach can help you with that if you are planning or renovating a garden.) But in my own garden this sometimes makes me a little blind to what the garden really looks like RIGHT NOW. I tend to view it through rose-coloured glasses which make all the plants look like the full-sized, lush, healthy specimens that I expect them to be in a few years. Photos on the other hand, or at least my photos which I didn't crop or alter, show the naked truth. This garden lacks an overall plan.
To be fair, I am dealing with someone else's mistakes (planting 5 large spruce trees in a small front yard? What were they thinking?) And I'm also developing the garden myself on a very limited budget of time and money - this includes the tree-removal budget! But parts of the front yard developed in stages over the last 7 years with no real plan and it kinda shows.
Above: I first broke ground almost 7 years ago with this small bed. I needed a place to plunk plants that I was bringing from my old house. Over the years some things have survived and some have not thanks to the competition from surrounding spruce trees and my general if-the-plant-doesn't-grow-with-minimum-care-it-doesn't-deserve-to-be-in-my-garden attitude.
But really, I can't look at those pictures of my front garden without cringing. Time to add structure! Time to add a more formal layout! Time to add focal points! Or, at least, plan for them (as this year will be the year of the pergola, hubby has promised!) It is my hope that if I have a plan that won't be implemented until 2012 then at least this year I won't waste a lot of time and money doing things in this garden area that will just get undone later.
Here's one possibility for a new front yard garden design. It is the front yard in plan view with the house at the top. This design actually doesn't make any major changes to the front area near the sidewalk, but adds an open, patio area at the base of the stairs (the width of the sidewalk where it meets the stairs is currently too narrow), as well as a second, circular open area, mulched for low maintenance, with some extra interest using buried timbers (or possibly brick?) in a radial pattern and a birdbath as a focal point. The existing sidewalk will be edged in the same cobblestone and the concrete will be stained to match. This is a minimal cost design as it makes use of most of the existing sidewalk and only requires a fairly small amount of new cobblestones.
This is just a rough sketch, not to scale and showing minimal planting detail (but I promise you, there will be no grass!) But for my own purposes I'm just trying out different layouts before I spend too much time on designing plantings. I'd like to get out there and outline this layout with a couple of hoses in situ and really be able to visualize what it would look like. Suddenly I can't wait for the snow to melt!
Here's a photo of a neighbour's upgraded regular concrete sidewalk that inspired me to re-use the existing concrete sidewalk.
From the archives:
If you would like unique, DIY solutions to create your urban paradise, view My Services for consultation details.
In the last of this series showing different areas of my gardens-in-progress over the 2010 season, here is the front Welcome Garden. After removing a large spruce tree near the front steps in February of 2010 (but don't worry, there are still 4 left!), the garden has opened up a little. This yard is east-facing so closer to the sidewalk is fairly sunny, but closer to the house is shady and very dry due to - the bane of my existence - all the spruce tree roots.
I do not baby this area so I only grow very tough, drought-tolerant plants here. It is also a bit of an experimental area just to see what will do well in these fairly harsh conditions. I keep adding more and more ornamental grasses each year and I'm starting to think of naming my garden "Spruce Meadows." Whaddya think?
Above: by mid-June the grape hyacinths, euphorbia and ornamental alliums are in bloom. Mental note to plant many more hyacinths - they multiply over time and add great spring colour - the hares seem to leave them alone too (unlike tulips!) I think some smaller varieties of ornamental onions would be nice, too. Please note that the area on the left was all new only last year so it is only just starting to fill in. You will also notice that in June I was in the process of mulching the front garden with cedar bark mulch. It's half-finished in this photo. I'm not that happy with the look but fortunately, the colour will darken over time. Also, I was also about to start painting the house trim white to match the new windows when this picture was taken... I still have to finish the back this year!
Above: these photos taken later in June show close-ups of bearded iris, nepeta (catmint) 'Walker's Low', ornamental alliums, shasta daisies, sedum kamtschaticum and achillea 'Moonshine' (which was blooming early because I had just purchased it and planted it that spring.)
Above: close-ups of spirea 'Goldflame', veronica spicata 'Sunny Border Blue', shasta daisies, campanula glomerata, achillea 'Moonshine', nepeta, some asiatic lilies, and deschampsia (tufted hair grass.) In the top right picture of this collage you will notice some wee little blue fescue plugs I planted last spring - they are planted in an alternating pattern on either side of the front walk and will provide some great texture and continuity once they get bigger (describing the garden is always about how much better it will look in a year or two, isn't it?)
Above: by mid-August, the nepeta is still blooming (love this plant!) plus a few shasta daisies. Also blooming now are the asiatic lilies, daylilies, echinacea, older achillea 'Moonshine', ornamental grasses and teasel. I've added some Dart's Gold ninebark shrubs in front of the spruce tree on the left for more colour, I finished getting rid of the lawn grass once and for all, and if you look closely there's a mound of dirt by the steps where I'm gradually getting things fixed up after the tree removal. Like I keep saying, my garden is a work in progress so please don't judge too harshly!
Above: some of my favourite plants for fall foliage colour in this garden include: daylilies, euphorbia, spirea 'Gold Flame', ornamental grasses (and note! the nepeta is still blooming!), and of course, the neighbour's cotoneaster hedge across the street which is spectacular!
From the archives:
Other areas of my garden:
If you would like unique, DIY solutions to create your urban paradise, view My Services for consultation details.
I've written about combining plants for texture before, because adding textural contrasts will add interest to the garden even when the given plants aren't in bloom. The textural contrasts get amped up a notch in fall when colours start to change to fiery reddish-oranges through to bright golden yellows. Aren't you just loving fall this year? Especially since we didn't get one at all last year (the green leaves just froze on the trees/shrubs/perennials early last October, remember?) The golden, spiky foliage of daylilies can be seen in the front of the photo above.
More photos, clockwise from top left: echinacea 'Magnus', nepeta 'Walker's Low", shasta daisies and sedum 'Autumn Joy' in bloom; daylily foliage in front of ornamental grass 'Karl Foerster' and a juniper; red spirea 'Goldflame' foliage and a purple sedum; the more established side of the front welcome garden.
Sigh. This may be the last round of garden photos before I start talking about "winter interest"!
I've planted some purple liatris in the past but it hasn't bloomed yet (last year or this year). Not sure why as they should get enough sun in this area and they're blooming right now in other parts of my yard. I'll give them one more year before I pull them out.
Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is only just now starting to open its flowers, while euphorbia, bergenia and perennial geraniums are providing lots of vivid red fall foliage colours.
Here's this garden at other times of the year:
This is year 2 for this garden area and it's filling in nicely. Remember to click on the photos to get a better view!
The above photos are from the "new side". In the close-ups (clockwise from top left) you will see shasta daisies which are reblooming after I cut them back in early July; nepeta 'Walker's Low' still blooming with deschampsia despitosa (tufted hair grass) in the background; gaillardia; teasel (a bee magnet!); echinacea purpurea.
And in these photos, above, you can see the more established side a little closer up. There are orange daylilies, sedum 'Purple Emperor', rose campion, achillea (yarrow) 'Moonshine', veronica spicata 'Sunny Border Blue', and of course, ornamental grasses in bloom right now.
Above: This is my low-maintenance front garden in mid-August. I haven't done much to it since my June mulch-fest and most things are doing pretty well.
The catmint and 'Moonshine' yarrow are STILL blooming - I love these plants for their super long bloom periods and drought tolerance. Other varieties of these plants can be rather invasive but nepeta (catmint) 'Walker's Low' and achillea (yarrow) 'Moonshine' are both well-behaved and even look good together. All I do is cut them down to the ground in spring. No other care required. The bees love the catmint, too BTW.
The lilies are still blooming and the daylilies have buds on them. That tall purple thistle-ish looking thing is a teasle. I started it from seed last year and it didn't do much but this year it surprised me by coming back and has been very showy (it's a biennial) and I've had lots of people ask about it.
Above: Here's a close-up of the spot I re-worked recently. The Purple Emperor sedum shows up much better now in front of its light background, the pedestal. Around the back I planted 3 calamagrostis (feather reed grass) 'Avalanche' for a bit of a screen, but they're floppy since they're new. Next year this spot should look very cool. Those yellowish-pinkish shrubs are Goldflame spireas BTW, which I highly recommend. Absolutely one of my favourite shrubs for spring, summer and fall colour!
Above: And I also added 3 golden ninebarks 'Dart's Gold' around the base of the spruce tree at the top of this picture. I needed some more colour but wanted something with year-round structure i.e. shrubs. They're small now but will get to 4-5 ft eventually.
Here's what this area looks like at other times of the year:
I've had to cut down the shasta daisies because they set seed and spread like crazy, but now the lilies (mostly asiatic) are starting in this front area of my Calgary garden. One of my favourite flowers and so easy to grow! Also, catmint, veronica and yarrow, various grasses and spirea are in bloom now. I planted a lot of new little grass plugs this spring but they are way behind the established ones I already had - next year should be quite a show when these grasses have matured a little!
Do you like the new urn? I moved a few perennials this spring and they're smaller than usual, so I plunked this urn in to fill up the empty spot. I think I'll keep it! It needs a little something as a screen behind it... I think I'll plant a few more grasses here. And by the way, I've decided to call the entire garden "Spruce Meadows" since I have so many spruce and mine is a fairly natural style.
That's teasel on the left side of the bottom picture - I planted it from seed on a whim last year, it didn't do much and I didn't think it was going to survive the winter. But there it is with big buds on it. The kids are thrilled! Surprises like this are what really make gardening fun, don't you think?
I'm not sure I'm loving the cedar mulch. I think next time I put down mulch I'll put down something dark in colour. The light colour is hurting my eyes! But it should get better as the cedar ages.
Here's the second in my series of reflections about how the garden did this year. Again, I feel the need to emphasize that these are not supposed to be beautiful, perfect cropped pictures of everything that did well this year in my garden - these are reality pictures of a garden that is still young and in development!
Now that I got that off my chest, I can go on. This year I got rid of the front lawn entirely and started this new garden area from scratch this spring. I acknowledge it looks a little patchy but I have big plans for improvement! I also included some pictures showing the more established side (which you can see more of here), just so you don't think my whole garden looks this bad...
The Front Welcome Garden (year 1)
Here it is freshly planted in mid-June. I had smothered the grass with carpet, which I have now moved to the area closer to the tree, at the top of the photo. For a list of perennials, click here.
End of June. There are some iris germanica planted on the new side to repeat the ones on the far side of the front path, so they should bloom nicely next year. I also think I want to divide that yellow stonecrop and those shasta daisies on the "established side" and put some more on the new side - they are just too cheery not to spread around! On the new side you can also see nepeta (catmint) 'Walker's Low' in bloom.
Late August. Gotta love that nepeta for blooming for so long! There is also some echinacea purpurea that I started from bare roots this spring, plus some perovskia (russian sage) that is taking off, plus some surprise pink clary sage and borage that must have come from the compost bin.
Mid-September. I've added some deschampsia cespitosa (tufted hair grass) on the left, and definitely want to get more next year to plant in drifts around the whole front garden. Also added some dianthus for more summer blooms. That tall white stuff at the back is an annual euphorbia (snow on the mountain) that I probably won't bother with next year - too spindly. Another failure - my rosa glauca (red-leaf rose) died. Hmm.. I love it for the unique colour of leaves as well as starry flowers, so I think I'm going to replace it. I suspect maybe it died because it wasn't close enough to the soaker hose and didn't get enough water to get established this year. Most shrubs do need a little babying in their first few years and I definitely could have done a little more in the babying department.
Other parts of the garden:
The winter is when I take the time to reflect on what worked or didn't work this past year in the garden, and what I want to change/improve/add next year. Normally I make mental notes about this but I thought in the spirit of sharing, I should show you where my garden is at now and where I still want to take it. I feel the need to emphasize that these are not supposed to be beautiful, perfect cropped pictures of everything that did well this year in my garden - these are reality pictures of a garden that is still young and in development! I still want to make changes to even the most established areas of my garden! This post is the first in a series that I will do over the next few weeks.
The Front Welcome Garden (year 3)
This garden area was first planted in 2007 and while it is close to "done", there are still some changes I want to make. Some plants haven't thrived as I had hoped, while others I want to add more of. But all in all, I'm pretty happy with how this looks after only 3 years.
Here's the garden in mid-June. Since I don't have any pictures taken earlier than that, the first thing this tells you is that I really need to spend some time putting in some early spring-blooming bulbs next year! But right now there are two varieties of euphorbia blooming (the yellow stuff), and allium 'Purple Sensation' towards the back. There may not be many blooms yet, but at least there's lots of texture.
End of June. Love those shasta daisies! I fear these are the invasive type so I deadhead them diligently when they are done flowering. Also blooming here are low-growing sedum kamtschaticum and iris germanica 'Bounty'. There are some diabolo 'Ninebark' shrubs behind the larger ladybug sign, but they are young and they don't really stand out yet. I hope they'll look nicer in front of the green backdrop of the spruce in a couple of years.
Mid-July. Shasta daisies still going strong! So you see why I love them... The front corner at the bottom of the photo hasn't filled in as well as I'd hoped (some hens and chicks there) so I may add some festuca glauca next year, which would contrast well with the texture of the sedums. Also veronica spicata 'Sunny Border Blue' is blooming towards the middle and yellow achillea 'Moonshine' on the right. I was about to give up on that yarrow because the hares ate the flower buds off every year, but this year I guess it reached a critical mass and there were enough flowers to keep both wildlife and gardener happy. Now I want to add more as a "repeat plant".
Late July. The Shasta daisies are finishing but the veronica and yellow achillea are still blooming. Asiatic lilies (red) are just starting and calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' has reached his full height. Yes, I think definitely some festuca glauca to fill that hole in the front...
Early August. Here's the view from the house towards the street. It was looking quite bare at this time of year so I put in those shorter, orange asiatic lilies and while I don't normally tend towards orange, I do think they add some zing. I also have some lychnis coronaria (rose campion) that I am letting self-seed in this area. I love it both for its fuzzy silver leaves as well as its magenta flowers but it's not spreading fast enough so I'm going to buy some seeds next year and start a bunch more and plant a larger drift weaving in and around the other plants. Then this area should look quite full. There is a small yellow barberry in the front which gets eaten to the ground each winter and just doesn't seem to be appreciating it. I think I will replace it with another ornamental grass next year - perhaps deschampsia cespitosa (tufted hair grass) which I also have on the other side of the path. Also, there's a spirea shrub which was supposed to be 'Goldflame' but isn't (too green), so I'm going to replace it too, for just a little more colour.
Late August. Asiatic and LA lilies blooming behind the Karl Foerster grass, and the yellow yarrow is still blooming too. The orange daylilies in front are starting to bloom but they didn't flower much this year - probably because I divided them this spring. I expect more from them next year. Oooh, and I sure do like that new front door colour too...
Mid-September. Potentilla 'Pink Beauty' is blooming on the right, and sedum 'Autumn Joy' is just starting to turn colour in the front. Rudbecka 'Goldsturm' and liatris spicata are blooming behind it. The rudbeckia is another plant I almost gave up on because the hares have eaten it in past years, but this year they gave it a pass. Lucky me!
Early December. Brrrrr.
Other parts of the garden:
Can you see the skid marks on the sidewalk in this picture? And the tire tracks going over my garden and across the neighbour's lawn? Heading directly for that 50-year-old lilac shrub that is lying on the ground?
At 2:15 yesterday morning some moron came screeching around the corner of our quiet crescent and smashed into my neighbour's lilac. Here is half of it lying on their lawn, and the other half was dragged halfway down the street.
Am I a bad person to feel thankful/glad/relieved that my garden was spared and the only thing that got run over in my garden was a single daylily? It could have been much worse!!
I hope the neighbour's lilac will regrow.
This is the front welcome garden viewed from the house. Although I call it the "established side" of the front garden, it was only finished 2 years ago and still has to fill in a little in spots. This view was calling for a little something extra so this morning I grabbed some short, orange asiatic lilies from a spot in the back garden (where I had always intended to move them from anyway), and plunked them in here. They sure brighten things up, don't they?
The general rule is to move spring-flowering perennials in the fall, and fall-flowering perennials in the spring. The reason for that is that if you move plants close to their bloom time, they will be putting energy into blooming rather than into establishing their roots in their new home, and thus the plants may suffer.
Bah! Suffer, shmuffer! Once you have some experience in the garden and know which plants are super tough, go ahead and experiment. I've moved plenty of plants against the rules (I also just moved a dianthus in bloom and this spring I moved bleeding hearts, for example). That said, some fussier plants might not do so well or they just might not flower as well this year. I'm sure there are a few plants I've moved against the rules and which didn't do so well, but sorry, I can't think of them right now! I generally don't grow fussy plants anyway.
I sure like moving perennials while they're blooming or at least while they're at full size for the instant gratification you get! This wouldn't have been nearly as fun if I'd waited until fall to move those lilies.
It just so happens that the topic of Gardening Gone Wild's monthly design workshop happens to be front yard gardens this month. So, I am going to summarize the evolution of my front yard from a pathetic lawn surrounded by too many trees, to almost all garden and only one more tree to come down...
Above is what it looks like now. The right hand side (in the picture) is the established side, and the left hand side is what I just finished this year.
Here's a close-up of the established side. It's still spring for us here in zone 3 and you can see a couple types of euphorbia (spurge) blooming, plus dark purple ornamental onions and bearded irises that are hard to see in this picture. For views of what this area of the garden looks like through the seasons, click here. Those ladybug signs, BTW, are pesticide-free signs from the Sierra Club (rectangle) and City of Calgary's Healthy Yard program (circle).
Now here's a view of the other side. Not much to look at yet, I know, but the other side started out this way just a few years ago so I promise you by the end of the summer this area will look good, and in one more year it will look great (if I do say so myself!) When you're doing a garden makeover on a tight budget (money and time, actually), you have to be patient! Still gotta cover that ugly soaker hose with some mulch...
Instead of digging up the grass like I did on the other side (and this really is the best way to get rid of grass unless you want to raise the soil level by building a berm or some raised beds), this time I took the lazy route and smothered the grass with carpet. I'm not sure I'd recommend this, as bits of carpet glue disintegrated all over the grass. Anyway, too late now and I'm not planting any edibles here.
Out of my original list of plants I planned to plant (how's that for a tongue twister?), I ended up with:
My new front garden is coming along. You saw it with the dead grass after it had been smothered with carpet, and now here it is with almost all the plants in. I mostly stuck to my original plan but I did add 5 small kinnikinnick shrubs to make a nice border with the neighbours on the left side - they were an impulse buy!
After I finish planting, the next step will be to cover all the dead grass with compost and it will finally start to look nice!
I am getting rid of the rest of the grass on the south side of my front lawn this year. I have posted before that I think the best way to get rid of lawn is to dig it up (a sod cutter works great) so that you can amend the soil underneath with lots of compost. Your plants will thank you later.
However, I am going the cheap and lazy route. I must add that my soil is relatively good, so I wouldn't recommend doing this method if you live in a newer neighbourhood where developers seem to think it's OK to put down about 6" of topsoil! But I digress...
So, this is what I did. I smothered the grass since last fall with old carpet. Landscape fabric or plastic sheets would also work, although the plastic isn't the best method for keeping all those worms and other good bugs alive in the soil. Also, I noticed that the carpet backing has started to degrade and has left bits of carpet-glue-dust behind so I wouldn't recommend using carpet anywhere where you plan to plant edibles. Anyway, the grass has turned yellow and I have lots of plants waiting for a home, so it is time for step 2. I moved the carpet to a new spot closer to the trees, and I'm ready to plant the front area of the garden.
I will be planting the plants directly into the dead grass by digging holes and plopping the plants in with some extra soil. Then, I'll topdress the whole area with compost to improve the soil and also to help cover the dead grass. Voila! Done! In order to make sure I don't have compost spilling over onto the sidewalk and neighbour's lawn, I took a (manual) lawn edger and cut a trench all the way around the garden. The trench will catch any compost that spills over.
I gotta say, this is a super fast, super easy way to get rid of a lawn and plant a garden. I should be done by the end of the week! But again, make sure you have at least 30 cm (1') of good topsoil underneath. Otherwise, it is definately worth your time to physically remove the grass.
Oh yeah, and I also made a little berm with the extra soil from planting my crabapple trees. I think a little change in height will help make the garden look more interesting all year long. And I needed a place to put the soil...
I was a little sad cutting Karl down. Seriously, calamagrostis (feather reed grass) 'Karl Foerster' is one of my favourite plants. This one is several years old and almost as tall and wide as a real person, so I think of him as one. Every time I walk past, I say hello to Karl! (The kids love this plant too but they think it's wheat!)
He has such presence in the front garden - he makes a great vertical accent, and as you can see stands tall all winter long. It's easy to give people directions to my house because I can just say "it's the blue house with the ornamental grass - you'll know what I mean when you see it." He may not look like much after his haircut but by June he'll be several feet tall again and interesting to look at for another 11 months. I also have one in the back to screen a gas meter, and added another to my back hill garden as a "bookend" last year. I've recommended it as a fast-growing screen for a kids' play area and as a substitute for pink pampas grass, too.
Anyway, I couldn't stand the orangey-brown colour, especially with yellow trim. In 2006 we painted the house blue (actually, my Dad did.) I know, I know, neutral beiges are currently trendy and much more sophisticated looking, but in a city that looks brown for most of the year, I need colour wherever possible!
I can't quite decide, so I am asking for opinions. Here is what I am currently thinking though:
I love the funky chartreuse trim in the top photos, but am thinking it's too impractical. In a couple of years, we want to start replacing all the windows and will probably go with low-maintenance vinyl frames on the outside. Therefore, the trim needs to be a fairly standard colour. (and by the way, I'm not up to painting the eavestroughs right now so they will stay brown)
While not as bright, I also like the light blue-ish/teal-ish/grey-ish trim. Now what do you think about a door colour?
[Update: Elli, one of the artists in my family, says green trim. She would pick the less practical one...!]
Here's a picture of my front yard last summer... obviously unfinished. This year I will be getting rid of the lawn on the left hand side and planting more drought-tolerant, low maintenance perennials. The front yard is east-facing and fairly sunny close to the sidewalk.
Last year when I expanded my back hill garden (now dubbed the "Adventure Garden" for the kids), I posted about some key elements of design when planning a perennial bed, like grouping plants, repetition, contrasting shapes and textures, planting in drifts, and adding depth. I also posted a drawing of my plans (which I sort of followed!)
This year as I plan the rest of the front garden I am being much less organized (maybe because I just have less time?) Anyway, I'm still keeping all the design principles in mind, but I plan to acquire all the plants first, then just place them wherever they happen to look good to me when I'm ready to plant.
This means slightly less planning, but I still have to make sure I pick a good variety of perennials. I want things that bloom in various times of the year, I want things with a variety of foliage shapes and textures, and I want to repeat various plants throughout the yard to tie everything together. Plants that can be left standing all winter are a bonus. So instead of a drawing this year, here is my chart explaining my choice of perennials. For each season, I want to make sure there repetition of at least one thing that is blooming, and each grouping of plants should contain at least one plant that has foliage interest all season (so that even when things in one area are not blooming, the combination still looks good).
ornamental grasses X X X
Here is the front view of my house as of this morning: my cute little blue bungalow (I want to change the yellow trim…) nestled in the spruce trees… the giant, water-hogging, nothing-will-grow-under-them spruce trees! In case you can’t tell, there are 5 (count ‘em, 5!) in the front yard. I also still have 5 in the backyard after taking out 4 others in the past few years. Some previous owner went crazy planting spruce trees at least 20 years ago.
There is one tree, the one to the left of the front door (as you look at the house), that I want to get rid of. Just out of curiosity, I requested an estimate to have it professionally removed. It would cost $1067.85!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! $585 to take the tree down, $234 to take away the wood, and $198 to take out the stump (plus tax). Um, not exactly in my gardening budget.
So live with it, my tree-hugger husband says. He wouldn’t even want to take one down if we could get it done for free!
So I’m trying to convince him to let me and my Dad do it (we have taken down others in the past – well, my Dad did and I held the rope). I know, it would be an insane amount of work to take it down and get rid of all that wood ourselves. But here are the reasons why it is important to me to get rid of this tree:
1. I can live with spruce trees. I even know what will grow under/around them. But with 5 large trees so close together, pretty much the whole front yard is sucked dry by their root systems. Some plants are surviving but nothing is really thriving. If I could just get rid of one tree’s worth of roots, I’m certain the garden would grow a whole lot better.
2. Come on! We would still have 10 large spruce trees in our yard! That is more spruce than anyone could want in one city lot! Think of the variety of different plants that would take one tree’s place. Think of the biodiversity and the birds, bugs, bees that would be attracted by the flowering & fruiting plants I would put in its place and how much healthier the soil would be!
3. You might say, just don’t bother trying to garden around so many spruce trees. Just put down some nice mulch and be done with it. I might agree if this particular tree were not smack-dab in front of a beautiful, big bay window in the front room of our house. You can’t see it in the picture, can you? That’s because of the *&%^$ tree!! More importantly, the inside view from this beautiful window is ruined by the tree. Think how much nicer it would be to look out onto a shady woodland garden, perhaps with relaxing little sitting area. With the other trees and shrubs, there will still be lots of privacy from the street.
Please honey? Please please please?
A lot of people comment that I “must spend a lot of time working in the garden”, but truly I don’t. Well, I do, but that’s because I’m always busy with new projects, not because I spend a lot of time taking care of what is already planted!! It’s not hard to have a low maintenance garden, you just need to know the right plants and where to plant them.
My front “Welcome” garden really started to look established last year. For me, the front garden has to be particularly low-maintenance. I want a garden that is going to look great from the street (and also from the house), but I don’t spend as much time out front so it has to pretty much take care of itself. Last year I top-dressed it with compost in the spring, and honestly that’s about it. Here are the plants that are very successful at putting on a year-round show with almost no maintenance in my front garden:
In June, the Shasta daisies and bearded irises put on a nice show together. The irises don't bloom for long but their foliage looks nice all season. Watch out for some varieties of Shasta daisies which self-seed invasively! The newer variety “Becky” is well-behaved. I also have some ground-cover sedums and geraniums that spread, do well keeping the weeds down and bloom nicely in spring.
In July, the daisies are still going strong and now look good with veronica spicata, feather reed grass, and asiatic and LA hybrid lilies.
In August, the lilies are still going, the daylilies have started, and the ornamental grass has reached its full height.
In October, the daylily and euphorbia foliage are turning colour, and the sedum has reached its full colour. There’s a red-leaf rose in the background that I had just planted but will eventually be very big and has colourful, orange fall foliage.
This year I am going to plant the other side and will have no grass left. Can't wait!! Some additional low-maintenance plants I have in mind are: