May 25, 2016

Cabbagetown shade garden makeover

Massing as a design principle in a shady Toronto backyard garden


A case of "been there, done that" for many gardeners, myself included. During my horticultural novice and "newbie" days. I went plant shopping much like grocery shopping: I picked up one of this plant, one of that plant, another one of a different perennial, etc. This makes sense when picking up a loaf of bread or a bag of milk (milk comes in bags for us in Ontario, which is a bizarre concept for many out of province visitors) but doesn't work too well when it comes to garden design.

This came to mind when I first visited this client's backyard Toronto garden in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood  last fall. As a new gardener, she made some common "rookie mistakes" like planting shrubs that needed full sun in her shady yard, placing a redbud tree in a very narrow bed close to the fence, and buying three of one variety of perennial but planting them separately in different beds. (For the record, we all have done variations of the above, including all too many "professional" landscapers and gardeners.)

It's very apparent how disparate the plantings were. You had one perennial here, the same variety by itself somewhere else and the third in the trio in another bed. Repeat this several times and you can see how there wasn't unity in the plantings.

Here are some "before" examples:


Toronto Cabbagetown garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Toronto Cabbagetown garden makeover before

Cabbagetown garden makeover before Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Cabbagetown garden makeover before


These aren't the best pictures as the perennials are either going into dormancy or are hidden by leaves but perhaps you can make out one ornamental grass sitting beside one Heuchera sitting beside one hosta....

Yes, in the picture immediately above, this small bed contained one smokebush, one ninebark and the trunk you see is a redbud. Not ideal plant placement, shall we say, given their mature sizes and present location.

Fast forward to this spring and I came up with a list of new perennials and shrubs that fit in better with the shady surroundings. I also simply grouped all the same type of perennials that were already in the gardens but seemed to be lost when planted by themselves. Here are "after" pictures of the two views above.



Cabbagetown Toronto garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Cabbagetown Toronto garden makeover after


Cabbagetown garden makeover after  Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Cabbagetown garden makeover after 



Massing the same plants together goes a long way to create unity in the garden and nothing rests the eye and brain more than unity, cohesion and congruence (if these goals are what you intentionally aim for.)

I removed two ninebarks, two smokebushes, one small redbud tree (all were donated)  and added three dwarf Fothergilla gardenii, three Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia "Ruby Spice") , one "Rainbow Pillar" serviceberry, and the garden's focal point was a very lovely (you sense my envy?) Acer palmatum "Orangeola" Japanese maple.

New perennials added included "Jack Frost" brunnera and "Ivory Prince" hellebores. Many existing hostas were divided and/or simply grouped together. They seemed much happier!


Nothing sells a plant faster than its flowers and this "Mt. Airy" Fothergilla and his/her nursery relatives were likely snapped up. It's a delightful shrub which I've profiled in a blog post before:

I need to get this plant: Dwarf fothergilla. Horticultural lust for Fothergilla gardenii

The fall colour in this garden should be outstanding!


Dwarf Fothergilla gardenii Mt. Airy in Cabbagetown Toronto garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Dwarf Fothergilla gardenii "Mt. Airy"
in a Cabbagetown Toronto garden 

Once the transplanting was finished, I kidded with the client that "it's actually looking like a garden now!"

I think you'd agree too.

More "before" and "after" pictures of the various beds from different viewpoints. The width of the entire backyard is only 25-30 feet in shade, typical for a downtown Toronto backyard.


Cabbagetown garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Cabbagetown garden makeover before 


Cabbagetown garden makeover after 


Cabbagetown garden makeover before Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Cabbagetown garden makeover before


Cabbagetown garden makeover after by Paul Jung Toronto Gardening Services
Cabbagetown garden makeover after 


Toronto Cabbagetown garden makeover before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Cabbagetown garden makeover before


Toronto Cabbagetown garden makeover after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Cabbagetown garden makeover after


Toronto Cabbagetown garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Cabbagetown garden makeover before


Toronto Cabbagetown garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Cabbagetown garden makeover after 



Cabbagetown Toronto garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto garden makeover before



Cabbagetown Toronto garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto garden makeover after


May 18, 2016

Roncesvalles Village raised bed garden makeover

A small Toronto front raised garden re-design in Roncesvalles


I love these kinds of projects:  The client knows exactly what plants to buy given how much maintenance will be committed, I transplant them with a design in mind and get paid right away!

The client, Tanya, was fed up with the front raised bed she inherited when she moved in. There is an existing medium sized crabapple, a small weeping red cut-leaf Japanese maple, some clumps of grape hyacinths and an old rose that she hated.

Here's a picture showing what I mean:



Roncesvalles Village Toronto new garden installation before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Roncesvalles Village Toronto
new garden installation before 


She wanted a more contemporary look so advised me to remove the rose (and the few large weeds) and to come up with a lower maintenance garden design. The combination of full sun, contemporary look and lower maintenance automatically suggests, to me, ornamental grasses and, with regular watering, some sedges ( Carex cultivars).

We came up with a plant list which includes Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’),  Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’)  and  Variegated sedge (Carex "Ice Dance").  Originally I suggested using my favourite grass, Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) but she decided on the Blood Grass instead. This was a brilliant move as the tips of the Blood Grass relate to the Japanese maple's burgundy leaves.

A few hours later...


Roncesvalles Village Toronto new garden installation after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Roncesvalles Village Toronto
new garden installation after 



I decided to reuse the grape hyacinths since the bed would have no early spring colour otherwise and recommended to Tanya to plant several dozen daffodils this fall to boost the garden's early spring curb appeal.

I applied a 3" layer of black (dyed) mulch to reduce the amount of weeds germinating and lessen the need for regular watering (after the perennials become established.)

Here are more "before" and "after" pictures of the garden from various viewpoints:



Roncesvalles Village Toronto new garden installation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Roncesvalles Village Toronto
new garden installation before 


Roncesvalles Village Toronto new garden installation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Roncesvalles Village Toronto
new garden installation after




Toronto new garden installation Roncesvalles Village before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto new garden installation
Roncesvalles Village before 



Toronto new garden installation Roncesvalles Village after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto new garden installation
Roncesvalles Village after 



Toronto new garden installation Roncesvalles Village before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto new garden installation
Roncesvalles Village before


Roncesvalles Village Toronto new garden installation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Roncesvalles Village Toronto
new garden installation after



Tanya was very happy with the new cleaner look, in no small part due to removing the previous homeowner's prized rose. I was delighted with her lack of remorse!

May 15, 2016

Birch Cliff (Scarborough) front garden spring clean up

A Toronto front garden rescued from variegated goutweed


"Part spring garden cleanup, part garden rescue" is the theme for this post about tidying up the front and back garden beds at this east Toronto home in the Birch Cliff neighbourhood.

Anyone who has to deal with Aegopodium podagraria (variegated goutweed or the all green-leaved thug) knows the pain in trying to remove it without relying on herbicides. You're guaranteed to leave just a little piece of root, regardless of how thorough you believe your weeding skills are, and then it's off to the races again. So when I saw this as part of a typical spring garden cleanup, I sighed a little but readied myself for it was time for a garden intervention!



Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden cleanup goutweed removal before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden cleanup
 goutweed removal before 



See that large green patch above?  Yep, that's variegated goutweed happily moving through the bed unimpeded. Not only did I prune away last season's stalks of the sedums and ornamental grasses, I had to deal with the goutweed,  pronto!


I dug most of the goutweed out but this area has to be monitored. I'm certain a few leaves will emerge in a couple of weeks and they'll need to removed right away. It seems like an endless cycle but this is the case with goutweed (and creeping bellflower and Japanese knotweed and...)


Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden cleanup goutweed removal after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden cleanup
goutweed removal after 



Here are some more "before" and "after" shots from the front garden. It was a shame the cherry wasn't in bloom for I'm sure it would have been stunning.




Birch Cliff Toronto spring garden clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Birch Cliff Toronto spring garden clean up before 




Birch Cliff Toronto spring garden clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Birch Cliff Toronto spring garden clean up after 




Birch Cliff Toronto spring garden clean up before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Birch Cliff Toronto spring garden clean up before 




Birch Cliff Toronto spring garden clean up after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Birch Cliff Toronto spring garden clean up after




Birch Cliff Toronto spring garden cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Birch Cliff Toronto spring garden cleanup before 




Birch Cliff Toronto spring garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Birch Cliff Toronto spring garden cleanup after 




Moving on to the backyard, the biggest challenges were dealing with the large ornamental grasses and cutting away last year's stems and seedheads.  I used my pruning saw (which I normally use to cut off small tree limbs) to saw my way through the tough stalks. I would had taken forever to do this with secateurs (ok, slight exaggeration but my right wrist would had been out of commission for a day or so).

The beds were finally topped off with a thin layer of mulch to suppress weeds and reduce watering.



Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden clean up before 

Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden clean up after 

Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden cleanup before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden cleanup before 

Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden cleanup after by 

Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden cleanup before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden cleanup before 



Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden cleanup after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Birch Cliff spring garden cleanup after 

Yes, that's a wisteria desperately looking for a trellis or pergola to take down.

May 11, 2016

A Weeping Mulberry weeps in Scarborough

A raised garden bed makeover involving the death of a Mulberry tree


If there's a small tree that I dislike intensely, it would be a Weeping Mulberry (Morus alba 'Pendula'). I'm not a big fan of weeping forms of trees in the first place but this living "green umbrella" of a tree is overused, needs regular pruning of dead branches, often planted in locations that don't consider its mature width, has boring bark and dull fall foliage. So when Carol, one of my clients, asked me what we should do with this raised bed (which receives 6 plus hours of direct sunlight), I knew that mulberry had to be shovel pruned.

Here's the "before" picture:



Scarborough rock garden with weeping mulberry before by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Scarborough rock garden
with weeping mulberry before 


There's a lot going on here.  A weigela in the lower right, a clematis that is supposed to go up the right trellis, two large "Blue Star" junipers on the left, a Thuja occidentalis 'Rheingold' (golden yellow cedar) against the shed near the back and, of course, that darn weeping mulberry.

It's not a large area but can be a focal point when seen from the patio. I decided to really simplify things by:

  • removing the juniper
  • removing the weigela
  • moving the clematis to another bed
  • keeping the cedar
  • keeping the small mockorange (behind the junipers above) and, lastly
  • removing the mulberry

So what would be the specimen here? Carol and I decided on a "Waterfall" Japanese Maple ( Acer palmatum "Waterfall" or "Viridis". I can't distinguish between the two green leaved lace-cut maples)   because she still likes the weeping shape. I like it because it has a great "billowing" form, doesn't cast a huge shadow and small enough for this raised bed. The orange fall foliage isn't too shabby either as shown below.

After a lot of digging, swearing, cutting tree roots, more swearing and transplanting, we get this: 



Scarborough rock garden after removing weeping mulberry by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Scarborough rock garden after
removing weeping mulberry 


We're still short a few plants but the concept is to carry the Japanese Forest Grass all the way across the top of the highest row of boulders. Eventually, the grasses' foliage will spill over the boulder tops and soften their look.

I hope you can make out the "Waterfall" Japanese maple in the centre. It hasn't leafed out yet and is a little taller than normal. Eventually, we hope it gets fat and happy like this guy/gal from another garden, but this will take many years.



"Waterfall" laceleaf Japanese maple ( Acer palmatum var. dissectum  "Waterfall" )  autumn foliage  by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog.
"Waterfall" laceleaf Japanese maple (Acer palmatum var. dissectum  "Waterfall" )   autumn foliage


So who would be the supporting players?

The rest of the bed will be filled up with two types of sedges: Gold Fountains Sedge (Carex dolichostachya ‘Kaga-nishiki’)  which I've used in the past and a new one (to me): Carex oshimensis EverColor® (‘Everillo’ sedge) which has a wonderful lime-green leaf.

Carol and I noticed that the bed really "popped" out because of the yellow/limey green foliage which will only be enhanced with the direct sunlight. The cedar will become even more yellow since the mulberry's shade is a thing of the past. I'll prune the mockorange every spring to give us better foliage at the expense of flowers.

Here's the "after", from another perspective. With time and more plants, this will be a bright and exciting bed.

And the mulberry won't know any better...



Scarborough Toronto rock garden after removing weeping mulberry by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Scarborough Toronto rock garden
after removing weeping mulberry 

May 10, 2016

Another Etobicoke, Toronto spring garden cleanup

More ornamental grasses to cut down...


I do love ornamental grasses for many reasons: they have great structure and bulk, create a sense of repetition when massed, catch the wind beautifully, provide much-needed winter interest over a long Toronto winter and as "low-maintenance" as you can expect from a perennial. They are, however, a bit tough to deal with in spring when you need to cut them back to about 4-6". Sharp tools, gloves and safety glasses are strongly advised.


This backyard garden in west-end Toronto has several large and mature clumps of Miscanthus and Calamagrostis (Maiden grass and Feather Reed Grass) which were cut back as part of the many "spring cleanups" I've performed since mid-April.


To be charitable, cutting back these ornamental grasses now represents the only real maintenance for the next 364 days. Once established, they don't need regular watering, fertilizing, deadheading and are ignored by pests and diseases. You can save this type of tender loving care for your roses, I suppose.




Toronto Etobicoke  spring garden cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Toronto Etobicoke  spring garden cleanup
before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc


Toronto Etobicoke  spring garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Toronto Etobicoke  spring garden cleanup
after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc


Toronto Etobicoke  spring garden cleanup before Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Toronto Etobicoke  spring garden cleanup
before Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc



Toronto Etobicoke  spring garden cleanup after Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Toronto Etobicoke  spring garden cleanup
after Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc

Etobicoke Toronto spring garden cleanup before Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Etobicoke Toronto spring garden cleanup
before Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc

Etobicoke Toronto spring garden cleanup after Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Etobicoke Toronto spring garden cleanup
after Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc


Etobicoke Toronto spring garden cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Etobicoke Toronto spring garden cleanup
before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc

Etobicoke Toronto spring garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Etobicoke Toronto spring garden cleanup
after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc

Etobicoke Toronto spring garden clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Etobicoke Toronto spring garden clean up
before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc

Etobicoke Toronto spring garden clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Etobicoke Toronto spring garden clean up
after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc

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