July 18, 2016

Do the math!

Nah, I'm not expecting it to grow much larger...


Better late than never, I'm starting a new series of posts dealing with "the wrong plant, wrong location" practice I see all too often during my travels across Toronto. Below is a wonderful and particularly egregious example of the triumph of hope over experience:



Baby Point front garden renovation before Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Oh, Christmas tree!


Firstly, just ignore the white rock "mulch" under the Colorado Blue Spruce. Whether you think it looks ghastly and outdated (it is), let's rather focus on the where this youngster of a tree is planted. 

To our left is the only paved access from the front door to the driveway and backyard. The width is about three feet.

In the foreground is a shared driveway about 15 feet wide.

And, yes, there's a huge mature oak about 6 feet behind (you can see its trunk).

Now consider the typical mature size of this spruce: 50-75 feet high by 10-20 feet wide.

Let's spend a few moments doing the math.

.
.
.
.

As your accountant might say when you present her with incomplete receipts in a shoe box, "the math doesn't add up."  Or to borrow that infamous line from the movie "Jaws", "you're gonna need a bigger set of clippers." What, you don't enjoy being caressed by such a spruce on the way to and from the car, carrying groceries into the house, lugging out the hose, etc.?


July 13, 2016

A front garden makeover in York Mills/St. Andrews: Natives? Non-natives? Does it really matter?

Re-thinking a Toronto shade garden



Sometimes a new garden project develops out of the blue. Here's what was growing recently in this Toronto front garden: areas covered by Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) in medium shade.


Lamiastrum galeobdolon Yellow Archangel York Mills front garden renovation Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Lamiastrum galeobdolon (Yellow Archangel) 
York Mills front garden renovation



For anyone familiar with this groundcover, you'll know that it "likes to move quickly" which is a euphemism for being mildly invasive. And I find the leaves stink as well. But if you want quick coverage, Yellow archdevil archangel could work, maybe too successfully.


When I first visited this location in the St. Andrews/York Mills area of Toronto about two months ago, the client was asking for bids to remove large patches of groundcover and replacing that with new sod.

Another landscaper/gardener came by before and offered to rototill the Lamiastrum and put in new Kentucky bluegrass sod.

Now, let that sink in for a minute.

I'll wait.



.

.

.

.

.


Okay, I'm back. The goal was to sod over a lot of the area currently which is, to be nice, over-run by the lamiastrum. Obviously (maybe not to some "professionals") the existing groundcover should be removed. Or was the strategy simply laying down rolls of sod on top of chopped up stems of lamiastrum (wonderfully propagated when you think about it)?


When did rototilling become the new method of weeding? This is not the first time I've come across this reasoning, unfortunately.


Does this make sense to you? It didn't to me and I pointed out to the client the eventual failure of trying to grow sod in soil that was full of weeds (in this case, nicely-sliced up lamiastrum stems) and in, at best, dappled shade.


Instead, perhaps the lamiastrum could be confined to certain areas that were very shaded and dry (in which case, it's actually doing its job as an effective groundcover in "tough-to-grow anything" spots) and removed from a prominent area more visible by the neighbours. Space for an expanded shade garden, then, could be created for the introduction of shade-tolerant perennials and shrubs.


At this point, I was more concerned with not having a rototiller ripping tree roots and destroying the soil structure than "winning" new business. I guess "working with the site" doesn't carry much meaning when you have plenty of gas-powered machines rearing to go and loads of rolls of sod on the truck.


Literally, "landscraping" comes to mind.


I guess my thoughts made sense with the homeowner so she hired me to create a new garden from this:


York Mills St. Andrews front garden renovation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
York Mills St. Andrews 
front garden renovation before




York Mills St. Andrews front garden renovation before Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
York Mills St. Andrews 
front garden renovation before 

to eventually this:



Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto York Mills St. Andrews front garden renovation after
Toronto York Mills St. Andrews 
front garden renovation after


Here's the same bed from another angle. I did leave a strip of the Lamiastrum on the left side because I felt it was on the neighbour's property. I would be ideal if all of it was removed but that's between the two homeowners.


After removing the groundcover and many turf seedlings (small clumps of grass), I mixed in many bags of composted cow manure to increase the organic matter in the soil. Sad to say that no worms were found anywhere.



York Mills St. Andrews Toronto front garden renovation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
York Mills St. Andrews Toronto 
front garden renovation before 


The question of what type of new plants should be put in, I find, is usually not tricky. Most clients don't know or care and just want me to "make it pretty/tidy/like someone gave a damn." This client, however, had a different vision and preferred mostly native species but open to the idea of "non-natives." That was fortunate because the supply of plants for sale in July is dwindling at the garden centres. Many times, my plant choices are sold out so substitutes are picked instead.


It's a version of the mantra "you get what you get and you don't get upset" I repeated to my children when they were young (I still do repeat it naively) and to more than a few clients (nicer wording though) when we try to buy plants in the dead of summer.
 



York Mills St. Andrews Toronto front garden renovation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
York Mills St. Andrews Toronto 
front garden renovation after 


St. Andrews York Mills front garden renovation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
St. Andrews York Mills 
front garden renovation before



St. Andrews York Mills front garden renovation before Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
St. Andrews York Mills 
front garden renovation before



St. Andrews York Mills front garden renovation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
St. Andrews York Mills 
front garden renovation after 


St. Andrews York Mills Toronto front garden renovation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
St. Andrews York Mills Toronto 
front garden renovation before



York Mills St. Andrews Toronto front garden renovation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
York Mills St. Andrews Toronto 
front garden renovation after 


Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto York Mills St. Andrews front garden renovation after
Toronto York Mills St. Andrews 
front garden renovation after



Are you wondering what perennials and shrubs were planted in this Toronto shade garden? Here are some plants on the eclectic list:






July 05, 2016

A Mount Pleasant West garden renovation

Less lawn, more garden? That's alright with me!



While all my work projects are small-scale since I work alone, they vary constantly depending on the client's needs and, ahem, budget. Sometimes it involves moving or adding plants to an existing garden or it could mean enlarging the size of a garden. This small but labour-intensive job shown in this post is an example of resizing a garden by removing turf. It's definitely not an xeriscape project (adding new hydrangeas is anything but xeriscaping) but a small patch of lawn was removed to allow for a larger garden bed

Here's the area of work below.  The client asked me to remove all the lawn to a certain point (I'd estimate it was about 120 square feet), enlarging the existing garden bed, plant four new "Limelight" hydrangea standards and some English Ivy for ground cover.

Sounds simple, right? Sure, simple in design but not in execution as anyone who has removed turf by hand intimately knows. (Using a backhoe to scrape off the lawn doesn't count. I guess we call that "landscraping?")


Mount Pleasant West front garden renovation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Mount Pleasant West front garden renovation before 


Removing the sod was slow and physically-demanding for an old geezer like myself. Even with a brand new spade, cutting into the turf and lifting it out felt like....work! You can see how brown the lawn is (it's been very dry this summer so far) but the rolls of turf I cut out still weighed a ton (it seemed).

But I carried on and here's an "after" picture showing the enlarged bed.

I moved the row of yellow daylilies to the front (per the client's request) and transplanted four new "Limelight" Pee Gee hydrangea ( Hydrangea paniculata "Limelight" ) standards in a grid. She also wanted English Ivy to fill in as a ground cover so we planted a dozen plugs or so.




Mount Pleasant West front garden renovation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Mount Pleasant West front garden renovation after 




Mount Pleasant West garden renovation removing lawn before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Mount Pleasant West garden renovation removing lawn before



Mount Pleasant West garden renovation removing lawn after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Mount Pleasant West garden renovation removing lawn after



Mount Pleasant West garden renovation removing lawn before Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Mount Pleasant West garden renovation removing lawn before 




Mount Pleasant West garden renovation removing lawn after Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Mount Pleasant West garden renovation removing lawn after 




Mount Pleasant West Toronto garden renovation removing lawn before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Mount Pleasant West Toronto garden renovation removing lawn before 



Mount Pleasant West Toronto garden renovation removing lawn after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Mount Pleasant West Toronto garden renovation removing lawn after 


It's a formal look with the green colour scheme which fits in with the neighbourhood's front yard aesthetics.

A neighbour walked over while I was working and asked what the plan was. After I explained the concept, she gave her approval.

The client and I are relieved!

July 03, 2016

A summer garden cleanup in Leslieville

Weeding in Toronto's Leslieville neighbourhood


It's summertime, the living is easy but the work is still busy as weeds of all kinds love the heat and rain. I recently completed this back and front yard garden clean up for a typical-sized Leslieville property in Toronto's east end. (Sorry, pictures are over-exposed but I think you get the idea.)

Yes, it's a little weedy in the back!


Leslieville garden cleanup before weeding by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville garden cleanup before weeding 
by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto



Leslieville garden cleanup after weeding by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville garden cleanup before weeding 
by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto


Leslieville Toronto garden cleanup before weeding by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leslieville Toronto garden cleanup before weeding 
by Paul Jung Gardening Services



Leslieville Toronto garden cleanup before weeding by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leslieville Toronto garden cleanup after weeding 
by Paul Jung Gardening Services



Toronto Leslieville garden cleanup before weeding by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Leslieville garden cleanup before weeding 
by Paul Jung Gardening Services


Toronto Leslieville garden cleanup after weeding by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Leslieville garden cleanup after weeding
 by Paul Jung Gardening Services

Leslieville garden cleanup before weeding by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville garden cleanup before weeding
 by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto


Leslieville garden cleanup after weeding by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville garden cleanup after weeding
 by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto

And here are some "before" and "after"  pictures from the front:


Leslieville front garden cleanup before weeding by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville front garden cleanup before weeding
by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto


Leslieville front garden cleanup after weeding by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville front garden cleanup after weeding
by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto


Leslieville front garden cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville front garden cleanup before
by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto


Leslieville front garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville front garden cleanup after
by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto


Leslieville front garden cleanup before weeding Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville front garden cleanup before weeding
Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto


Leslieville front garden cleanup after weeding Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville front garden cleanup after weeding
Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto

Stay cool and try to weed in the shade during the rest of summer 2016!


June 11, 2016

The Lingering Garden in Suzhou, China: Re-discovered!

Framed views, grotesque rockery and some "Chinglish" in one of Suzhou's classical Chinese gardens



"Re-discovered" in the sense that I never knew these pictures from our family's China trip in 2012 existed until I was trying to retrieve some files from my camera' built-in memory and these popped out. Going to Suzhou's Lingering Garden was one of my favourite memories during our three week vacation/pilgrimage to China nearly four years ago. I got to see an authentic example of classic Chinese garden design which is characterized by a miniaturization of natural landscapes (mountains and oceans) and a sympathetic relationship between people and nature around them.

I profiled the Lingering Garden a few years ago with a post titled The Lingering Garden in Suzhou, China: Classical Chinese garden design at Liu Yuan which shows many examples of the use of strange-looking or grotesque (maybe to Western eyes) limestone rockery commonly found in Chinese garden design. I also showed examples of how water is used to contrast with such "hard" elements when seen from various "stages" or viewing "platforms."

In your garden, you might want to consider where the main "viewing stage" is (your patio, deck, favourite bench?) and compose a scene that maximizes the view's beauty or significance. A technique that could help with composing this scene is framing, as some pictures below show:



Framed view at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Framed view at the
Lingering Garden Suzhou China 


You may find the above a little lazy or maddening but there's very little symmetrical about Asian gardens because, well, there's little in nature that's perfectly centred along an X-Y axis. I found this appealing as the drab concrete interior wall contrasts with the bright green Philodendron (?) leaves. Even the octagon frame of the window isn't symmetrical.



Framed view of rockery at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Framed view of rockery at the
Lingering Garden Suzhou China


These are windows (but could be doors) that fold out to create an amazing triptych. I wish I could approximate this overlooking my backyard but those pesky raccoons and mosquitoes would get in the way!


Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China
grasses and shrubs


Yes, there's a whole lot of green going on but that's what I expected in the dead of summer. I'd imagine the views would be more colourful in the spring and fall with the blossoms and autumn foliage. I found the monochromatic greens very calming and restful, especially with the cicadas whirring away on that hot summer day.

In the picture above, I adore how the grasses (maybe sedges) spill over the rocks. A way you could closely capture this is by using the mostly-green version of Japanese Forest Grass  (Hakonechloa macra ‘Albostriata’ Japanese Forest Grass) or Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica)



Lingering Garden Suzhou China framed view of rockery by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China
framed view of rockery

Another framed view above, this time forcing the viewer to contemplate the odd-looking rocks.



Lingering Garden Suzhou China rockery by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China rockery 




Lingering Garden Suzhou China window screen by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China window screen 

I just like the lattice work above in front of a translucent panel which diffuses the appearance of the branch hitting against it.



Rock garden at Lingering Garden in Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Rock garden at Lingering Garden
in Suzhou, China 

The white-wash wall starkly outlines the rocks and plants.



rock garden at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Rock garden at Lingering Garden
Suzhou, China 

The same area from another view. There were many of these little "pockets" scattered throughout, offering the visitor (me) a short respite from our tour guide screaming in her megaphone to get ready to leave.



Rockery at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Rockery at the Lingering Garden
in Suzhou, China 

Just like mountains have many outcroppings and caves, this version has the same but miniaturized to human scale.




Screen at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Screen at the Lingering Garden
in Suzhou, China 

Another screen but this time much more ornate. I don't know about you but I kind of see some sort of hibiscus or Rose of Sharon flower if I stare long enough.



Sitting area at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Sitting area at the Lingering Garden
in Suzhou, China 

We never saw anyone actually sitting in these chairs but you can imagine the owners and their visitors enjoying refreshments while looking at the garden. You'll note the symmetry inside which is largely absent outside.



Lingering Garden Suzhou China signage by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China signage 

A Suzhou garden visit cannot end without showing one of many signs posted throughout for the benefit of native and tourists. The more direct and stern instruction "don't litter!" doesn't have the same wonderful lilting melody as this "Chinglish" phrase carries.

Want to see more poetic examples like the one above? I've bookmarked this great blog post titled The Signage of the Lingering Garden. You may smile or scratch your head but the sentiments are all noble.

June 03, 2016

Forest Hill, Toronto rock garden installation

A small slope yields much potential in Forest Hill


At first glance, it doesn't look promising: a weedy patch of soil on a small slope facing a shared driveway between two rental properties. My client was so desperate (maybe a slight exaggeration) to garden that she was willing to pay for my time and materials, even though she is a tenant. So it was on a whim and a lark that we met way back in March to see what could be done with the space below:



Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden before



I like these small projects and haven't put in a rock garden for ages so I decided to take on the challenge. My client is also very nice so that sealed the deal!

It's not a very large area, maybe 20 feet across and 5 feet high. The good news is that it faces south and gets full sun until afternoon and the soil isn't too bad. The rocks were already there so someone in the past made this into a rock garden of sorts. But time and negligence have taken their toll and the soil was choked with many types of weeds with the main culprit being creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) Anyone who's worked with this perennial weed that spreads vigorously by underground rhizomes knows intimately how difficult it is to eradicate it. Leaving just a bit of the fleshy pinkie-finger like roots is enough for it to regenerate.

I prefer not to use a non-selective herbicide so this entire face was hand-dug in order to remove as much of the roots and stems of this bad boy of a weed in preparation for the new alpine/rock garden perennials.

That was in April and when I returned a month later (after the client bought the plants), a few Creeping Bellflower shoots were still emerging. They were easy enough to dig out but vigilance is the key here to really get rid of the weed for good (even then...)

Here's the list of the rock garden perennials we chose which are hardy to zone 5 Toronto and lower: (Click on the links for more information.)




The "finished" garden below looks sparse but many of these rock garden perennials grow quickly so the bare spots should fill in over a few years. Of course, the challenge is to keep these pockets weed-free until then!


Forest Hill Toronto rock garden makeover by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Forest Hill Toronto rock garden makeover 



I used the same "boulders" (small rocks really)  that were there already but I suggest that if you were to attempt this, get bigger and nicer looking rocks and plenty of them. (I'd have more rockery than plants.)  The perennials are, of course, tiny at the beginning but will definitely fill in over a couple of years. I expect to see a blaze of white, pink, yellow and blue spring flowers every April-May. Weeding on a slight slope can be a little tougher but other than the occasional watering to get these small plants established plus the weeding (we didn't use mulch like pea gravel), this small rock garden is very low-maintenance.

More "before" and "after" pictures for this small Forest Hill rock garden:



New Toronto Forest Hill rock garden before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
New Toronto Forest Hill rock garden before 




New Toronto Forest Hill rock garden after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
New Toronto Forest Hill rock garden after



Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden before



Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden after



New Toronto Forest Hill  rock garden before Paul Jung Gardening Services
New Toronto Forest Hill  rock garden before



Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden after





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