July 22, 2017

Maintenance is Gardening

Post-Planting Commitment


All gardens require a degree of upkeep and that dreaded "M" word: maintenance. You can do the work ( and it is work whether you love or hate doing it as weeding and pruning and the myriad of other gardening tasks require physical and mental effort) or pay someone to do it, but it's got to be done. Or else, why bother having a green space you can call your own?

An effective garden design that's sympathetic to the user's (owner's) needs and wants goes a long way to reduce these maintenance requirements. A bit ( or sometimes, a lot ) of mulch does help with reducing weeding and watering but with the right combination of light and moisture conditions, weeds will still grow and, even, thrive. Soaker hoses, while ugly, do work in getting water down to where it counts: the roots.

This post looks at a garden I designed and planted just a few months ago as profiled in my post titled A Mid Toronto new front garden installation: Another Toronto Front Garden Makeover and shows how weeds, like all other life forms, are opportunistic and that leaving a new garden alone even for a short time is generally not a good idea as it leads to more...well, work!


Here's a picture of the garden I planted on May 27, 2017:



Midtown Toronto gardening services new low maintenance perennial garden after by Paul Jung
Midtown Toronto gardening services new low maintenance perennial garden after 





And here's what it looked like on July 22, a little less than two months later:




Avenue Road Front Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Toronto Gardening Services
Avenue Road Front Garden Cleanup Before



Will things look better from another angle?





Midtown Toronto new full sun perennial garden after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Midtown Toronto new full sun perennial garden after 

Nah....




Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Cleanup Before 



The silver lining is that all the newly transplanted perennials are establishing themselves very nicely but then again, so have the weeds.


Here are some other "before" pictures showing you what greeted me as I walked up to the house. I was astounded by the sheer quantity and variety of wind-borne weeds which germinated and are thriving since the new perennials were planted merely two months previously.




Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Clean up Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Clean up Before 


Paul Jung Gardening Services Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Cleanup Before
Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Cleanup Before




Toronto Paul Jung Gardening Services Avenue Road Front Garden Cleanup Before
 Avenue Road Front Garden Cleanup Before


After the cleanup....



Avenue Road Front Garden Cleanup after by Paul Jung Toronto Gardening Services
Avenue Road Front Garden Cleanup after



Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Cleanup After 



Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Clean up After by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Clean up After 



Paul Jung Gardening Services Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Cleanup After
 Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Cleanup After


Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Cleanup After Paul Jung Gardening Services
Avenue Road Toronto Front Garden Cleanup After 




Just to give you some context, the owner rents this house and lives off-site so only occasionally drops by. The tenants, naturally, aren't involved with any maintenance aspect so the garden fends for itself. I strongly suggested to the owner that another layer of mulch be applied soon. In time, the perennials should be large and wide enough to shade out most weeds from germinating but until then, the garden is rather defenseless in such an exposed site.

I get the feeling I'll be getting another call in a few months...

July 13, 2017

Bad Weeds? You Bet Your Grass!

A Garden Rescue in Toronto's Little Italy-Palmerston Neighbourhood


What's the worst weed to deal with?  As with most things in life, "it depends" on where you garden, what you are growing, whether or not you can or want to spray herbicides, and your health and mobility,  among many factors. I've come across a cute definition of a weed as a flower that hasn't been appreciated yet but you could also say weed is a plant that's in the wrong place.

What comes to your mind as a "bad weed"? Dandelions? Crabgrass? Japanese Knotweed (!) Again, it all depends on the context. If you're the type that loves a pristine carpet of turf, you'd likely find a single dandelion that has the audacity to emerge particularly egregious. And if you've been trying to eradicate creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) from your garden bed over the decades, I commiserate, since that's what I've been doing for clients it seems for years.

But would you consider lawn grass a weed? From my experience, you bet your grass it is.

I was reminded of this when Terry, the client, asked me to clean up (i.e., weed) the front of his rental property in Toronto's trendy (read: ridiculously expensive, but the city's in a real estate bubble so what's not expensive?) Little Italy-Palmerston neighbourhood.

He calls me once a year (maybe twice at most) to deal with the front garden. Since it's a rental property, the tenants naturally have nothing to do with area's upkeep so things tend to go wild until someone (me) gets hired to deal with the situation.

Before arriving, I always wonder how "bad" things will be and in this case, they were bad indeed!


Palmerston Front Garden Clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
 Above is a "before" picture of the north slope which has more than a few maple saplings.



Palmerston Front Garden Cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
 Here's the south slope. The property line runs about half way so the left side is part of the work. The groundcover is periwinkle but you'll easily notice the many grass clumps which have emerged. Removing grass from periwinkle on a slope equals pain for this gardener.


Palmerston Toronto Front Garden Cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Here's the view from the sidewalk looking one way...


Palmerston Toronto Front Garden Clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
And the other way....


Little Italy Front Garden Clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Coming up the steps.... 


Little Italy Front Garden Cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
A view of the garden looking left towards the front door



Little Italy Toronto Front Garden Clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
and backwards 


Little Italy Toronto Front Garden Cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Here's the view looking down from the front porch or landing



Palmerston Toronto Little Italy Front Garden Cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Nothing ornamental about this grass, just plain turf growing up and through the periwinkle (Vinca minor) groundcover. This view is from the front porch or landing looking the other way.


A Few Hours Later....


Palmerston Front Garden Clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
We've tried growing more periwinkle on the left side of this slope but the transplants never get established since the variegated goutweed is almost impossible to remove completely without a herbicide 



Palmerston Front Garden Cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
 A lot less "meadowy" with the grass clumps pulled out. 


Palmerston Toronto Front Garden Cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Palmerston Toronto Front Garden Cleanup after 




Palmerston Toronto Front Garden Clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Palmerston Toronto Front Garden Clean up after 



Little Italy Front Garden Clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
The walk to and from the house is now safe without the fear of some critter running across your feet 



Little Italy Front Garden Cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
A fresh layer of mulch to keep the weeds at bay




Little Italy Toronto Front Garden Clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
There are actually some perennials here! 



Little Italy Toronto Front Garden Cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Not a bad view from the porch now




Palmerston Toronto Little Italy Front Garden Cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Bye bye grass, until next year... 


June 29, 2017

Leslieville front garden weeding and summer cleanup

The "Satomi" Chinese Dogwood is Beautiful, the Rest of Garden, Not So Much


There are some gardens that I visit yearly and they always fill me with intrigue and, frankly, more than a little anxiety. Now a little mystery or intrigue in the garden is usually a good thing ( hmmm, I see the bodies of garden gnomes scattered throughout, implying a situation gone sideways.)

But anxiety? Angst? Dread?

Not the emotions that come to mind when experiencing landscapes but....



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


To provide some background, the owner of this Leslieville garden is a friend so her name won't be revealed to prevent further discomfort. She will be the first to admit that looking after plants is not "her thing" and after inheriting the garden when she bought the house several years ago, her idea of garden maintenance is to call me every summer.

And when I get that call or e-mail, I always wonder "how bad are the weeds?"

So by late June, as you can tell from the "before" pictures above and below, yep, they're bad.




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

Well, not all is bad. The "Satomi" Chinese dogwood ( Cornus kousa "Satomi" ) is blooming ("bracting"?) the best I've ever seen and from my travels across town and in my own backyard, Cornus kousas everywhere are outstanding. It must be all that rain we've been having making them and all sorts of plants very happy.

Especially the weeds....



Leslieville Toronto front garden clean up weeding before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leslieville Toronto front garden 
clean up weeding before 

This cleanup should be a textbook example of how the "lazy landscaper/house flipper/cheap homeowner" technique of covering a swath of garden with that ubiquitous landscape fabric and then dumping a tonne or two of some sort of rock (can be limestone screening, pea gravel or river rock) with the false promise that a "low maintenance" solution is at hand is, inevitably, completely ineffective.

Why? In urban settings with lots of tree and weed seeds blowing around and if the ground was not completely weed-free before the fabric was laid, it is only a matter of time before seeds germinate on top of the rock "mulch"or aggressive weed roots spread below the fabric and emerge up and through the fabric and rocks (Creeping bellflower, anybody?)



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

And so you often get this situation above. In the past, I've had to deal with extracting thistle, burdock and dandelions from this extremely weedy area next to the sidewalk. And the garbage! This year's version included some sort of crazy Malva genus member thinking it's some sort of groundcover.


After the cleanup....


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


The homeowner has had enough of the pea gravel and landscape fabric "solution" and asked me to come up with a new design. As you can see below, the Chinese dogwood flowering in front of the yew hedge is quite attractive. I'd get rid of the 5 cinquefoils (Potentilla fruticosa) and the lone surviving Lavender and mass plant some "lower maintenance" ornamental grasses as the client, realistically, will not do any gardening on her own. 



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



Leslieville Toronto front garden clean up weeding after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leslieville Toronto front garden 
clean up weeding after



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


The great thing about doing all these "cleanups" is that occasionally I see some beauty in the midst of disorder and disarray. 


Aren't these dogwood blooms below wonderful?

So if you're considering a small tree to act as a specimen or focal point in a sunny area of your garden, Cornus kousa "Satomi" could fit the bill (there are many other excellent cultivars.)



Cornus kousa Satomi Chinese Dogwood blooms by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Cornus kousa "Satomi" 
Chinese Dogwood blooms 



Cornus kousa Satomi Chinese Dogwood flower by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Cornus kousa "Satomi" 
Chinese Dogwood flower 



Satomi Chinese Dogwood Cornus kousa blooms by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Satomi" Chinese Dogwood 
(Cornus kousa) bracts



Just promise me that you'll weed the ground below it more than once a year!



June 23, 2017

Cabbagetown Shade Garden Makeover

A Downtown Toronto Garden Gets a Facelift


Along with my regular garden maintenance visits, I'm occasionally asked to "fix" gardens that have been forgotten or abandoned and reverting to their "natural" forms (tall weeds which have gone to seed, tree seedlings now becoming sturdy saplings, ancient "foundation" shrubs which haven't been pruned since the early 1980s, etc.) Usually, I demur with these "rehab" type of projects as it's more cost effective for the garden owner to hire a crew of younger and stronger men and women to clear the brush and produce a clean slate. 

It preserves my back as well.

I also receive requests for a new garden design and this post covers my recent experience with a garden that hadn't gone to seed but over the years, I felt, it had lost its way from a design perspective.

During my initial meeting with Carol, the client, she mentioned that her backyard garden originally had a Japanese garden style. The "Shishigashira" Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira') certainly contributed to that but I couldn't see too many other elements. Sure, I wasn't expecting a tea house or a strolling garden or moss garden in a typically small downtown Toronto backyard (if you know of one, advise me!) but I thought perhaps seeing a water feature or a rock garden along the lines of karensansui.  I didn't see or feel anything remotely Japanese, garden design-wise, but rather, a part-shade garden with many disparate elements. So while the "hard" elements like the patio and fencing were already established, I could tinker in the margins, literally.

Below is a set of "before" pictures taken from the interlocking brick patio, going around 180 degrees or so. You'll notice that the garden looks full in some places and bare in others.


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



Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden with new perennials before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden
with new perennials before 



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



Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden with new perennials before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden
with new perennials before



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



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


There were several perennials and shrubs (e.g., the herbaceous peonies, Japanese maple, and quince) that were not to be moved but everything else was fair game.


Texture, unity, rhythm


No, this subheading isn't my company's new brand tagline (if you want it, it's yours!) but are design principles which usually go through my mind when I'm asked to create or reconfigure gardens.  Carol's shade garden had some interesting contrast in texture (the hostas and one clump of Japanese Forest Grass), a weak sense of unity as there were phlox and sedum in a supposed Japanese garden design and a weak sense of rhythm (few plants were massed or repeated in groupings beside the ubiquitous green "filler" hosta).

I've concluded over the years that when owners express dissatisfaction or malaise with their gardens, these three design principles are either weakly expressed or absent. They (the clients) may not verbalize it this way but they certainly feel it. My challenge is to pick up what they feel and verbalize a solution.

Lucky for me, Carol understood the reasoning behind the garden "makeover" and we decided on suitable part-shade tolerant perennials and shrubs arranged coherently and pleasing to the eye (well, pleasing to her eye more importantly as she has to look at the garden regularly.) 


In a similar fashion to the "before" pictures above, we'll go around the garden after removing, adding and moving new plants:




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

I removed all the perwinkle, trimmed the "Emerald Gaiety" euonymus and replanted the existing sedge and the "Dale's Strain" Heuchera. I added new groupings of toadlily (Tricyrtis), Japanese anemone ( "Honorine Jobert" is the classic variety used here) and "Ivory Prince" hellebores.



Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden with new perennials after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden
with new perennials after 

On the right side, I planted a new grouping of Japanese Painted Ferns, Japanese Forest Grass ( "Aureola") and a "Nova Zembla" rhododendron to the right. I removed a young and awkward-looking fruiting cherry sapling that was near where the rhodo is planted.




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

I kept the green barberry in the picture's centre and small cluster of Pachysandra and re-purposed some Brunnera (Siberian bugloss) whose parents were originally variegated "Jack Frost" but over time self-seeded these all green versions. Carol wanted one false spiraea (Sorbaria sorbifolia) under the redbud tree, an area where, in her words, "nothing grows" in the hopes it suckers. If the Sorbaria dies, then truly nothing will grow there.

Looking at this picture again, I'll ask Carol to plant another Forest Grass where that stone is located at the border. It reminds me of a kid with a big tooth missing when he smiles: initially charming but becoming distracting over time.

(This is the view looking straight out from her deck and kitchen door.)



Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden with new perennials after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden
with new perennials after 

I kept the quince at the right in the photo above and placed a grouping of "June" hostas. Yes, they're baby sized but give them a few years and they should shine. Fortunately, the quince isn't heavily suckering at all so keeping it isn't onerous.



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

Under the quince and in front of the existing clump of Japanese Forest Grass,  I placed a grouping of "Skeleton Key" Tiarella (foamflower) and more Japanese Forest Grass under the cedar to "soften the edge" of the pavers. (Whoever came up with the phrase "soften the edge" as it pertains to "hardscaping" and "softscaping" deserves a cookie!)




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

A better view of the repeated Hakone grass, one of my favourite perennials. Okay, it's number one!


As I was leaving after tidying up, Carol wryly admitted her Japanese garden became a run of the mill shade garden over time but she seemed content with that.