31.5.15

(Re)making a Toronto garden

A city front yard makeover


You might wonder what I actually do, besides writing these blog posts (by the way, thank you for reading!) I've operated my gardening business in Toronto since 2005 and I estimate that 80% of my daily paid activities involve weeding. I admit being a gardener is not the most glamorous occupation out there but I'm treated and paid well by my clients so I have zero complaints. It sure beats sucking in gas fumes pushing a mower ten hours a day. Or being part of the herd in a cubicle farm.

Occasionally, I'm asked to tackle a space that the homeowner is fed up with. Gardens in which plants are arranged haphazardly and/or overgrown,  areas choked full of weeds, or filled with uninspiring plants. I have "rehabbed" two gardens so far this spring and this post profiles one garden's change. (I'd use the word "transformation" but this isn't meant to be a landscaping company brochure.) I'll show you the before and after pictures and give you the plant list too, if you're feeling inspired.

(You may ask "why are you giving away this information? Won't your competitors copy your ideas?" Well, I don't see many disadvantages.  There's no formal plan or design I'm showing for anyone to copy. And if a competitor lacks so much imagination and plant knowledge that he or she has to copy little old me, it's time for more reading over the winter!)

The typical initial meeting with the client involves a review of the site, noting sunlight patterns, soil condition, existing plants, what goes, what stays, etc. Mostly cut and dried. What is much more important is asking questions and trying to find out why the garden is causing so much pain and determining what, if anything, I can do to eliminate or drastically reduce this pain. So while the first meeting is officially an interview, often it's more like a therapy session. 

Ok, we can use "transformation" now.

Below are some before shots of a small approximately 14' x 10' downtown Toronto front garden:



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

Above, there's a large Weeping Nootka Falsecypress at the far left which, of course, isn't moving. But most everything else is! This includes the Bridal Wreath spiraea, a yew and  two boxwoods in behind.


MacPherson Avenue front garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
MacPherson Avenue front garden makeover before


This is the view from the front stoop. For such a small area, the boxwoods screen the rest of the yard. Not much groundcover besides some Pachysandra. The Japanese maple (you see the trunk to the right?) is a specimen so that stays. You're looking south, so the garden receives full sun only on the left side as the maple's canopy provides light shade for most of the day. I consider this a part-sun/part-shade site.The soil is sandy and little organic matter had been added by the homeowner over the years.

The client is very much interested in the Japanese garden style and probably would like to have a teahouse, moss garden and a miniature replica of the Ryoan-ji temple crammed in (I would!) but as a compromise, I suggested we use plants to evoke a Japanese garden.


So we came up with this:


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


Summerhill front garden renovation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Summerhill front garden renovation after 


Summerhill front garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Summerhill front garden makeover after 


MacPherson Avenue front garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
MacPherson Avenue front garden makeover

Of course, the perennials and shrubs are babies so give them three years to start going. But I think you can see the potential for a full and lush garden. I added lots of composted cow manure to the sandy soil and covered with a thin layer of mulch. Now it's up to the client to water regularly until the plants get established.

Here's the plant list:

  • Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra and Hakonechloa macra "Aureola")
  • Rodgersia
  • "Mandarin Lights" deciduous Exbury azaleas
  • "Green Panda" bamboo (Fargesia rufa "Green Panda")
  • Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum)
  • Green Mountain boxwood (Buxus)
  • "Honorine Jobert" Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida "Honorine Jobert")

At the completion,  the garden owner was very happy (and, frankly, relieved), received compliments and wrote me a cheque promptly so it was smiles all around. 

I enjoy these small neat projects that pop up occasionally for me. I find it very satisfying to visualize and implement ideas into three dimensions. In many ways, I'm not a creative like my daughter who can draw, my wife who plays piano or my son who...plays computer games. But I can "paint" with plants. And write once in a while.

Does that make me an artiste?




19.5.15

May blooms and foliage in various Toronto gardens

I'm alive! 


Readers will forgive me for not blogging in a while as it's been another incredibly busy spring as a (paid) Toronto gardener. The upside, besides much needed income,  is that I can take pictures from my clients' gardens showing what's in bloom in this month.

As a bonus, I've included some pictures of foliage and blooms from my garden as well. Alas, none of veggies...


Star Magnolia stellata by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Star Magnolia ( Magnolia stellata



4.4.15

Centennial Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show 2015

More spring blooms in Etobicoke (under glass)


Toronto is not experiencing higher temperatures (say, above 60 degrees F. or 10 degrees C.) yet. Even tulips and daffodils are reluctant to emerge, although I did see a few winter aconites flower nearby. Most local gardeners, I suspect, are winter-weary, just aching to see some colour outside.

Several posts ago I showed some highlights from my recent visit to a local Conservatory to catch its Spring Flower Show ( you can click here: Centennial Park Conservatory 2015 Spring Flower Show ). I'll finish up with the remaining photos from that visit in this post.

I feel it's going to be one of those springs in Toronto in which the temperatures will zoom from about 5 to 20 degrees Celsius overnight. If that's the case, we should be seeing flowers and foliage exploding all over the city soon. 

Come on spring! Don't be coy!


Blue pink hyacinths Centennial Park Conservatory 2015 Spring Flower Show by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Blue pink hyacinths at the
Centennial Park Conservatory
2015 Spring Flower Show 


29.3.15

"Garden muses" turns four!

Baby, you're a big girl now!


Every March 29, I get kind of emotional. This blog that you're reading gets another year older, smarter and sassier (unlike the author who's simply getting older.) Like most parents  (indulge me while I anthropomorphize), I didn't know what the future held for my creation for the first few years--whether she would survive, what her personality would be, how long it would take her to be diaper-trained, etc.


Fourth birthday lemon loaf by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Sorry, a lemon-poppy seed mini loaf
from the freezer will have to do 



27.3.15

Centennial Park Conservatory 2015 Spring Flower Show

Spring blooms in Etobicoke (under glass)


"What am I going to do with the kids during March break this year?" was a question that many parents in Toronto had to grapple with.  After a couple days of  being couch zombies staring at their devices, enough was enough.  So, off to another Flower Show!


Tulipa Green Wave Parrot tulips Centennial Park Conservatory 2015 Spring Flower Show by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Tulipa "Green Wave" Parrot tulips 
Centennial Park Conservatory 
2015 Spring Flower Show 


We, Torontonians, are spoiled with having two Conservatories that:

  • offer seasonal flower shows
  • charge no admission fee
  • accessible by public transit

I've written many times about my visits to the Allan Gardens Conservatory which is very close to home but there is another "sister" Conservatory in the west side of Toronto called the Centennial Park Conservatory which also holds similar seasonal flower shows. (Here's my post from the Centennial Park Conservatory's 2014 Spring Flower Show ). 

It's a bit of a trek to get out there by subway and bus but the kids and I did it anyway. It was quid pro quo: I got to take some nice pictures of spring blooms and the kids got to eat at their favourite restaurant. Kind of a win-win-win:

  • I experienced more wonderful blooms without having to run through a gauntlet of vendors shilling this and that
  • my kids received some visual stimulation that didn't originate from a screen
  • you take in some more pictures of pretty flowers (I just wish you were able to smell the hyacinths and freesias. Absolutely divine!)

Isn't spring wonderful?

20.3.15

Allan Gardens Conservatory Spring Flower Show 2015 (part three)

Toronto's other Flower Show

According to its website page,
"Canada Blooms is an annual world-class festival that connects people to the joys and benefits of nature through experiences with gardens and flowers, by promoting, educating, inspiring and celebrating all aspects of horticulture...(sic) "
After spending about 90 minutes on opening day; however, I didn't make the connection. However, if one replaces "horticulture" with "landscape construction" in the preceding quote (mission statement?), I'd wager that connections were more likely to be made.

Reviews have been mixed, as usual, according to the Canada Blooms  Facebook page. If a hybrid Flower-Home Renovation Show (which Canada Blooms has become in spirit, if not de facto)  isn't your thing, there's still time to drop by the Allan Gardens Conservatory for its annual Spring Flower Show which finishes at the end of March. 

Here are the rest of my pictures I took a couple of weeks ago at the Conservatory--a quiet place devoted to flowers and foliage.

100% flowers and foliage(or just about), 0% vendor booths.

Spring container Allan Gardens Conservatory 2015 Spring Flower Show by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Spring container
Allan Gardens Conservatory
2015 Spring Flower Show

12.3.15

Allan Gardens Conservatory 2015 Spring Flower Show (part two)

Beautiful on the inside, ugly on the outside


March is turning out to be shi*ty (sorry to offend) month, literally. Temperatures are above zero and walking around downtown Toronto is depressing. As the snowbanks melt, incredible volumes of spent cigarette butts, dog excrement and crushed coffee cups emerge to the surface. The garden beds are, of course, rock solid and will be so until late April but I hope to see some crocuses and snowdrops soon outside. For now, I'm enjoying these blooms on display at the local Conservatory.

The hyacinths were in full bloom and their scent wafted throughout the display section. I like their strong odor--it's a smell I definitely associate with spring.


Allan Gardens Conservatory 2015 Spring Flower Show yellow and white daffodils by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory
2015 Spring Flower Show
yellow and white daffodils  


I have 40 pictures that I'll break over this and another post to make things manageable.

By the way, a local paper, the Toronto Star, recently printed a short article about the Conservatory's increased attendance  due to the harsh weather over the winter: Allan Gardens gets boost from bad winter

That's good news since greater attendance should mean greater or stable funding by the city (there's no entry fee so the operations are funded through our taxes, I guess) but bad news for me, personally, as all these pesky guests are getting in the way of my picture taking! 

Just kidding, I love them all...

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