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





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.

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