March 24, 2017

Etobicoke's Centennial Park Conservatory 2017 Spring Flower Show

No Pots and Pans and Hot Tubs: Just Flowers


Toronto's other Flower Show just ended this past weekend to, as usual, mixed reviews. The National Flower Show known as "Canada Blooms" (because, hey, Toronto is the horticultural capital of Canada right?) runs every early March when the fine citizens of this city are at their most vulnerable and desperate for anything resembling living vegetative matter. I haven't attended in a few years, even with the lure of free media tickets, because the Show doesn't resonate with me: I simply want to see and take pictures (for you, dear reader) of pretty flowers and not be solicited aggressively with offers of kitchenware or outdoor hot tubs. The exhibits for Canada Blooms are located close to a Home Show in the same complex so one usually needs to run a gauntlet of home improvement salespeople to see gardens which focus on dimly lit large areas (read expensive) of concrete pavers. (According to some of the latest reviews on the Canada Bloom Facebook page, this experience hasn't changed much since my last visit.)  

But let's be fair so here's a great overview of the Show titled "A Viral Tour of Canada Blooms 2017" by fellow Toronto gardening blogger, Helen Battersby,  for those of you interested in seeing the exhibits and reading her witty comments. Apparently she had a bad cold while attending, what a trooper!

I was in the west-end of Toronto in a section/municipality called Etobicoke (for you non-natives) the other day for an appointment and decided to visit a public Conservatory afterwards to see its spring floral displays. It was much more my style: low key and quiet with me and a few families escaping the lousy March weather inside the greenhouses. The Centennial Park Conservatory is the smaller and perhaps overlooked compared to her bigger and better known sister, the Allan Gardens Conservatory, which I've visited and posted about many times. But smaller is good too sometimes: there's always ample parking, no admission fee (although donations are welcome) and never (in my experience) a big crowd getting in the way of my pictures!

Below are a few pictures of lovely tulips, daffodils and hyacinths from this spring's flower show, commerce- and commercial-free. We won't see these blooms outside until another month but it's officially spring so we'll go with that!



Canada 150 tulips at Centennial Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show 2017 by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Canada 150" tulips at the
Centennial Park Conservatory
Spring Flower Show 2017


February 25, 2017

Late Winter Colour inside the Allan Gardens Conservatory

Come on, Spring 2017!


This post, like all the others I've put up in the previous late winters, is more for my relief in dealing with another long Toronto winter than anything else. There's no theme or message today, just some pictures of colourful flowers and leafy things. (The only real outdoor colour I'm seeing is the yellow from my "Arnold Promise" witch hazel that's blooming his (?) head off right now, just like clockwork.)

I visited the nearby Allan Gardens Conservatory the other day to see what was blooming indoors. The staff is preparing for the Spring Flower Show scheduled to start on March 1 so the show beds still had remnants from the Christmas Flower Show like ornamental kale and cyclamen. I'll return in about a month when the Spring Show is in full "bloom" as it were and post pictures of tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinths, etc. I did manage to take, however, some nice shots of orchids, amaryllises, and some unrelated tropical things below for your enjoyment.



Allan Gardens Conservatory white and purple Phalaenopsis orchid by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Allan Gardens Conservatory 
white and purple Phalaenopsis orchid 


February 04, 2017

Formal Hedges Have Straight Edges (or Should Anyway)

A Cabbagetown, Toronto Front Garden Makeover


What comes to mind when you think of a hedge (the horticultural and not financial type)? Likely a "living fence" that separates two functional spaces like this one along the Sacred Way near Beijing


The Sacred Way near Beijing China by garden muses--not another Toronto gardening blog
Hedges, willows and paving along 
the Sacred Way near Beijing, China


The hedges on both sides of the path are ramrod straight. level, plumb and run for hundreds of metres. They direct visitors onward without creating mystery or curiosity. That's the message our lazy reptilian tourist brains want: stay on the path and you should be rewarded. Rectangular hedges (especially made up of broad-leaved evergreens) are usually boring and utilitarian because that's their job.


January 21, 2017

They Really Do Sleep, Creep, and Leap! Perennials in a Toronto Garden

Occasionally, a gardening cliché is true


If you've been gardening long enough, you've come across your share of horticultural rules of thumb, proverbs, observations, truisms, etc.. Nuggets of horticultural wisdom like "choose the right plant for the right space", "feed the soil, not the plant" and "plant a fifty-five cent plant in a five dollar hole" (amen) are good pieces of advice. I wish I'd listen to these adages as a new gardener many years ago--it would have saved me a ton of heartache (and cash) by preventing many of the plants I bought from inexplicably perishing or taking over the entire bed. But this is just tuition paid by a newbie gardener so "chin up", to use another idiom.



New Danforth Greektown perennial garden by Garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
New Danforth Greektown perennial garden


Speaking of idioms. another horticultural saying came to my mind when I last visited a garden I designed about three years ago in Toronto's Greektown neighbourhood (a.k.a. "The Danforth" area).

(The installation is profiled in my blog post titled A new garden in the Danforth/Greektown area of Toronto: a case study.)

I usually tidy up this backyard garden in the spring and fall so it's interesting to see if the original plants I planted have thrived or not. Even after researching what the "correct" plant should be based on existing site conditions and the garden owner's preferences, whether the newly transplanted perennial, shrub or tree actually lives is a bit of crap shoot. Things just fade away, occasionally, even with adequate cultural conditions and plant care. The plant warranty honoured by the garden centre is there for such tragedies.

Transplanting not only involves the "right plant, right place" adage but also, when spacing out the proposed holes, imaging how the mature size of whatever you're plopping in (remember, "five dollar hole") will look in five years and beyond (this is especially true for trees but some homeowners ignore this, to the future benefit of tree trimming companies.) For herbaceous perennials, it's been said, one should expect them to "sleep" during the first year after transplanting. "creep" during year two and, fingers crossed, "leap!" in year three and beyond.

But what does this saying mean?

It's not unusual for newly planted perennials to simply "sit" in the garden. They've likely experienced some transplant shock from being displaced out of the cozy confines of the greenhouse straight into your garden but I also suspect they're using more food energy (carbohydrates) in establishing new roots and not necessarily concerned about pumping out new leaves or flowers for our enjoyment.

That's my best guess anyway.

Nevertheless, I'm delighted to report that sleeping, creeping and leaping definitely have occurred in this perennial garden over the past three years!


East view:


I've broken up the "garden in progress" pictures into three views to make things easier to follow.

Below is the set looking east showing how the newly transplanted perennials and "Seiryu" cut-leaf Japanese maple are doing since 2014. (The two two columnar European Hornbeams (Carpinus betulus "Columnaris" ) were planted in 2015.)



the danforth new garden design after by garden muses--not another Toronto gardening blog
The Danforth new garden design after




Honorine Jobert Japanese anemone x hybrida by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Honorine Jobert" Japanese Anemone
(Anemone x hybrida) and friends



New Greektown Toronto perennial garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
New Greektown Toronto perennial garden 


If you're wondering out loud "holy cow, that's a lot of green!", you're absolutely right. The client wanted perennials and trees with green foliage and white flowers. That's it. Whether the monochromatic colour scheme is tranquil or boring is, of course, determined through the eyes of the beholder. I personally find it calming and quasi-formal without the need for boxwoods, yews and other evergreens clipped within an inch of their lives. The different foliage shapes give enough contrasting visual interest to prevent one from falling asleep in the garden (although there are worse experiences in life.)


North view:




the danforth garden design before by garden muses--not another Toronto gardening blog
The Danforth garden design before 



the danforth garden design after by garden muses--not another Toronto gardening blog
The Danforth garden design after 



New Danforth backyard by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
New Danforth backyard year two


Greektown Toronto garden design after by garden muses--not another Toronto gardening blog
Greektown Toronto garden design after 



North-east view:




the danforth Toronto garden design before  by garden muses--not another Toronto gardening blog
The Danforth Toronto garden design before  



the danforth Toronto garden design after  by garden muses--not another Toronto gardening blog
The Danforth Toronto garden design after  


Monochromatic green garden design Danforth backyard by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Monochromatic green garden design Danforth backyard 


Greektown Toronto new perennial garden by garden muses not another Toronto gardening blog
Greektown Toronto new perennial garden 


I find the "sleep, creep and leap" rhyme is useful to manage the expectations of impatient gardeners and, importantly for me, impatient clients. On the other hand, "sleep, creep and weep" is just as educational to the gardener. I'll readily admit I've planted trendy and "must-have" (i.e., expensive) perennials and shrubs as dictated by some marketing guy or gal only to experience the silly plant sulking and disappearing after a few years.

As I mentioned earlier, gardening is a bit of a crap shoot at times but we still dig, hope and smile if we're successful.

January 14, 2017

The "Promise" behind "Arnold Promise"

Why this witch hazel (or any other witch hazel) should be in your garden


I admit I'm a lazy gardener when it comes to looking after my own little downtown Toronto garden. I compare it to the "cobbler's children have no shoes" adage: after a long and hot day weeding in a client's garden, not surprisingly doing the same in my backyard isn't appealing. As my garden has evolved over the 20 years, certain plants have consistently proven themselves by handling my benign neglect with aplomb (that is, not dying.)  I'm sure you have your "winners" as well: it could be a peony transplanted from your parents' place or a houseplant that's travelled with you from your university days. They just keep plugging along with a bit of care.




Hamamelis x intermedia Arnold Promise witch hazel blooms by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Hamamelis x intermedia "Arnold Promise" witch hazel blooms 



Hamamelis x intermedia Arnold Promise witch hazel spring blooms by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Hamamelis x intermedia "Arnold Promise" witch hazel spring blooms


For me, such a plant includes a witch hazel ( Hamamelis x intermedia "Arnold Promise" to be botanically exact) planted in the backyard garden about two decades ago. These late-winter blooming witch hazels of the Hamamelis x intermedia nomenclature are hybrids between Japanese witch hazel (H. japonica) and Chinese witch hazel (H. mollis).  (Other cultivars to consider include "Jelena", "Diane", "Pallida" and "Primavera".)

Over the years, "AP"  has bloomed faithfully every late winter here in Toronto (in some years as early as January, others March), putting out dozens of these yellow spidery and faintly fragrant flowers. Would other owners of these very early spring flowering shrubs not consider it strange sniffing these bizarre-looking flowers, standing in the snow, during a winter thaw? Not at all!


Arnold Promise Hamamelis x intermedia witch hazel flower by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Arnold Promise" Hamamelis x intermedia witch hazel flower



Arnold Promise Hamamelis x intermedia witch hazel spring blooms by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Arnold Promise" Hamamelis x intermedia witch hazel spring blooms 



These thin strap-like petals are much tougher than they look. Because the blooms occur in late winter, a cold snap inevitably occurs (consistent frost-free days and nights won't occur until May here in zone 5 Toronto). These witch hazel flowers handle the sub-zero temperatures by "shrivelling" up with the petals retracting, only to open up again with warmer days without any apparent damage. I think this is cool for any shrub!




Arnold Promise witch hazel blooms by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Arnold Promise" witch hazel blooms



Arnold Promise witchhazel buds and blooms by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Arnold Promise" witch hazel buds and bloom



Arnold Promise witchhazel blooms by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Arnold Promise" witch hazel flowers 




Below is the "Arnold Promise" in our yard from last February. You may notice it's still holding on to its leaves from the previous season, which is a little unusual for most shrubs. Witch hazels are medium sized plants and can get to about 15' tall and 15' wide at maturity. I consider them to be slow to medium growers (annual growth rate) with an irregular branching structure or habit. I'd plant them in naturalized or informal settings like rain gardens or in part-shade gardens. Consider them a classic understory shrub planted with barrenwort, ferns, and other shady characters.



Arnold Promise witch hazel in my Toronto garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Arnold Promise" witch hazel in my Toronto garden



My witch hazel receives full sun until early afternoon, after which it is in the shadow cast by our neighbour's apartment. Since the plant is established, rootball-wise, regular watering isn't critical but young witch hazels prefer regular irrigation and loamy soil. I still need to water deeply during extended high heat periods which Toronto experienced last summer. Summer foliage consists of broad and clean green leaves with no mildew, rusts or holes, which is truly a blessing!

Witch hazels are hardy to zone 5 but I'd avoid planting them in exposed sites or xeriscapes. Think of an "understory" environment for a happier Hamamelis.

[Want to learn more about this shrub? Here's an excellent link from Missouri Botanical Garden: Hamamelis × intermedia 'Arnold Promise']

The fall foliage is also another wonderful attribute for this shrub that offers 3 plus season's worth of interest. These two pictures below are from a client's witch hazel. The leaves seem to be on fire!


Arnold Promise Hamamelis x intermedia fall foliage by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Arnold Promise" Hamamelis x intermedia fall foliage 



Arnold Promise witch hazel Hamamelis x intermedia fall foliage by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Arnold Promise" witch hazel Hamamelis x intermedia fall foliage 



I'd  describe scientifically my witch hazel's autumn colour as "intense tangerine" or "over ripe pumpkin orange." It combines sublimely with the golden and crimson fall foliage displays from the neighbouring Japanese maples and katsura trees.

I've lost many plants over the years due to verticillum wilt, scale, and viburnum leaf beetle just name a few reasons (painful to recall!) but this witch hazel is as horticulturally bullet-proof as they come. It hasn't been pestered by insects or diseases at all so I avoid all that spraying nonsense or seeing a prized (i.e., expensive) Japanese maple dying within weeks,

If you're looking for a shrub that's different from the run of the mill lilacs, hydrangeas, rhododendrons, etc. flooding your local garden centre's shelves this spring, I strongly suggest a witch hazel (if you can find one!). It's likely that you'll experience some sticker shock paying for a forlorn-looking stick in a container but planting a witch hazel is always a horticultural act of faith it seems. 

In the meantime. my "Arnold Promise" witch hazel currently slumbering in the backyard will offer more mini-explosions of fragrant ripped-crepe paper petals soon and keep its promise that a Toronto spring isn't too far off.


January 08, 2017

One of this (shrub), one of that....

A few perennials massed together can make all the difference


May and June are usually the months I create new gardens. Clients are anxious to change things and by then the garden centres have the plants available to make these changes a reality. It's early January (Happy New Year, by the way) so while May 2017 seems like an eternity away for us here in Toronto (it is, horticulturally), maybe this post can give you some ideas if you're thinking of revamping or tinkering with your existing gardens.

Rita and Bev, the homeowners, wanted something (or, to use their words, "anything!") done with the two garden beds which faced a) the backyard patio where they like to dine and have drinks and b) the front street. The new plants I put in and simple design executed last summer aren't earth-shattering or revolutionary--I just wanted to show you a common "before" scenarios I often see and  "low(er) maintenance" solutions which work here in hardiness zone 5 Toronto.


Looking at the backyard garden:




Dorset Park Scarborough back yard garden makeover before Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Dorset Park Scarborough back yard garden makeover before 

This side garden bed in the backyard has some pluses and minuses going for it. The soil is workable and the garden faces west and south so receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. We consider this a "full sun" exposure so there are lots of flowering plants to choose from which will happily bloom their heads off throughout the spring and summer.

On the downside, the neighbour's garage dominates the view. (At least the vinyl siding is new, clean and absent of any four letter words!) You're looking at the garden from the patio so you can imagine there's not too much visually to get excited about during your morning coffee or evening cocktails.



Dorset Park Scarborough back yard garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Dorset Park Scarborough back yard garden makeover before



Dorset Park Scarborough Toronto back yard garden makeover before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Dorset Park Scarborough back yard garden makeover before

If you think you see different shrubs, you're right! There's a potluck of a Rose of Sharon, Burning Bush, Spiraea and a Honeysuckle bushes. One saving grace is that these shrubs do screen the garage side a little but that's about it. Weeds normally take over by summer in this small 15' long bed.

Many new gardeners and homeowners make this design mistake: they plant either: a) a large number of one type (genus) of perennial or shrub (not usually trees due to space) or b) different varieties of the same genus.

When I was a newbie gardener, I bought and planted dozens of hostas (one of each of course.) My garden didn't have a plan, much less a concept, so you can imagine the hodgepodge of plants either all looking the same (boring to the eyes) or plants grouped together which didn't share the same preferred growing conditions (painful on the wallet).


Looking at the front garden:


Rita and Bev readily admitted there was no curb appeal for the front garden but the greatest advantage, for me, was the lack of "foundation" plants: ancient, huge, and overgrown junipers, yews, cedars, "Bridal Wreath" Spiraeas which usually block the entire front lower facade of the house. I see these "foundation plants" in many older neighbourhoods. You may have seen them too: often they're sheared onto meatballs, giant thimbles, ottomans or divans. 

Dealing with these monsters (especially their rootballs) may have involved chainsaws and a backhoe so I was relieved not to have dealt with this!

The site is in part sun as there's a huge oak tree providing shade (you can see its reflection on the front windows). The soil, again, is workable (i.e., not filled with construction debris) but the only plants in the bed were some Solomon Seal,  ornamental alliums, a Rose of Sharon seedling planted by Rita's mom and "Cousin It", a forlorn looking Alberta Spruce which was not happy in the shade. (He's right dead centre in the picture below.)



Scarborough Dorset Park front yard garden makeover before Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Scarborough Dorset Park front yard garden makeover before


A solution for the back garden:




Dorset Park Scarborough back yard garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Dorset Park Scarborough back yard garden makeover after

Yes, I know you're thinking/shouting/screaming "But I can still see the bloody garage wall!" and you'd be correct. We couldn't nail or screw in trellises to screen the view (not good for the vinyl and it's not the clients' property) so any screening had to be done on our side of the property line.

I had proposed planting three Serviceberry shrubs at the back of the bed but the garden centre did not have any in stock so the plan is buy them this spring.

So what did put in, plant-wise?

Rita and Bev wanted colour and lots of it so I chose perennials which bloomed sequentially from May-October ( I also suggested planting bulbs to provide colour from March to April.) These include very common workhorses (to mix metaphors) like:



which offer a lot while not expecting a lot (besides regular watering during the first few years as the roots get established.)

The extra alliums from the front garden were transplanted in the back. They'll thrive with the full sun and not languish in the shade.

A thin 2-3" layer of untreated (undyed) cedar mulch was applied to reduce watering and weeds from getting established.

However, you can see how the garage wall still dominates the view below:


Dorset Park Scarborough back yard garden makeover after Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Dorset Park Scarborough back yard garden makeover after 


The three mid-sized Serviceberry ( Amelanchier spp.) shrubs (native to Southern Ontario and wildlife magnets) proposed to be planted should break things up a little visually. I also suggested getting 3 or 4 black-coloured aluminum obelisks as an alternative and have a perennial flowering vine like a clematis growing up to provide some vertical interest. The horizontal plane is unfortunately still greatly exaggerated by the vinyl siding pattern. We need "vertical breaks" put in as soon as possible since it's almost impossible not to notice how flat and horizontal things are.


Dorset Park Scarborough Toronto back yard garden makeover after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Dorset Park Scarborough back yard garden makeover after


And a solution for the front garden:




Scarborough Dorset Park front yard garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Dorset Park Scarborough front yard garden makeover after 

For the front part-shade garden, I chose some of my favourite "shady suspects" like:



Alas, the Rose of Sharon sapling couldn't be removed as it was planted by Rita's mom and she visits occasionally!

I worked in several bags of composted manure and, again, applied a thin layer of mulch to help get these baby perennials established.

I anticipate, in a few years, the front garden should "put on a nice show" or, at least, looking a heck of a lot better than before.



Scarborough Dorset Park front yard garden makeover after Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Dorset Park Scarborough front yard garden makeover after



Dorset Park Scarborough front yard garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Dorset Park Scarborough front yard garden makeover after 

The gap along the house front wall (above, right) will be filled with "Superba" Chinese Astilbe. (It was not in stock at the time these plants were bought.) I love this particular astilbe for its very tall pink flowers (plumes). The anticipated height of the anemones and astilbes should soften the severity of the front brickwork and establish some layering effect with the foliage.

The existing Solomon Seal clumps which bookend the front garden fit in well. The poor Alberta Spruce (see the before picture above) didn't belong so I "shovel-pruned" it.


Dorset Park Scarborough front yard garden makeover after Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Dorset Park Scarborough front yard garden makeover after 


Often, when you're creating a new garden, it's not a case of  "less is more" but "more of less"-- a greater quantity of fewer types of plants. Planting based on the "one of this, one of that" principle yields an overall look and feel that's disjointed or disconcerting. So unless you're a rabid plant collector or creating your own arborteum or botanical garden (kudos, I'm jealous!), try planting a greater number of fewer varieties.

Or, as my old landscape design instructor chided us eons ago, "use the principles of unity, massing and repetition!"

December 17, 2016

Fine gardening? Well, not really...

Bracondale Hill, Toronto back yard and driveway cleanup 


As you, dear reader, may know, I work tirelessly (!) as a gardener during Toronto's non-winter season of about 7 months (which partly explains the low number of blog posts over said 7 months). I'm a "corporate refugee" who escaped the cubicle farms over twelve years ago, went back to school, graduated for a third time and decided to hang out my own shingle. Sounds glamorous and inspirational, right? I gave myself the smug title of "professional gardener" (whatever that means) with visions of working in beautiful and artistic settings, spending time in idyllic landscapes, modern Arcadias, deadheading here, smelling sweet scents there.

That idealism lasted about a week or so.

But this blast of reality was a good thing, Clients are paying me to do things they'd rather not do themselves. (Weeding is high on that list, from my experience. Ironically, many landscape maintenance companies also avoid weeding.) Their reasons aren't important--they're just looking for value for their hard earned dollars.

This thought crossed my mind when I found these "before and after" pictures of a cleanup I did several months ago. I forgot about this small project of weeding a gravel driveway and backyard patio. It wasn't because it was particularly nasty, painful or demanding to do (took a few hours); instead, maybe the absence of nice perennials, shrubs and trees (in other words, non-weeds) made this more of "property maintenance" job and less about "landscape gardening."



Toronto gardening services Hillcrest backyard cleanup before Paul Jung
Toronto gardening services 
Hillcrest backyard cleanup before 


Toronto gardening services Hillcrest backyard cleanup after Paul Jung
Toronto gardening services 
Hillcrest backyard cleanup after

Did I go back to school to become a "horticultural custodian"? (The term "plant janitor" I've come across is a little too condescending for me). Is this truly gardening when, ummm, there's no garden? Am I wasting my horticultural knowledge and skills? Do I dare eat a peach?


I mulled over these existential questions for a minute, remembered the daily fear and loathing I felt entering the toxic office environment from a lifetime ago and then noticed that I really did a great job for these clients!


Toronto gardening services Hillcrest backyard cleanup before by Paul Jung
Toronto gardening services 
Hillcrest backyard cleanup before 


Toronto gardening services Hillcrest backyard cleanup after by Paul Jung
Toronto gardening services 
Hillcrest backyard cleanup after


Toronto gardening services Hillcrest backyard cleanup before Paul Jung
Toronto gardening services 
Hillcrest backyard cleanup before 


Toronto gardening services Hillcrest back yard cleanup after by Paul Jung
Toronto gardening services 
Hillcrest back yard cleanup after 


And now we go to the backyard patio:


Toronto gardening services Bracondale Hill back yard cleanup before by Paul Jung
Toronto gardening services 
Bracondale Hill back yard cleanup before 


Toronto gardening services Bracondale Hill back yard cleanup after by Paul Jung
Toronto gardening services 
Bracondale Hill back yard cleanup after 


Toronto gardening services Bracondale Hill back yard cleanup before Paul Jung
Toronto gardening services 
Bracondale Hill back yard cleanup before 


Toronto gardening services Bracondale Hill back yard cleanup after Paul Jung
Toronto gardening services 
Bracondale Hill back yard cleanup after



Toronto gardening services Bracondale Hill backyard cleanup before by Paul Jung
Toronto gardening services 
Bracondale Hill backyard cleanup before 



Toronto gardening services Bracondale Hill backyard cleanup after by Paul Jung
Toronto gardening services 
Bracondale Hill backyard cleanup after 


While these pictures won't grace the covers of "better" garden magazines (who publishes magazines anymore?), I'm proud of my effort and attention to detail. And, just as important, I was paid immediately by a happy customer upon completion.



December 09, 2016

A Walk in the Woods: Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia

Weeds, wildflowers, and wind on the Skyline Trail


Mea culpa! 

It's been far too long between posts. I've been busy in November with fall cleanups but the work season is finally over with another Toronto winter settling in; therefore, there's no real excuse for not posting here more often over the next few months until business starts up again next April.

Writing about my family's trip to Atlantic Canada this past August is long overdue. (You may be wondering what this has to do with gardening in Toronto but bear with me, the connection will be evident, tenuous as it is.)

We flew into Halifax, Nova Scotia, rented a mini-van and visited New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island as well (no time for Newfoundland unfortunately). It was the first time the kids have been out to this part of eastern Canada and I think they had a good time. Well, Linda and I enjoyed the stunning natural scenery and great food and our teenagers appreciated a strong Wi-Fi signal anywhere.

Linda and I have been "out east" over 20 years ago (!) for our honeymoon so many memories came flooding back. We found Cape Breton Island especially beautiful again and during our second time visiting, we spent an afternoon hiking the Skyline Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

The Park is located in the northern part of Cape Breton Island with an elevation of around 1000 feet or 300 m. The hiking trail is considered "easy" to walk on as the terrain is quite flat and much of the path is covered with boards like this to make things, well, easy and to protect many of the delicate native plants.

Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park Nova Scotia boarded path by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 
Nova Scotia boarded path


But let's back up a little, literally. Getting to the Trail's entrance meant, after parking, walking a good 10 minutes along a gravel service road. I took these pictures of plants I've never seen before, thinking they were native wildflowers to Nova Scotia. Some were but others were just pretty weeds common to Nova Scotia and Ontario as well, weeds you'd pass by the sides of roads without looking at them once.


Perhaps you'll recognize some of them:


Canada hawkweed Hieracium canadense at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Canada hawkweed (Hieracium canadense
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park



Canadian burnet Sanguisorba canadensis at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Canadian burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park



Spiraea alba var. latifolia White meadowsweet at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Spiraea alba var. latifolia (White meadowsweet)
 at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 



Spotted knapweed Centaurea biebersteinii at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Spotted knapweed (Centaurea biebersteinii
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 



Tansy ragwort Jacobaea vulgaris at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Tansy ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park




White meadowsweet Spiraea alba var. latifolia at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
White meadowsweet (Spiraea alba var. latifolia)
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park



White wood aster Eurybia divaricata at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
White wood aster (Eurybia divaricata)
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 




Whorled wood aster Oclemena acuminata at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Whorled wood aster (Oclemena acuminata
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 



Wild roses at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Wild roses 
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 


Walking the Trail proper meant, of course, experiencing different plant communities (i.e., fewer invasive weeds) allowed to prosper with minimal human intervention since we're in a national park after all. During the hike, I went through different environments or "micro-climates" we gardeners occasionally read about. Having some knowledge of botany, soil sciences, and ecology (I have just a little of each) made the hike educational but sometimes, a walk in the woods should be simply about enjoying the moment.



Birch forest and ferns at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Birch forest and ferns 
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park


Fern filled forest floor at the Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Fern filled forest floor 
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 


Birch forest at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Birch forest 
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 

Blue Bead Lily Clintonia borealis at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Blue Bead Lily (Clintonia borealis)
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Bunchberry Cornus canadensis at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Eurybia divaricata White wood aster at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Eurybia divaricata (White wood aster) 
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 


Pearly Everlasting Anaphalis margaritacea at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 



Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park fern filled forest floor by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 
fern filled forest floor 




Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park ferns by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park 
ferns 

Occasionally, I would emerge from sheltered forest floors into windswept bracken-filled meadows. You can likely make out the direction of the prevailing wind and how short the trees are. Many were stunted and clipped from the short growing season and moose predation.


Windswept field at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Windswept field 
at the Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park



"Where are the humans?" you might be wondering. Oh, there were more than a few on the Trail, given summer is tourist season but not too many to prevent me from taking pictures of an empty part of the path like below.

Such a sight really draws you forward. What's around that bend? 



Skyline Trail boarded path Cape Breton Highlands National Park Nova Scotia by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog



After hiking for perhaps an hour and a half, I became a little unsettled. Linda and the kids were way ahead of me and maybe due to an empty stomach, I was disoriented, thinking I was lost. Now, looking back, this made no sense but the path does split and I was convinced I was on the wrong part of the trail! Tired, hungry and not wanting to spend the night alone with the bears and moose, I headed back to the Trail's entrance and waited for my rescuers.

Eventually, we re-united but not after being chastised for "not keeping up and taking silly pictures" and plenty of eye-rolling from the kids.

But I did manage to make it to a Lookout (platform to safely take pictures) and have this vista with the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the background to share:


Magical....

Windswept Lookout at Skyline Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Windswept Lookout 
at Skyline Trail 
Cape Breton Highlands National Park