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|
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|
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|
|Summerhill front garden renovation after|
|Summerhill front garden makeover after|
|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")
- "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?