October 14, 2014

A new garden in the Danforth/Greektown area of Toronto: a case study

Formally informal or informally formal...you decide


As you, gentle reader, may know, I occasionally design gardens and when I do, I remember and implement the design principles I learned as a student of landscape design, oh, about ten years ago. We (the students) were taught the process of:

  • creating a preliminary scaled site drawing
  • site review of existing conditions and deficiencies
  • speaking with the client to determine needs, wants and budget
  • drawing a functional diagram with "bubbles"based on specific uses and activities
  • considering certain geometric styles (square, rectilinear, circular or free-form)
  • considering certain garden styles (informal, formal, Western, Eastern)
  • creating several preliminary designs, one of which will be selected
  • creating a planting plan
  • creating a final master plan


Oh, and a last point not usually included in textbooks: getting paid in full.

Of course, to roughly paraphrase German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke, no landscape plan survives contact with the client. (His quote was "no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.") Assumptions surface and promptly blown out of the water. Material and plant lists change depending on budgets or lack of them. And on and on...

But creating the final plan wasn't painful with these clients at all. They're really sweet people!

Since I'm not a landscape architect, landscape gardener, landscape designer, or their variations, I haven't gone through this formal checklist since my final landscape design assignment. But they are ingrained and I recalled them more or less automatically when I was asked to create a planting plan for this garden:


the danforth Toronto garden design before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
the danforth Toronto garden design before by Paul Jung Gardening Services



Greektown Toronto garden design before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Greektown Toronto garden design before by Paul Jung Gardening Services

the danforth garden design before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
the danforth garden design before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto

the danforth new garden design before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
the danforth new garden design before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto

Greektown garden design before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Greektown garden design before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto


Here's my thought process:


A) Site analysis:

The area:


  • is a 16' x 14' rectangle with the side bed measuring about 2 ' by 25'
  • has compacted clay, mainly due to construction equipment
  • receives full sun until mid-afternoon so about 6 hours of direct sunlight
  • is in front of the new garage, wall colour is a dark grey or charcoal if you want to get fancy
  • bounded by, as you can see, grey concrete pavers making up the patio and path to garage


B) The clients want:

  • perennials with a specimen tree or standard
  • a green and white motif (green leaves, white flowers only)
  • lower garden maintenance, and agree to water with a hose regularly
  • an informal garden design (after rejecting my first formal style plan)


C): Functional bubble diagrams not required

 This area was the last piece of the puzzle when the backyard was rebuilt. I imagine the owners viewing the garden mainly from the patio table when entertaining or from the kitchen door. Creating a bio-diverse garden environment isn't important to them.


D) Plant selection:

Based on the green leaf and white flower request, I suggested:



There's a flowering sequence from late spring (the astilbes) until fall (the Japanese anemones). The specimen Japanese maple has green foliage until turning a lovely crimson/orange in the fall.

There's a contrast in foliage texture as well between the finely dissected foliage of the "Seiryu", the hostas' bold lime green and rough, almost hairy, astilbe leaves. 

The maiden grass would accentuate the length of the path, spills over nicely and softens the paver edge and requires very little care.


E) Garden style:

  • clients prefer the plants sited informally, no rows or quadrants
  • I sited them ad hoc, based on intuition and feel.

F): Soil amended:

25 bags of triple mix dug into the compacted clay. A 2-3" inch of black mulch (clients' preference) applied on top after planting.


Here are the immediate results:


the danforth Toronto garden design after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
the danforth Toronto garden design after by Paul Jung Gardening Services

Greektown Toronto garden design after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Greektown Toronto garden design after by Paul Jung Gardening Services

the danforth garden design after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
the danforth garden design after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto

the danforth new garden design after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
the danforth new garden design after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto

Greektown garden design after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Greektown garden design after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto


The monochromatic colour scheme lends to a formal style but the plant placement (in small groups co-mingling with one another) feels more informal.


I returned recently to clean up the gardens a little (weeded and trimmed away the wilting hosta leaves) and had a perfect opportunity to see the Japanese anemones on full display. The clear white blooms contrast so well against the dark grey garage wall. The "Seiryu" Japanese maple is just starting to change colour but won't peak until November. Lastly, the maiden grass is just forming its seedheads. They will not be cut back until net spring, providing winter interest until, yikes, March.


the danforth Toronto garden design after autumn by Paul Jung Gardening Services
the danforth Toronto garden design after autumn by Paul Jung Gardening Services

Greektown Toronto garden design after autumn by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Greektown Toronto garden design after autumn by Paul Jung Gardening Services

the danforth new garden design after autumn by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
the danforth new garden design after autumn by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto

Greektown garden design after autumn by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Greektown garden design after autumn by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto





It will be interesting to see how this garden evolves over the years. I imagine the plantings will get bigger and lusher to balance the hard edges and surfaces of the pavers. And just maybe the clients will invite me over for dinner outside one evening so that I can truly admire the design!


Update as of September 2015:

Yes, the plants have really filled in nicely! It's late September and the "David" summer phlox is still blooming while the "Honorine Jobert" anemones are the real stars now. The clients planted two columnar hornbeams as well in keeping with the green and white monochromatic colour scheme.



Garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog Honorine Jobert Japanese anemone x hybrida
 "Honorine Jobert" Japanese anemone x hybrida
and "David" Summer Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
fall blooms in Toronto



Honorine Jobert Japanese anemone x hybrida by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Honorine Jobert" Japanese anemone x hybrida as part of monochromatic colour scheme
Monochromatic green garden design Danforth backyard by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Monochromatic green garden design
in this Danforth backyard




 Paul Jung Gardening Services Danforth backyard by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
 Paul Jung Gardening Services
Danforth new backyard update



Danforth backyard Paul Jung Gardening Services by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Danforth new backyard installed by
 Paul Jung Gardening Services: an update