July 13, 2016

A front garden makeover in York Mills/St. Andrews: Natives? Non-natives? Does it really matter?

Re-thinking a Toronto shade garden



Sometimes a new garden project develops out of the blue. Here's what was growing recently in this Toronto front garden: areas covered by Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) in medium shade.


Lamiastrum galeobdolon Yellow Archangel York Mills front garden renovation Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Lamiastrum galeobdolon (Yellow Archangel) 
York Mills front garden renovation



For anyone familiar with this groundcover, you'll know that it "likes to move quickly" which is a euphemism for being mildly invasive. And I find the leaves stink as well. But if you want quick coverage, Yellow archdevil archangel could work, maybe too successfully.


When I first visited this location in the St. Andrews/York Mills area of Toronto about two months ago, the client was asking for bids to remove large patches of groundcover and replacing that with new sod.

Another landscaper/gardener came by before and offered to rototill the Lamiastrum and put in new Kentucky bluegrass sod.

Now, let that sink in for a minute.

I'll wait.



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Okay, I'm back. The goal was to sod over a lot of the area currently which is, to be nice, over-run by the lamiastrum. Obviously (maybe not to some "professionals") the existing groundcover should be removed. Or was the strategy simply laying down rolls of sod on top of chopped up stems of lamiastrum (wonderfully propagated when you think about it)?


When did rototilling become the new method of weeding? This is not the first time I've come across this reasoning, unfortunately.


Does this make sense to you? It didn't to me and I pointed out to the client the eventual failure of trying to grow sod in soil that was full of weeds (in this case, nicely-sliced up lamiastrum stems) and in, at best, dappled shade.


Instead, perhaps the lamiastrum could be confined to certain areas that were very shaded and dry (in which case, it's actually doing its job as an effective groundcover in "tough-to-grow anything" spots) and removed from a prominent area more visible by the neighbours. Space for an expanded shade garden, then, could be created for the introduction of shade-tolerant perennials and shrubs.


At this point, I was more concerned with not having a rototiller ripping tree roots and destroying the soil structure than "winning" new business. I guess "working with the site" doesn't carry much meaning when you have plenty of gas-powered machines rearing to go and loads of rolls of sod on the truck.


Literally, "landscraping" comes to mind.


I guess my thoughts made sense with the homeowner so she hired me to create a new garden from this:


York Mills St. Andrews front garden renovation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
York Mills St. Andrews 
front garden renovation before




York Mills St. Andrews front garden renovation before Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
York Mills St. Andrews 
front garden renovation before 

to eventually this:



Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto York Mills St. Andrews front garden renovation after
Toronto York Mills St. Andrews 
front garden renovation after


Here's the same bed from another angle. I did leave a strip of the Lamiastrum on the left side because I felt it was on the neighbour's property. I would be ideal if all of it was removed but that's between the two homeowners.


After removing the groundcover and many turf seedlings (small clumps of grass), I mixed in many bags of composted cow manure to increase the organic matter in the soil. Sad to say that no worms were found anywhere.



York Mills St. Andrews Toronto front garden renovation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
York Mills St. Andrews Toronto 
front garden renovation before 


The question of what type of new plants should be put in, I find, is usually not tricky. Most clients don't know or care and just want me to "make it pretty/tidy/like someone gave a damn." This client, however, had a different vision and preferred mostly native species but open to the idea of "non-natives." That was fortunate because the supply of plants for sale in July is dwindling at the garden centres. Many times, my plant choices are sold out so substitutes are picked instead.


It's a version of the mantra "you get what you get and you don't get upset" I repeated to my children when they were young (I still do repeat it naively) and to more than a few clients (nicer wording though) when we try to buy plants in the dead of summer.
 



York Mills St. Andrews Toronto front garden renovation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
York Mills St. Andrews Toronto 
front garden renovation after 


St. Andrews York Mills front garden renovation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
St. Andrews York Mills 
front garden renovation before



St. Andrews York Mills front garden renovation before Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
St. Andrews York Mills 
front garden renovation before



St. Andrews York Mills front garden renovation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
St. Andrews York Mills 
front garden renovation after 


St. Andrews York Mills Toronto front garden renovation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
St. Andrews York Mills Toronto 
front garden renovation before



York Mills St. Andrews Toronto front garden renovation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
York Mills St. Andrews Toronto 
front garden renovation after 


Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto York Mills St. Andrews front garden renovation after
Toronto York Mills St. Andrews 
front garden renovation after



Are you wondering what perennials and shrubs were planted in this Toronto shade garden? Here are some plants on the eclectic list: