September 22, 2017

A Riverdale Toronto Fall Cleanup

"The backyard has to be tidied up before we can sell this house!"

There was a sense of urgency in Jason's (the homeowner) e-mail when he asked if I could weed his backyard garden in Toronto's Riverdale neighbourhood before listing it for sale. Lucky for him, I did have spot available so I spent a few hours weeding and edging the small garden beds for him.

There was nothing elaborate about the weeding and edging. While Jason could add more mulch to create a more polished look, at least I took care of the weeds for him. I can sense the relief he felt after the job was done. While the real estate market in Toronto has softened since April, my work likely added to the final selling price. I mean, no potential buyer wants to see a yard full of weeds!




Riverdale backyard fall clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Riverdale backyard fall clean up before 



Riverdale backyard Toronto fall clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Riverdale backyard Toronto fall clean up before



Riverdale backyard fall cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Riverdale backyard fall cleanup before



Riverdale backyard Toronto fall cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Riverdale backyard Toronto fall cleanup before 



Riverdale backyard fall clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Riverdale backyard fall clean up after 




Riverdale backyard Toronto fall clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Riverdale backyard Toronto fall clean up after




Riverdale backyard fall cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Riverdale backyard fall cleanup after 




Riverdale backyard Toronto fall cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Riverdale backyard Toronto fall cleanup after 



September 16, 2017

Establishing Proportion in a Toronto Shade Garden

Or: "Yes, these junipers will get big!"


A common error many new gardeners make when planting new perennials, shrubs and trees is not to consider their mature size looking out five, ten, or more years into the future. While moving most perennials isn't too onerous a task (exceptions would include large ornamental grasses and plants with deep taproots), it can be a real pain dealing with shrubs and trees which were planted, frankly, in the wrong spot.

Which brings us to this post....



Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover before  Paul Jung Gardening Services
Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover before  

My client Shirin renovated her backyard about five years ago and one of the garden beds is shown above. It's approximately 4 feet wide by 15 feet long and gets partial shade from being under a big Norway Spruce in the neighbour's yard behind.


Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover before 

The original plantings included three Blue Pfitzer Junipers (Juniperus x pfitzeriana 'Pfitzeriana Glauca'), one Dappled Willow (Salix integra 'Hakuro-nishiki'), and two "Wine and Roses" Weigelas. 

All in the same 60 square feet garden bed. 

I can only speculate on the decision making process of the contractor who originally bought and planted these shrubs: "Yep, I'll pick up these plants at the same place I'm getting my lumber, shoehorn them in and let the homeowner deal with them when the shrubs get wider and taller. I'll be long gone by then."




Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover


Of course, the unsuspecting garden owner doesn't know any better.


After about five years later, I get the call (I originally met Shirin last year). The junipers by then almost filled the bed's space with the willow and weigelas fighting desperately to get any space. And the prickly evergreens were only going to get wider every year. Pruning them into contorted shapes wasn't the solution given their natural (more or less) horizontal growth habit.

So out they went.


Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover

I removed the junipers and willow in 2016 in preparation for new plantings in this bed. We decided to keep the two weigelas, a Rose of Sharon and the "Jack Frost" brunnera. My idea was to create a shade garden with perennials that offered some flower and foliage interest during the spring to fall period and were proportional (sympathetic?) with the bed's dimensions. The client doesn't look at this section during the winter so having broadleaf evergreens and other plants that give "winter interest" here is unimportant.



Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover after


While I'm not in love with the weigelas here in the partial shade, they do flower reliably in the summer and only need some pruning occasionally. I removed two large, leggy and woody lavenders to free up the space for shade tolerant perennials like astilbe, sweet woodruff, "Ice Dance" Carex, and turtlehead. I also divided the two existing large clumps of brunnera as I adore this plant in shady spots. The picture above is seen from the back deck looking down a few feet.


Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover after 



Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover after 

Please excuse the lovely blue recycling bin to the left above. It's not a garden ornament!



Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover after 

I'll need to prune the Rose of Sharon (upper left corner) to control its size and shape. While it is a very common shrub here in zone 5 Toronto, it does flower like clockwork every late summer and early fall. I advised Shirin that the astilbes need regular watering to prevent their leaves from going "crispy"; otherwise, they don't need a lot of fussing with. The same could be said for the other perennials too.
Luckily, my client here understands that the concept of a "low maintenance" garden isn't the same as a "no maintenance" one and is fine with dragging the hose out once in a while.

This idea can be a challenge to get across to some homeowners at times!

September 07, 2017

A Fall Garden Cleanup in Leslieville

To Market, To Market...



It's September, the kids are back in school and there's a definite chill in the air these mornings. I love working in the fall as temperatures and humidity levels are lower and I'm not slumped somewhere in the shade trying to stay hydrated. It's hard to believe that only a month ago I was melting outside plucking weeds in the high humidity.

I'm still plucking weeds, though, and getting ready for the "fall cleanups" which keep me very busy later in October and November.

This post covers a "fall cleanup" in the sense that I was asked to weed this front yard after Labour Day. The owners of this house in Toronto's family-friendly Leslieville neighbourhood are putting the house up for sale and wisely decided to invest some money to get the front ready for market by increasing its curb appeal. Yes, believe it or not, having the front garden showing off nice and vigorous specimens of dog strangling vine (Cynanchum rossicum syn. Vincetoxicum rossicum) and Siberian Elm saplings (sarcasm) may cause some potential buyers to question how messy and unkempt the house is inside.



Leslieville Toronto fall cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
The baby mattress was present when I first arrived!





Leslieville fall cleanup before Toronto Gardening Services
More than few Siberian elm saplings 
trying to take over the front yard





Leslieville Toronto fall clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
The view from the sidewalk up to the front door





Leslieville Toronto fall clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
And from the front door to the sidewalk




Leslieville fall cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Two Colorado Blue Spruces planted way too 
close to each other but that's another story



And after the weeding was done...




Leslieville Toronto fall cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leslieville Toronto fall cleanup after 




Leslieville fall cleanup after Toronto Gardening Services
A few bags of cedar mulch should finish the job




Leslieville fall clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville fall clean up after 




Leslieville Toronto fall clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leslieville Toronto fall clean up after 




Leslieville fall cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville fall cleanup after



August 30, 2017

There Goes the Neighbourhood...

When Growing Goldenrod Upsets Your Neighbours



Having a garden should be an enjoyable process: you grow the plants you like and keep things a little tidy (or not) but people being people..

I work as a gardener in different parts of Toronto and notice that certain neighbourhoods have a distinctive landscaping style (as far as front yards are concerned.)  There seem to be unwritten rules about what plants should be displayed and how they grown and maintained (and maybe where you live, there are written by-laws defining what is a weed or not.)  Often, I see the same "landscape contractor" template being used: a mixture of broad-leaved evergreens (especially boxwoods, yews and "Emerald" white cedars), the ubiquitous "Bloodgood" Japanese maple for a specimen tree, and deciduous shrubs like "Annabelle" hydrangeas and burning bush.  And lo and behold, these plants and others can be easily found in the same big box stores from which you pick up your lumber, tiles, screws, etc.

So imagine if you don't like these common-as-nails plants or, shudder, you prefer something that has a "bad" and unwarranted reputation like native Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)?  


Deer Park summer garden cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Deer Park summer garden cleanup before 


I met a new client, Daniel, last week who asked me to weed his front garden and driveway (the latter has interlocking pavers) located in the Toronto neighbourhood called "Deer Park". To give you some context, Deer Park is one of the more tonier sections of our city and walking to Daniel's place from the nearby bus stop (I travel by public transit), the classic "template" was in full force: row upon row of boxwoods and yews with, surprise, surprise, masses of hydrangeas on display.

And then I came upon Daniel's front garden as shown above and below.


Toronto Deer Park summer garden clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Deer Park summer garden clean up before 

Yes, the beds were full of weeds like Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara but the biggest grievance Daniel had was with his neighbours complaining about his two clumps of goldenrod. A big horticultural myth is that goldenrod flowers cause allergies. It's guilt by association since goldenrod blooms around the same time ragweed does (the latter's wind-borned pollen causes hay fever while goldenrod's bee-borne pollen doesn't). I advised my client that wasn't true and more likely his neighbours didn't appreciate the "wild" look nestled among the other highly manicured front gardens.


Toronto Deer Park summer garden cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Deer Park summer garden cleanup before 

You may be familiar with the term "NIMBY" which is an acronym for the phrase "Not In My Back Yard"  and describes the opposition some residents feel towards a new building or residence proposed to be built nearby. Toronto must be Canada's NIMBY capital and a recent proposed development even has one of Canada's most well known authors leading the charge.

What's going on with Daniel's front goldenrods is somewhat like the obverse of NIMBY which I call "NIYFY" or "Not In Your Front Yard" (if you are really upset with a neighbour's choice of plants and garden ornaments, you can add my favourite expletive and call it "NIYFFY"!) NIYFY, similar to NIMBY, describes a neighbour's opposition to a recent development in your front yard. I can imagine the letter discreetly placed in Daniel's mailbox containing a passionate plea to "remove that freaking cow pasture of a front garden which has caused property values along the street to plummet, etc., ad nauseum."

Daniel wisely ignored such (perhaps imagined, perhaps not) ravings about the blaming of Solidago canadensis being the source of some neighbour's kid's hay fever but realized that his case would be strengthened if the front was tidied up. So he found me via good old Google search....

Deer Park summer garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Deer Park summer garden cleanup after



Toronto Deer Park summer garden clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Deer Park summer garden clean up after 



Toronto Deer Park summer garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Deer Park summer garden cleanup after 


Besides weeding the two beds and driveway, I pruned back the red-twig dogwood and "Bridal Wreath" spiraea shrubs. I'm sure some of Daniel's neighbours will still moan about the goldenrods  but these native weeds are very beautiful to pollinators and humans during late summer and early autumn in our fair city and, maybe your's too.

August 23, 2017

A (Very) Late Summer Toronto Garden Cleanup

Re-discovering Eden (or at least, the barbeque)




August is drawing to an end with the start of school just around the corner. Where did the summer go? How is your garden looking now? Did both the summer and garden get away from you?

Speaking of a "runaway" garden, this post covers the same backyard which I've weeded about a year ago ( under the title "Playter Estates Toronto late summer backyard cleanup: Backyard weeding in the North Broadview and Danforth area )  and returned to clean up again a few days ago. I'm certain it hasn't been tended to over the roughly 365 days between visits so I find it interesting to see what weeds have emerged and out-competed others.


And let me tell you, we have some big ones!





Playter Estates Toronto late summer garden cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Playter Estates Toronto late summer garden cleanup before 

Looking out from the back steps, you'd never know that lies behind and buried under all this vegetation.... 



Toronto Playter Estates late summer garden clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Playter Estates late summer garden clean up before 

No machete was required to hack through this! I promise you'll get a laugh once I show you below what's behind these weeds.



Toronto Playter Estates late summer garden cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Playter Estates late summer garden cleanup before 




Playter Estates Toronto late summer garden clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
There's a nice pond hidden away!




Playter Estates late summer garden clean up before by Toronto Paul Jung Gardening Services
Playter Estates late summer garden clean up before



And here's what the garden looks like after the extensive weeding...




Toronto Playter Estates late summer garden clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Playter Estates late summer garden clean up after 

This smoker or barbeque is located in the same area where I took the first "before" picture above!



Playter Estates Toronto late summer garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Playter Estates Toronto late summer garden cleanup after 


Here's proof above that hostas are so tough that they'll survive even covered by weeds and trumpet vine tendrils.





Toronto Playter Estates late summer garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Playter Estates late summer garden cleanup after 


Playter Estates Toronto late summer garden clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Playter Estates Toronto late summer garden clean up after 



Playter Estates late summer garden clean up after by Toronto Paul Jung Gardening Services
Playter Estates late summer garden clean up after 


So until next August, I bid this garden adieu and good luck!


August 19, 2017

Preparing for a New Pollinator-Friendly Garden in the Pocket Neighbourhood

Moving Beyond Peonies and Irises


Suddenly, it seems like every Toronto gardener is now interested with pollinators in the flower beds. I find this near fixation with Monarch butterfly larvae strange, though, because when did planting with wildlife not in mind ever occur? How about creating habitats which attract and sustain many types of insects, birds, and other animals (vertebrates and non-vertebrates)? Why focus just on just pollinators?



The Pocket front garden clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
The Pocket front garden clean up before


Before you make nasty comments, I think it's a great step in the right direction if we plant more "pollinator-friendly" perennials and shrubs. This gets us away from the dreaded "garden room" verbiage. Few of us tolerate insects and mammals running free range within our house and this logic is often carried forward to lovely "garden rooms" with teak furniture and over the top grills. Plants are even an after-thought in these because designers begrudgingly consider tightly clipped boxwoods and pleached hornbeams as token hortticultural gestures in the modern minimalist garden (you can't have a garden without living plants or can you?)



The Pocket Toronto front garden cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
The Pocket Toronto front garden cleanup before

So instead of talking about garden rooms, let's just talk about gardens which have visual interest for the owner and nutritional interest for resident and transient animals.

My client, Lorena, lives in a Toronto neighbourhood called "The Pocket" and is very interested in creating a space more ecological than ornamental. I favour the ornamental in the garden: big blowsy blooms, the gaudier, the better. I think this interest in plants is waning, though, if the titles of new garden books are indicators. And, dear reader, you must know my disinterest about growing, much less reading about, zucchinis or cherry tomatoes.




The Pocket Toronto front garden clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
The Pocket Toronto front garden clean up before 

But it's not my garden of course! Creating an attractive and productive area for insects and people isn't antithetical with good design but before I could even get to the planning stage, Lorena hired me to weed the front garden. We had a good laugh when she mentioned that she received more than a few disapproving sidelong glances from her neighbours walking by and seeing her enjoy a drink on her porch with the garden in need of some T.L.C.


Toronto The Pocket front garden cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto The Pocket front garden cleanup before 

What were wrong with the existing perennials in her garden? When I suggested to remove the mature clumps of bearded irises and herbaceous peonies since they didn't "relate" with the proposed new groups of Joe Pye Weed, butterfly weed, Liatris, and others, Lorena had no objections. Were they out of fashion, types of plants your grandmother liked along with hollyhocks and "Bridal Wreath" spiraea? Are irises and peonies not desired by butterflies, bees and flies?


Toronto The Pocket front garden cleanup before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto The Pocket front garden cleanup before 

I don't have the answer as I'm not an entomologist  but I do know know that a garden should have interest for than two weeks of the year (the time peony and iris blooms are in their glory.) 

But, as I mentioned, I had to deal with the weeds first!


Toronto front garden cleanup in The Pocket before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto front garden cleanup in The Pocket before 




Toronto The Pocket front garden clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto The Pocket front garden clean up before 



The Pocket front garden clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
The Pocket front garden clean up after

We had some Echinacea and milkweed already. A prelude to the future garden but those two pieces of flagstone have got to be moved!




The Pocket Toronto front garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
The Pocket Toronto front garden cleanup after 

I can easily imagine this frame used as a potager garden with many herbs and vegetables. The irises (to be removed and given away next spring) are just "above" the framed bed.




The Pocket Toronto front garden clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
The Pocket Toronto front garden clean up after




Toronto The Pocket front garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto The Pocket front garden cleanup after 



Toronto The Pocket front garden cleanup after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto The Pocket front garden cleanup after

I don't love or hate the blooming P.G. hydrangea. It's not going anywhere. We're also keeping the milkweed and lavender which softens the retaining wall. This is the main area in which the proposed new perennials and shrubs will be located. It's facing the street and gets full sun.


Toronto front garden cleanup in The Pocket after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto front garden cleanup in The Pocket after

About half of these flagstones will be removed, near the weeping cherry, to free up more space for new perennials. 

We'll see this garden again, hopefully, next spring sans peonies and irises!