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!"