June 29, 2017

Leslieville front garden weeding and summer cleanup

The "Satomi" Chinese Dogwood is Beautiful, the Rest of Garden, Not So Much


There are some gardens that I visit yearly and they always fill me with intrigue and, frankly, more than a little anxiety. Now a little mystery or intrigue in the garden is usually a good thing ( hmmm, I see the bodies of garden gnomes scattered throughout, implying a situation gone sideways.)

But anxiety? Angst? Dread?

Not the emotions that come to mind when experiencing landscapes but....



Leslieville front garden cleanup weeding before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville front garden 
cleanup weeding before 


To provide some background, the owner of this Leslieville garden is a friend so her name won't be revealed to prevent further discomfort. She will be the first to admit that looking after plants is not "her thing" and after inheriting the garden when she bought the house several years ago, her idea of garden maintenance is to call me every summer.

And when I get that call or e-mail, I always wonder "how bad are the weeds?"

So by late June, as you can tell from the "before" pictures above and below, yep, they're bad.




Leslieville front garden weeding cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville front garden weeding 
cleanup before 

Well, not all is bad. The "Satomi" Chinese dogwood ( Cornus kousa "Satomi" ) is blooming ("bracting"?) the best I've ever seen and from my travels across town and in my own backyard, Cornus kousas everywhere are outstanding. It must be all that rain we've been having making them and all sorts of plants very happy.

Especially the weeds....



Leslieville Toronto front garden clean up weeding before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leslieville Toronto front garden 
clean up weeding before 

This cleanup should be a textbook example of how the "lazy landscaper/house flipper/cheap homeowner" technique of covering a swath of garden with that ubiquitous landscape fabric and then dumping a tonne or two of some sort of rock (can be limestone screening, pea gravel or river rock) with the false promise that a "low maintenance" solution is at hand is, inevitably, completely ineffective.

Why? In urban settings with lots of tree and weed seeds blowing around and if the ground was not completely weed-free before the fabric was laid, it is only a matter of time before seeds germinate on top of the rock "mulch"or aggressive weed roots spread below the fabric and emerge up and through the fabric and rocks (Creeping bellflower, anybody?)



Leslieville Toronto front garden cleanup weeding before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leslieville Toronto front garden cleanup weeding before 

And so you often get this situation above. In the past, I've had to deal with extracting thistle, burdock and dandelions from this extremely weedy area next to the sidewalk. And the garbage! This year's version included some sort of crazy Malva genus member thinking it's some sort of groundcover.


After the cleanup....


Leslieville front garden cleanup weeding after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville front garden 
cleanup weeding after 


The homeowner has had enough of the pea gravel and landscape fabric "solution" and asked me to come up with a new design. As you can see below, the Chinese dogwood flowering in front of the yew hedge is quite attractive. I'd get rid of the 5 cinquefoils (Potentilla fruticosa) and the lone surviving Lavender and mass plant some "lower maintenance" ornamental grasses as the client, realistically, will not do any gardening on her own. 



Leslieville front garden weeding cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Leslieville front garden weeding 
cleanup after



Leslieville Toronto front garden clean up weeding after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leslieville Toronto front garden 
clean up weeding after



Leslieville Toronto front garden cleanup weeding after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leslieville Toronto front garden cleanup weeding after


The great thing about doing all these "cleanups" is that occasionally I see some beauty in the midst of disorder and disarray. 


Aren't these dogwood blooms below wonderful?

So if you're considering a small tree to act as a specimen or focal point in a sunny area of your garden, Cornus kousa "Satomi" could fit the bill (there are many other excellent cultivars.)



Cornus kousa Satomi Chinese Dogwood blooms by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Cornus kousa "Satomi" 
Chinese Dogwood blooms 



Cornus kousa Satomi Chinese Dogwood flower by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Cornus kousa "Satomi" 
Chinese Dogwood flower 



Satomi Chinese Dogwood Cornus kousa blooms by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Satomi" Chinese Dogwood 
(Cornus kousa) bracts



Just promise me that you'll weed the ground below it more than once a year!



June 23, 2017

Cabbagetown Shade Garden Makeover

A Downtown Toronto Garden Gets a Facelift


Along with my regular garden maintenance visits, I'm occasionally asked to "fix" gardens that have been forgotten or abandoned and reverting to their "natural" forms (tall weeds which have gone to seed, tree seedlings now becoming sturdy saplings, ancient "foundation" shrubs which haven't been pruned since the early 1980s, etc.) Usually, I demur with these "rehab" type of projects as it's more cost effective for the garden owner to hire a crew of younger and stronger men and women to clear the brush and produce a clean slate. 

It preserves my back as well.

I also receive requests for a new garden design and this post covers my recent experience with a garden that hadn't gone to seed but over the years, I felt, it had lost its way from a design perspective.

During my initial meeting with Carol, the client, she mentioned that her backyard garden originally had a Japanese garden style. The "Shishigashira" Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira') certainly contributed to that but I couldn't see too many other elements. Sure, I wasn't expecting a tea house or a strolling garden or moss garden in a typically small downtown Toronto backyard (if you know of one, advise me!) but I thought perhaps seeing a water feature or a rock garden along the lines of karensansui.  I didn't see or feel anything remotely Japanese, garden design-wise, but rather, a part-shade garden with many disparate elements. So while the "hard" elements like the patio and fencing were already established, I could tinker in the margins, literally.

Below is a set of "before" pictures taken from the interlocking brick patio, going around 180 degrees or so. You'll notice that the garden looks full in some places and bare in others.


Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden
makeover before 



Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden with new perennials before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden
with new perennials before 



Toronto Cabbagetown shade garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Cabbagetown shade garden
makeover before



Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden with new perennials before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden
with new perennials before



Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden makeover before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto
shade garden makeover before



Toronto Cabbagetown shade garden makeover before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Cabbagetown shade garden
makeover before


There were several perennials and shrubs (e.g., the herbaceous peonies, Japanese maple, and quince) that were not to be moved but everything else was fair game.


Texture, unity, rhythm


No, this subheading isn't my company's new brand tagline (if you want it, it's yours!) but are design principles which usually go through my mind when I'm asked to create or reconfigure gardens.  Carol's shade garden had some interesting contrast in texture (the hostas and one clump of Japanese Forest Grass), a weak sense of unity as there were phlox and sedum in a supposed Japanese garden design and a weak sense of rhythm (few plants were massed or repeated in groupings beside the ubiquitous green "filler" hosta).

I've concluded over the years that when owners express dissatisfaction or malaise with their gardens, these three design principles are either weakly expressed or absent. They (the clients) may not verbalize it this way but they certainly feel it. My challenge is to pick up what they feel and verbalize a solution.

Lucky for me, Carol understood the reasoning behind the garden "makeover" and we decided on suitable part-shade tolerant perennials and shrubs arranged coherently and pleasing to the eye (well, pleasing to her eye more importantly as she has to look at the garden regularly.) 


In a similar fashion to the "before" pictures above, we'll go around the garden after removing, adding and moving new plants:




Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto shade
garden makeover after 

I removed all the perwinkle, trimmed the "Emerald Gaiety" euonymus and replanted the existing sedge and the "Dale's Strain" Heuchera. I added new groupings of toadlily (Tricyrtis), Japanese anemone ( "Honorine Jobert" is the classic variety used here) and "Ivory Prince" hellebores.



Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden with new perennials after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden
with new perennials after 

On the right side, I planted a new grouping of Japanese Painted Ferns, Japanese Forest Grass ( "Aureola") and a "Nova Zembla" rhododendron to the right. I removed a young and awkward-looking fruiting cherry sapling that was near where the rhodo is planted.




Toronto Cabbagetown shade garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Cabbagetown
shade garden makeover after 

I kept the green barberry in the picture's centre and small cluster of Pachysandra and re-purposed some Brunnera (Siberian bugloss) whose parents were originally variegated "Jack Frost" but over time self-seeded these all green versions. Carol wanted one false spiraea (Sorbaria sorbifolia) under the redbud tree, an area where, in her words, "nothing grows" in the hopes it suckers. If the Sorbaria dies, then truly nothing will grow there.

Looking at this picture again, I'll ask Carol to plant another Forest Grass where that stone is located at the border. It reminds me of a kid with a big tooth missing when he smiles: initially charming but becoming distracting over time.

(This is the view looking straight out from her deck and kitchen door.)



Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden with new perennials after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden
with new perennials after 

I kept the quince at the right in the photo above and placed a grouping of "June" hostas. Yes, they're baby sized but give them a few years and they should shine. Fortunately, the quince isn't heavily suckering at all so keeping it isn't onerous.



Cabbagetown Toronto shade garden makeover after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto
shade garden makeover after 

Under the quince and in front of the existing clump of Japanese Forest Grass,  I placed a grouping of "Skeleton Key" Tiarella (foamflower) and more Japanese Forest Grass under the cedar to "soften the edge" of the pavers. (Whoever came up with the phrase "soften the edge" as it pertains to "hardscaping" and "softscaping" deserves a cookie!)




Toronto Cabbagetown shade garden makeover after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Cabbagetown
shade garden makeover after

A better view of the repeated Hakone grass, one of my favourite perennials. Okay, it's number one!


As I was leaving after tidying up, Carol wryly admitted her Japanese garden became a run of the mill shade garden over time but she seemed content with that.



June 16, 2017

Toronto front garden cleanups in King West Village

Minimalist design, luxuriant weeds


It's June and many couples have weddings on their minds, while I have weeding on mine. With the record amount of rain Toronto has had in May and the spike in temperatures lately, the weeds I've encountered during my work across the city have exploded in quantity and variety. I was reminded that weeds are opportunistic and adaptable like all organisms and that nature truly abhors a vacuum when I was hired to clean up these garden beds below in Toronto's King West Village neighbourhood recently.

You leave a bare spot of soil  measuring 13' x 3' near a busy street for several months and you get this:



King West Village Toronto front garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
King West Village Toronto front garden cleanup before



A "sister" bed located in a shadier spot below is a little better (or less worse?):




Toronto King West Village front garden cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto King West Village front garden cleanup before 


Each property also has a bed with a variety of prostrate juniper ("Blue Rug"?) in which a few weeds have popped up but not to the same extent as in the unmulched beds above. However, growers of these low-lying junipers know intimately how the ubiquitous evergreens attract and collect all sorts of debris near the sidewalk and the sprawling plants didn't disappoint, unfortunately for me.





Toronto King West Village front garden clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto King West Village front garden clean up before 



King West Village Toronto front garden clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
King West Village Toronto front garden clean up before 



Being a gardener in the city often involves unglamourous non-horticultural duties we didn't learn in school like trash collection and this cleanup produced a full garbage bag of discarded coffee cups, cigarette butts, old public transit transfers, etc. I felt like an anthropologist at times. Apparently, no one in the neighbourhood drinks at Starbucks but many prefer the other Canadian coffee chain, oy vey!

There are four small rectangular beds in total that were to be weeded but one had been done before my arrival as the homeowner likely couldn't take the look any longer and another bed was weeded by another homeowner's helper while I was there. He was a nice fellow and was helping out with some painting inside the house. His weeding skills were like my painting skills but I did appreciate his efforts!



And here are the "after" pictures:




King West Village Toronto front garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
King West Village Toronto front garden cleanup after 



Toronto King West Village front garden cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto King West Village front garden cleanup after 



The four empty rectangular beds (you see two above) will be filled in with the same Ajuga (!) groundcover to keep the uniform look.


The weeded Juniper beds are below. We'll need some mulch near the sidewalk as this area is the weediest.





Toronto King West Village front garden clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto King West Village front garden clean up after 



King West Village Toronto front garden clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
King West Village Toronto front garden clean up after 


In case you think I'm showing the same garden from different angles, oh my, you are cynical! The four units have the identical front gardens in shape, dimension and plants. The design is modern (in other words, no flowers) and, frankly, gas-blower friendly. 


I asked one of the homeowners who originally contacted me why he didn't choose one of Toronto's myriad of "mow-blow-and go" landscapers (although there's no mowing here) and he replied that no one was interested in fighting traffic getting to this very busy part of Toronto with no parking nearby for such a "small" job. Which made complete sense, if I ran a "traditional" business based on mowing large tracts of turf many times a day.


But since I travel by public transit and the streetcar (we have them in Toronto) stop is a block away, it's a win-win for both me and my new client here. 





June 06, 2017

A New Garden Bed Creation in Leaside

Cutting a new garden bed outline using the old "watering hose" technique 


I haven't done this in a long time! Yes, it's hokey and the arbiters of fine gardening would be aghast but it's quite fun to create a curvy outline of a garden bed using the good old water hose. 

This side area along the fence faces south and gets full sun for most of the day so it seemed to me a waste to have a forlorn Weigela, some sort of lilac and and wild rose be the only plants here, besides the weeds. 



Leaside new side garden bed installation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leaside new side garden bed installation before 



Leaside Toronto new side garden bed installation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leaside Toronto new side garden bed installation before 



Toronto Leaside new side garden bed installation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Leaside new side garden bed installation before 


I suggested to my client, Gail, to create an outline using an edger, dig out all the weeds and plant "nicer" stuff. I wanted to hide the wooden board-on-board fence panels a little so I thought clematises on trellises (I like how that rhymes!) would work. And if you grow a few clematises (?), you should have a rose or two nearby and what could go well with roses in a hot and sunny spot? Lavender, of course!  

To establish the curvy outline, I used the nearby watering hose. It took a few minutes to move and fiddle with the hose but when the moment was right, out came the edger.  I just had to be careful not puncturing the hose!

Cutting through the weeds and many surface roots from the maple you see behind the fence was tedious but eventually the new bed was shaped and cleaned up, ready for fresh material.

Below are the "after" pictures showing the outline of the bed, some tiny new plants and a layer of mulch.

Here's what was planted:




Leaside new side garden bed installation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leaside new side garden bed installation after 


Leaside Toronto new side garden bed installation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Leaside Toronto new side garden bed installation after


Toronto Leaside new side garden bed installation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Leaside new side garden bed installation after


A few more perennials should be added but the framework is at least there.

So you see, often my plant "designs" originate from trying to solve a problem (in this case, reducing the severe look of the fence) while taking advantage of a positive from the site (full sun = more flower opportunities). And, of course, the client has to love the plants or, at least, not hate them.

Oh, by the way, I really don't know what happened to that poor Weigela....