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!



August 01, 2017

Getting ready for a party outside? Call the gardener!

Don't get distracted by those pesky weeds near the BBQ


In mid-summer, my work is usually mundane: on my hands and knees pulling out the many weeds gracing us in Toronto. If my alma mater ever asked me to return to offer advice to budding (excuse the pun) gardeners-as-employees, I'd offer these four words: "you'd better like weeding." Actually, I'd amend that to "you'd better love weeding" because that is a task all customers would rather hire you (me) to do. 

Sure, everyone in "hort school" class believes he or she will be the next celebrity garden duhsigner (no, there's no degree in garden design so I can be snarky. I'd never use that occupational label since it's rather meaningless and, consequently, anyone and everyone can call and advertise himself or herself as one.) But the cold reality is that when you graduate, most landscaping companies will hire you on your ability to push a mower, dig a hole or lift a wheelbarrow rather than create a design.

Anyway, I'll stop this mini-rant and get back to the main message in this post: how I helped save a birthday party!

Occasionally, I get this type of work request: Clients have some sort of get-together in their yards and given the current weedy conditions, need me to tidy up the public areas, lest party guests gossip on their way home after the event, along the lines of "did you see that train wreck of a backyard?" or "I know Bill threw out his back earlier this year but, darn, he's gotta hire a kid to pull out those weeds!"

Does a weedy garden equate to moral turpitude? Hey, it's not for me to debate. I get the call to "deal with the garden before the guests come over this weekend", book the appointment, and do the work. Which is, more or less, how I helped Daniel and his family recently who live in Toronto's Upper Beaches or Beach Hill area.

Here are some pictures of the front and back yards, before the big get-together:


Upper Beaches backyard cleanup before Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Upper Beaches backyard cleanup before



Beach Hill Toronto backyard cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Beach Hill Toronto backyard cleanup before



Beach Hill backyard cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Beach Hill backyard cleanup before



Upper Beaches Toronto backyard cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Upper Beaches Toronto backyard cleanup before 



And the front's "curb appeal"...


Beach Hill front yard cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Beach Hill front yard cleanup before 



Upper Beaches Toronto front yard cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Upper Beaches Toronto front yard cleanup before 



Upper Beaches front yard cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Upper Beaches front yard cleanup before 



3.5 hours later....


Upper Beaches backyard cleanup after Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Upper Beaches backyard cleanup after



Beach Hill Toronto backyard cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Beach Hill Toronto backyard cleanup after 



Beach Hill backyard cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Beach Hill backyard cleanup after



Upper Beaches Toronto backyard cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Upper Beaches Toronto backyard cleanup after 


Beach Hill front yard cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Beach Hill front yard cleanup after 


Upper Beaches Toronto front yard cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Upper Beaches Toronto front yard cleanup after 



Upper Beaches front yard cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Upper Beaches front yard cleanup after 


Mission complete! Daniel can now grill with complete peace of mind, now that the weeds are gone on party day.