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!