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.