September 16, 2017

Establishing Proportion in a Toronto Shade Garden

Or: "Yes, these junipers will get big!"


A common error many new gardeners make when planting new perennials, shrubs and trees is not to consider their mature size looking out five, ten, or more years into the future. While moving most perennials isn't too onerous a task (exceptions would include large ornamental grasses and plants with deep taproots), it can be a real pain dealing with shrubs and trees which were planted, frankly, in the wrong spot.

Which brings us to this post....



Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover before  Paul Jung Gardening Services
Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover before  

My client Shirin renovated her backyard about five years ago and one of the garden beds is shown above. It's approximately 4 feet wide by 15 feet long and gets partial shade from being under a big Norway Spruce in the neighbour's yard behind.


Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover before 

The original plantings included three Blue Pfitzer Junipers (Juniperus x pfitzeriana 'Pfitzeriana Glauca'), one Dappled Willow (Salix integra 'Hakuro-nishiki'), and two "Wine and Roses" Weigelas. 

All in the same 60 square feet garden bed. 

I can only speculate on the decision making process of the contractor who originally bought and planted these shrubs: "Yep, I'll pick up these plants at the same place I'm getting my lumber, shoehorn them in and let the homeowner deal with them when the shrubs get wider and taller. I'll be long gone by then."




Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover


Of course, the unsuspecting garden owner doesn't know any better.


After about five years later, I get the call (I originally met Shirin last year). The junipers by then almost filled the bed's space with the willow and weigelas fighting desperately to get any space. And the prickly evergreens were only going to get wider every year. Pruning them into contorted shapes wasn't the solution given their natural (more or less) horizontal growth habit.

So out they went.


Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover

I removed the junipers and willow in 2016 in preparation for new plantings in this bed. We decided to keep the two weigelas, a Rose of Sharon and the "Jack Frost" brunnera. My idea was to create a shade garden with perennials that offered some flower and foliage interest during the spring to fall period and were proportional (sympathetic?) with the bed's dimensions. The client doesn't look at this section during the winter so having broadleaf evergreens and other plants that give "winter interest" here is unimportant.



Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover after


While I'm not in love with the weigelas here in the partial shade, they do flower reliably in the summer and only need some pruning occasionally. I removed two large, leggy and woody lavenders to free up the space for shade tolerant perennials like astilbe, sweet woodruff, "Ice Dance" Carex, and turtlehead. I also divided the two existing large clumps of brunnera as I adore this plant in shady spots. The picture above is seen from the back deck looking down a few feet.


Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Humewood Toronto backyard garden makeover after 



Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover after 

Please excuse the lovely blue recycling bin to the left above. It's not a garden ornament!



Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Oakwood Village Toronto backyard garden makeover after 

I'll need to prune the Rose of Sharon (upper left corner) to control its size and shape. While it is a very common shrub here in zone 5 Toronto, it does flower like clockwork every late summer and early fall. I advised Shirin that the astilbes need regular watering to prevent their leaves from going "crispy"; otherwise, they don't need a lot of fussing with. The same could be said for the other perennials too.
Luckily, my client here understands that the concept of a "low maintenance" garden isn't the same as a "no maintenance" one and is fine with dragging the hose out once in a while.

This idea can be a challenge to get across to some homeowners at times!