October 27, 2017

What Would You Do? Constraints During the Garden Design Process

Tabula rasa: A blank slate can present some plant selection challenges


(Note: Maybe half a dozen times a season I'm asked to design and plant a new garden for clients. In the past, I've posted pictures of what the garden looked like before and after and sometimes included some of the plant names.  I thought it would be interesting to get your thoughts and suggestions about what you would plant in these type of case studies. I'm in zone 5 Toronto but if you have non-hardy choices, that's fine! I'll put up the "after" pictures for today's "lesson" and give you some of the plant suggestions I made in a separate post later. This is meant to be fun and maybe we can learn a little bit from each other too.)

Requests for me to create new gardens usually occur in May and June when homeowners are itchy to have new plants put in or to start anew from scratch. Coming out of a long Toronto winter, I can hardly blame anyone to think of their garden in a fresh and new way. 

But I did get a request last month to come up with a plant list for some new backyard garden beds, which is unusual given that we're in the fall.

It isn't too late in the year to transplant new perennials, shrubs and trees. I think autumn is a great time to put in new plants because the air temperature and humidity are lower compared to trying to plant in July and August, the soil is warm and often you can get plants on sale at the garden centre. Of course, there may not be a great selection of plants on sale and what's on the shelf could be picked over.

Colin and Monica, the homeowners, moved into their Humewood-Cedarvale neighbourhood house recently. As we walked around the backyard, it was apparent that new sod was just put in (I didn't see a single weed!) and the fence recently was installed. Likely, all the old existing plants were removed, the ground scraped and levelled, many rolls of sod were laid and a few rectangular beds were created. Literally, a tabula rasa or "scraped tablet."

I took these pictures below of the three proposed garden beds:




Humewood-Cedarvale new backyard garden installation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Humewood-Cedarvale new
backyard garden installation before


Humewood-Cedarvale Toronto new backyard garden installation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Humewood-Cedarvale Toronto
new backyard garden installation before


Humewood-Cedarvale new backyard garden perennial bed before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Toronto
Humewood-Cedarvale new backyard
garden perennial bed before 


Toronto Humewood-Cedarvale new backyard garden installation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Humewood-Cedarvale
new backyard garden installation 


Here are the dimensions of each bed (length by width, approximately, in feet):


  • the back window bed: 17 x 2.5
  • the bed near the BBQ: 9 x 2.5
  • the back fence bed: 25 x 2 (not a typo)


And here are some site inventory and other important notes:


  • the backyard receives full sun for most of the day 
  • looking towards the back fence, you're facing east
  • the garden bed soil is native clay with 6 inches of new topsoil placed on top
  • no automatic irrigation exists currently
  • the new fencing is all horizontal, made from some exotic hardwood
  • the house is a modernist "box"
  • the clients want to see as much of the yard through the back windows and from the small patio
  • the clients know very little about gardening as they have just moved from a condo
  • they prefer an "Asian" garden design
  • they offered no plant suggestions, specific likes or dislikes, or websites showing me what resonated with them

Given all the above, what would you suggest in terms of plantings and why?


October 18, 2017

Giving Thanks over Thanksgiving at the Toronto Botanical Garden

Autumn foliage and flowers at the TBG



I was stuck in town over the Thanksgiving (Canadian) weekend so I ambled over to the Toronto Botanical Garden to see the latest displays of fall flowers and foliage. It's a great time to visit as I'm not fighting with spring crowds or enduring summer's heat and humidity. Sure, you won't see the masses of tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs or the gaudy summer over-the-top peony blooms in October (which are all beautiful nevertheless). The feeling now is more subdued, as if the gardens here and all over town are telling us that "hey, we're feeling a little tired now but we'll put on one last great display of colour before we sleep over winter." 

I'm very thankful that the TBG exists for all of Toronto and elsewhere to enjoy. There's no admission cost, it's accessible by public transit (although a trek from downtown where I live), has ample parking, and offers many programs and lectures.

I occasionally pop by for an hour or so, take several dozen pictures, have a coffee, read a bit and leave with my "flower and foliage fix" satisfied.

Here are some highlights from my visit two weeks ago for you enjoy. Autumn in Toronto is quite lovely, if you can ignore the incessant whine of leaf blowers inflicted by those mow-blow- and go landscapers all over the city right now!




Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical Garden Amsonia hubrichtii fall colour by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical 
Garden showing Amsonia hubrichtii's 
fall colour in the background




Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical Garden autumn foliage peony Hakone grass by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical Garden 
autumn herbaceous peony and Hakone grass foliage



Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical Garden autumn Switch Grass Panicum by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical Garden 
autumn Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)



Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical Garden autumn ‘Strictum’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum) by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical Garden 
autumn ‘Strictum’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum)



Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical Garden Verbena bonariensis and Joe Pye Weed by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical 
Garden Verbena bonariensis and Joe Pye Weed



Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical Garden Verbena bonariensis by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical 
Garden Verbena bonariensis blooms



Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical Garden ‘Firedance’ mountain fleece and Hosta sieboldiana ‘Blue Angel’ by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Entry Garden Walk at the Toronto Botanical 
Garden ‘Firedance’ mountain fleece and 
Hosta sieboldiana ‘Blue Angel’ 




Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail' Mountain Fleece at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail' Mountain Fleece 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 




Tricyrtis formosana 'Samurai' Toad Lily at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Tricyrtis formosana 'Samurai' Toad Lily 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 



Hellebore, epimedium and 'Coonara Pygmy Japanese maple at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Hellebore, epimedium and 'Coonara Pygmy' 
Japanese maple at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Fothergilla gardenii (Dwarf Witch Alder) at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Fothergilla gardenii (Dwarf Witch Alder) 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden


Indigofera kirilowii Indigo at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Indigofera kirilowii Indigo 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden


 Golden Full Moon Maple (Acer shirasawanum aureum at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
 Golden Full Moon Maple 
(Acer shirasawanum "Aureum") 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden


Acer palmatum 'Coonara Pygmy' Japanese maple at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Acer palmatum 'Coonara Pygmy' 
Japanese maple at the Toronto Botanical Garden



Amur Cork Tree (Phellodendron amurense) bark at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Amur Cork Tree (Phellodendron amurense) bark 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 




Acer palmatum 'Waterfall' Japanese maple at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Acer palmatum 'Waterfall' Japanese maple 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Aconitum ‘Ivorine’ Monkshood at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Aconitum ‘Ivorine’ Monkshood 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden




Autumn cutleaf Japanese maple and Hakone Japanese Forest Grass at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Autumn cutleaf Japanese maple and 
Hakone Japanese Forest Grass 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Beautyberry Callicarpa dichotoma 'Early Amethyst' at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma 'Early Amethyst') 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 




Callicarpa dichotoma 'Early Amethyst' Beautyberry at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Callicarpa dichotoma 'Early Amethyst' (Beautyberry) 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Green Hornet Cutleaf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Green Hornet') at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
"Green Hornet" Cutleaf Japanese Maple 
(Acer palmatum 'Green Hornet') 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Hamamelis mollis Chinese witchhazel fall foliage at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Hamamelis mollis Chinese witch hazel 
fall foliage at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Japanese Barberry and Sawara False Cypress detail at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Japanese Barberry and Sawara False Cypress 
detail at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Montauk daisy Nipponanthemum nipponicum at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Montauk daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Hamamelis virginiana common witch hazel autumn foliage at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Hamamelis virginiana (common witch hazel) 
autumn foliage at the Toronto Botanical Garden

Hamamelis virginiana common witch hazel bloom and seed capsule at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Hamamelis virginiana (common witch hazel) bloom and seed capsule at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Hamamelis virginiana common witch hazel blooms at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Hamamelis virginiana (common witch hazel) 
blooms at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Acanthus hungaricus Bear's Breeches at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Acanthus hungaricus (Bear's Breeches) 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Amsonia hubrichtii Bluestar at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Amsonia hubrichtii (Bluestar) 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 


Amsonia hubrichtii Bluestar fall foliage at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Amsonia hubrichtii (Bluestar) fall foliage 
at the Toronto Botanical Garden 




Autumn border at the Toronto Botanical Garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Autumn border at the Toronto Botanical Garden 

October 16, 2017

A Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup

A New Toronto Perennial Garden Matures


I don't think
I've profiled the same garden on this blog three times in the same season so this gives me a chance to show you how a garden I designed and planted this past spring has progressed into the fall.


(Here are the two earlier blog posts titled "A Mid Toronto new front garden installation" and "Maintenance is Gardening" going over the design, transplanting and weeding processes for this midtown Toronto front garden.)

But first, I had to deal with weeding the garden one last time before winter descends upon us here in Toronto.



Midtown Toronto Fall Cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Midtown Toronto Fall Cleanup before 

I'm very happy to see how the new perennials have grown during their first year in situ. The garden is in full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun a day) and receives all the rainfall nature provides. Still, an automatic irrigation system helped greatly during prolonged periods of heat and drought. The weeds take full advantage of such conditions, naturally!


Midtown Toronto Fall Cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Midtown Toronto Fall Cleanup after 

The purple coneflowers and maiden grass (Miscanthus) to their right have established well with regular watering during the first season.



Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup before 

This raised bed is isolated so all weeds present are wind-borne. It's always interesting to me to see which weeds are found in the different gardens in which I work (dependent on the amount of shade, soil types, moisture levels, etc.) and it's no different here. With the absence of surrounding trees (especially maples), I didn't have to deal with yanking out hundreds of seedlings but other weeds dominated the spaces between the perennials like petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus) and narrow leaved plantain (Plantago lanceolata).



Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup after


Toronto Gardening Services Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Clean up before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
 Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Clean up before




Toronto Gardening Services Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
 Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Clean up after 

I pruned the five butterfly weed plants on the right side of the picture above to the ground (hence, the empty space) since the stems were covered with aphids but the other perennials planted in May survived the summer, seem to have doubled in size and will provide excellent winter interest over the next five months (!). I'm especially happy with the growth of the little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) located in the lower right and the fountain grasses ( Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’) seen in the upper right of the picture but I knew they would thrive in full sun without a worry.


Toronto Gardening Services Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
 Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup before 



Toronto Gardening Services Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup after 

Paul Jung Gardening Services Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup before
 Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup before



Paul Jung Gardening Services Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup after
 Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Cleanup after



Below are three pictures showing the garden from my initial visit this past May to October's latest cleanup (after weeding, of course!) This will give you an idea how quickly some perennials will grow under ideal conditions and that one should consider their mature size during the design stage.



Midtown Toronto gardening services new low maintenance perennial garden before by Paul Jung
May 2017 before a design was created



Midtown Toronto gardening services new low maintenance perennial garden after by Paul Jung
Immediately after transplanting in May 2017

Avenue Road Front Garden Cleanup after by Paul Jung Toronto Gardening Services
July 2017



Toronto Gardening Services Midtown Toronto Fall Garden Clean up after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
October 2017


They are not visible but there are two pipes running into the garden which are connected to the house gutters (we call them "eavestroughs" locally) so in a way this garden is a rain garden of sorts. I don't think any supplemental watering is necessary in the future since the plant root balls are on their way to becoming established.

This feature fulfills the homeowner's request for a low maintenance, functional (attractive to pollinators and birds)  and visually interesting front garden. For a rental property, this is not the norm I find and I'm glad the client agreed with my suggestions as these perennials will only get larger and striking with time.