May 22, 2018

Spring Time in a Riverdale Ecological Garden

Gardening with Native Plants in Toronto: Spring Can Be Beautiful, Just Don't Expect Lilacs


What a spring it has been so far! Like last year, we've seen ornamental Flowering cherries, crabapples, magnolias and others display their glorious and short-lived blooms. Of course, tulips, daffodils and other seasonal bulbs offer their much-needed colour too, notwithstanding squirrel vandalism. But what if you don't want such traditional trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs in your garden? Could it be beautiful too in the spring?

A garden I visit weekly to look after shows you that the answer is a resounding "yes!"



Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) spring flowers in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
spring flowers in a Riverdale
ecological garden

I'd describe the philosophy behind this garden's plant choice and maintenance as "ecological" as the clients want a variety of insects and birds while choosing perennials and shrubs native to southern Ontario only. There's no use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, mainly due to the absence of a lawn.


White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) spring flower in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)
spring flower in a
Riverdale ecological garden

I've profiled this garden many times in my blog's history (search "ecological garden"). It's one of my favourite gardens to work in due to omission: the plants here are simply absent for the most part in all the other gardens I maintain. So from purely a maintenance aspect, I find it very interesting to see how the garden changes from April to November. Buddha knows, I can look at mophead hydrangeas and boxwoods so many times before boredom ensues.



Wood violet (Viola odorata) spring flowers in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Wood violet (Viola odorata) spring flowers
in a Riverdale ecological garden

In May, many shrubs and perennials in this Riverdale garden offer their nectar and pollen to hungry pollinators. In high summer, the frenzy of activity peaks when other perennials like asters, Ironweed, and coneflowers are covered with hoverflies, many species of bees, moths and butterflies.


American Plum (Prunus americana) spring flowers in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
American Plum (Prunus americana)
spring flowers in a
Riverdale ecological garden

Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense) in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense)
in a Riverdale ecological garden


It's not only flowers which are attractive now. Like any "great" garden (well, to me), foliage plays an equally important part. Several clumps of Canadian Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) like the one above have really established themselves over the past few years. The soft richly-veined new leaves are very ornamental. They remind me of Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla). 


Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense) leaf detail in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Canadian wild ginger
(Asarum canadense)
leaf detail in a Riverdale
ecological garden

Golden currant (Ribes aureum) spring flowers in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Golden currant (Ribes aureum)
spring flowers in a
Riverdale ecological garden

Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells) spring flowers in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells)
spring flowers in a
Riverdale ecological garden 

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) spring flowers in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum)
spring flowers in a
Riverdale ecological garden


These nodding flowers will turn into "smoke" later. The fuzzy flower reminds me more of a Dr.Seuss character than anything else!


Prunus americana American Plum spring flowers in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Prunus americana (American Plum)
spring flowers in a
Riverdale ecological garden


I'm mildly irritated when I read or hear the claim that using native plant species will automatically and magically mean much lower maintenance requirements (no pests, dieases, etc.) All I can say is "it depends." While the great majority of plants in this garden don't need fussing about, this Plum is the exception. It suckers everywhere and is very prone to scale, leaf curl and blight damage so parts of the tree look crispy later. The clients spray a mixture of horticultural oil mixed with a fungicide to control the damage to acceptable levels. If it was up to me, this plum would be replaced with a Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) but...it's not up to me!

Red baneberry (Actaea rubra) spring flowers in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Red baneberry (Actaea rubra)
spring flowers in a
Riverdale ecological garden


Another shady character above. The globular flowers will produce brilliant red berries in autumn. Perhaps I should collect them and try to germinate them?



Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance') spring blooms in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Serviceberry
(Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance')
spring blooms in a
Riverdale ecological garden


Sharp-eyed readers will look at the above and ask: "if native species are only found in this garden, why is a tree-form Serviceberry (Amelanchier) cultivar here?" That's a great question and I don't have an answer. If it's any consolation, there are three medium sized multi-stemmed Serviceberry shrubs nearby which fruit profusely (I enjoy a few ripe berries before the robins and squirrels beat me to them in July.)

And, yes, the fall colour is excellent on this small tree!


Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance') spring flowers in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Serviceberry
(Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance')
spring flowers in a
Riverdale ecological garden


Trillium grandiflorum (White Trillium) spring flower in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Trillium grandiflorum (White Trillium)
spring flower in a
Riverdale ecological garden



Our provincial flower above in full bloom. We're trying to establish a colony under a cherry tree but it'll take time.

Below is a closeup from a clump of Wood violets. They can be "weedy" but since there's no lawn here, that's never an issue. The two patches of violets always die back (go dormant) in August's heat but recover nicely in the fall with fresh foliage.



Viola odorata Wood violet spring flowers in a Riverdale ecological garden by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Viola odorata (Wood violet)
spring flowers in a
Riverdale ecological garden






May 18, 2018

A Cabbagetown Spring Cleanup

Front and Backyard Gardens Spring Cleanup in Toronto's Cabbagetown Neighbourhood


It's mid-May and spring is in full force here in Toronto. What's also in full force are the spring cleanups I've been completing non-stop (it seems) since the beginning of the month.

My latest post takes us close to where I live in downtown Toronto to the area known as Cabbagetown.

This front garden is typical for Cabbagetown: small yet full of plants. Given the postage stamp-sized areas surrounded by mature trees, there's no point growing turf for most of these downtown Toronto gardens.

This particular garden was not cleaned of leaves last fall so there are many matted leaves and germinated maple seedlings to contend with now.


by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company Toronto Spring Front Garden Cleanup Cabbagetown Before
Front Garden Cleanup Cabbagetown Before


Cabbagetown Toronto Spring Front Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Cabbagetown Toronto Spring
Front Garden Cleanup Before 

Yes, there's a provincial election at the moment. Normally, I place such signs elsewhere, take my picture, and put it back but I forgot here.


Toronto Spring Front Yard Garden Cleanup Cabbagetown Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Toronto Spring Front Yard Garden
Cleanup Cabbagetown Before 

Above is the view from the top stoop outside the front door, looking down.


Toronto Spring Front Garden Cleanup Cabbagetown Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Toronto Spring Front Garden
Cleanup Cabbagetown Before 


After the cleanup...



by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company Toronto Spring Front Garden Cleanup Cabbagetown After
 Toronto Spring Front Garden
Cleanup Cabbagetown After


Cabbagetown Toronto Spring Front Garden Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Cabbagetown Toronto Spring
Front Garden Cleanup After 

That's a soaker hose, by the way, snaking through the area. The green weeping Japanese maple and Hinoki Cypress fit in so well with this small space.


Toronto Spring Front Yard Garden Cleanup Cabbagetown After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Toronto Spring Front Yard Garden
Cleanup Cabbagetown After 


Toronto Spring Front Garden Cleanup Cabbagetown After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Toronto Spring Front Garden
Cleanup Cabbagetown After 

Nice to see the flagstone path after all the leaves and ivy stems were cleared away.

Now in the backyard:




Cabbagetown Toronto Spring Backyard Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Cabbagetown Toronto Spring
Backyard Garden Cleanup Before


Again, no "fall cleanup" occurred last autumn so many leaves "over-wintered"  throughout the garden beds and on top of the pavers. The garden is only about 20 feet across and maybe 50 feet long but the space is made to full use with the flagstone pavers, pea gravel path and two large garden beds, in full sun.


Cabbagetown Toronto Spring Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Cabbagetown Toronto Spring
Garden Cleanup Before


Toronto Spring Garden Cleanup Cabbagetown Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Toronto Spring Garden
Cleanup Cabbagetown Before


This is the central bed is composed of the three globe boxwoods and perennials like herbaceous peonies and clematis against the wood lattice wall.


Toronto Spring Backyard Garden Cleanup Cabbagetown Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Toronto Spring Backyard Garden
Cleanup Cabbagetown Before 


Afterwards...



Cabbagetown Toronto Spring Backyard Garden Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Cabbagetown Toronto Spring
Backyard Garden Cleanup After 

This is my version of a selfie. That's my shadow in the lower left corner, holding the camera up.

Cabbagetown Toronto Spring Garden Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Cabbagetown Toronto Spring
Garden Cleanup After 

The sitting area under the structure now is clean and inviting.

Toronto Spring Garden Cleanup Cabbagetown After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Toronto Spring Garden
Cleanup Cabbagetown After 


Toronto Spring Backyard Garden Cleanup Cabbagetown After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Toronto Spring Backyard Garden
Cleanup Cabbagetown After

One lone Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) seeks a couple of other partners.

I'm taking a break over the Canadian holiday Victoria Day weekend starting tomorrow so no gardening for me for at least 2 days in a row. But back into the chaos in a mere few days and, of course, more cleanups coming your way!



May 15, 2018

Spring Time in Riverdale

A Backyard Garden Cleanup in Riverdale


Late April and early May is the time I'm devoted to spring cleanups here in Toronto. I live downtown so most of my clients are nearby in neighbourhoods called Leslieville and Riverdale. The gardens are usually small but "intensive" with many perennials and woody plants. Growing lawns is impractical due to small garden sizes and the many mature trees gracing these neighbourhoods; consequently, homeowners aren't usually assaulted by the whine of gas-powered blowers inflicted by the traditional "mow-blow-go" landscape maintenance crews.

This post covers another typical spring work day for me: raking and pruning done quietly and efficiently. The weather was perfect to be working outside: sunny, cool and dry. Just wish it was like this come August but I know better.


by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company Riverdale Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup Before
Riverdale Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup Before



Riverdale Backyard Spring Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Riverdale Backyard Spring Cleanup Before 



Toronto Gardening Company Riverdale Backyard Spring Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
 Riverdale Backyard Spring Cleanup Before


Toronto Gardening Company Riverdale Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
 Riverdale Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup Before 


Riverdale Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Riverdale Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup Before 

It's not a large garden at all but stuffed full of perennials, shrubs like hydrangeas and small trees like this "Bloodgood" Japanese maple above in a corner. There were a few weeds as it's still early days so the bulk of the cleanup involved removing matted leaves from last autumn.


by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company Riverdale Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup After
 Riverdale Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup After


Riverdale Backyard Spring Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Riverdale Backyard Spring Cleanup After 



Toronto Gardening Company Riverdale Backyard Spring Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services
 Riverdale Backyard Spring Cleanup After 



Toronto Gardening Company Riverdale Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Riverdale Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup After 



Riverdale Backyard Spring Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Riverdale Backyard Spring Cleanup After 


May 12, 2018

A Birch Cliff, Scarborough Spring Garden Cleanup

In Praise of Ornamental Grasses


I cleaned up this same garden last autumn in a "judicious" manner so it only makes sense the spring cleanup can be described as the same. You don't have cut down all your perennials in autumn in an orgy of cleanliness but I do believe you should be a little more proactive in the spring. The old stems and leaves have done their job by giving us "winter interest" for 5 plus months here Toronto (!) so now is the time (well, April is a better time as most plants are still dormant) to freshen things up with your pruners, loppers, saws, etc.

Coming out of winter, the front yard doesn't look too worse for wear:



Scarborough Birch Cliff Front Yard Spring Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Scarborough Birch Cliff Front Yard 
Spring Garden Cleanup Before 



Birch Cliff Scarborough Front Yard Spring Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Birch Cliff Scarborough Front Yard 
Spring Garden Cleanup Before 



Birch Cliff Toronto Scarborough Front Yard Spring Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Birch Cliff Toronto Scarborough Front 
Yard Spring Garden Cleanup Before 


And the after pictures..



Scarborough Birch Cliff Front Yard Spring Garden Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Scarborough Birch Cliff Front
Yard Spring Garden Cleanup After 


Birch Cliff Scarborough Front Yard Spring Garden Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Birch Cliff Scarborough Front
Yard Spring Garden Cleanup After 


Birch Cliff Toronto Scarborough Front Yard Spring Garden Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Birch Cliff Toronto Scarborough Front
Yard Spring Garden Cleanup After 


Simple tasks included cutting last year's growth from the ornamental grasses and "Autumn Joy" sedum and clipping lightly the dead lavender tips.

A spring cleanup is also a good time to take stock of what plants died over winter and, more excitingly, what plants to add! One of the lavender died so out it goes and I suggested to Sophia, the client, to add more Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata) to create a border next to the sidewalk. And we're going to move two of the boxwoods which seem lonely and isolated from their brothers and sisters.

The backyard's big task was to clip down the several mature Maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis "Gracillimus" and Feather Reed grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora "Karl Foerster").


Scarborough Birch Cliff Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Scarborough Birch Cliff Backyard
Spring Garden Cleanup Before 


Birch Cliff Scarborough Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Birch Cliff Scarborough Backyard
Spring Garden Cleanup Before


I see the above occasionally where a wisteria has nothing to climb on so it wraps around itself or somewhere on the fence. Proof that this vine requires a sturdy (preferably indestructible) pergola to attach itself to. Likely this monster was planted as a little bitty one gallon baby and look at it now!


Birch Cliff Toronto Scarborough Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Birch Cliff Toronto Scarborough Backyard
Spring Garden Cleanup Before 

Good thing I bought new secateurs this season as pruning the old stalks takes sharp blades. I suppose a reciprocating saw with the appropriate blade would make quick work, especially if you have to cut down many at one time.


Scarborough Birch Cliff Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Scarborough Birch Cliff Backyard
Spring Garden Cleanup After

Birch Cliff Scarborough Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Birch Cliff Scarborough Backyard
Spring Garden Cleanup After

Birch Cliff Toronto Scarborough Backyard Spring Garden Cleanup After by Paul Jung Gardening Services a Toronto Gardening Company
Birch Cliff Toronto Scarborough Backyard
Spring Garden Cleanup After


What's appealing about ornamental grasses is their maintenance regimen: Plant them in full sun, give them room to expand and show their form, and cut them down every spring to about 6" above ground level. As about "low maintenance" as you can realistically get with a garden plant but people still buy hydrangeas around this time of the year by the tractor trailer loads.