June 08, 2011

A Low(er) Maintenance Toronto Garden Bed

Do you have full sun and lousy grass in Toronto?

I often get asked about how to make a client's front lawn nice, weedless, and green (again) with minimum effort and cost. I try to answer diplomatically that these are contradictory goals. The homeowner must either put in the effort to (a) re-seed or re-sod; b) fertilize and apply weed killer regularly;  and c) mow or pay a "mo-blow-and go" landscape professional a living wage to do so.

Uncomfortable silence usually ensues.

If I'm lucky and have good karma for the day, I might meet someone/couple who sees past a brown and patchy monoculture (a.k.a. failing turf) and envisions a design that is much more more interesting and ecologically sustainable.

New garden bed with lamb's ears, salvia, coreopsis, oriental poppy by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Promising bed, not-so-promising lawn

The little (6' long by 3' wide kidney-shaped) bed above was cut out of a thin patchwork of turf. The front area of this client's house faces south looking onto a quiet street. Although the site is in full sun, the lawn is not lush and full as there is no sprinkler system involved with a poor, compacted, and infertile soil profile. With the client's input, I chose perennials and a shrub which appreciate the southern aspect and drier conditons. These include Papaver orientale "Allegro", Stachys byzantina, Caryopteris x clandonensis "Worcester Gold", Perovskia atriplicifolia, and Cotinus coggygria "Young Lady." The soil was profusely amended with homemade compost and bagged triple mix and topped with a 2" layer of mulch.

The client planted orange tulips and purple alliums last fall which have finished blooming now. We'll have a sequence of continuous blooming from April to September with minimal watering and weeding and no fertilizing. Lastly, there are plans to enlarge this bed in the future!