January 23, 2014

Cloud pruning boxwoods and yews in a Toronto garden

A way to introduce structure and winter interest in a formal garden

I'm a little grumpy at the moment: stuck in the dead of  a harsh Toronto winter with terrible windchill temperatures making it unpleasant to go outside. Anything resembling spring seems far, far away.  The term "winter interest" keeps popping up in my mind: ornamental grass stalks and seedheads, desiccated rosehips  and crabapples, how the snow lies on my Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda dogwood). I also thought of a project underway for one of my clients that maybe could inspire you.

When I first came across this part of her garden (at the rear of a rectangular yard, more or less), I immediately thought of a "teatro verde" or "(open air) green theatre" which, I admit, doesn't make make a whole lot of sense. The small area is really just a raised bed with a flagstone patio. The neighbour's 20' tall cedar hedge (Thuja occidentalis) makes up the backdrop or curtain of this "theatre." There were an assortment of shrubs (red-twig dogwoods, rhododendrons, a rose of sharon) and hostas in the bed, nothing too exciting and a bit busy. Flanking both sides of the curved retaining wall were two large yews (likely Taxus baccata) in the shape of, well, big lightbulbs.

For some reason only known to the "design muse," I recalled the "cloud pruned" hedges and topiaries of Belgian designer Jacques Wirtz and the Japanese tree pruning tradition called niwaki. I wanted to create an atmosphere of serenity and calmness with a bit of drama and tension. 

Oxymoronic? Contradictory? Incongruous? I knew I was on the right track....

cloud pruning boxwoods by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
The beginning of a cloud hedge with yews and boxwoods 
(I couldn't move the umbrella base!)

January 11, 2014

Landscape Ontario Congress 2014

My visit to "Canada's Premier Green Industry Trade Show and Conference" 

I emerged from two days of hibernation due to the atrociously low temperatures gripping most of North America earlier this week and made the trek to this year's version of "Congress" or, as the title states, "Canada's Premier....." (This description is taken from their website locongress.com)

This trade show's audience is comprised mainly of landscape construction and maintenance contractors, or to be more accurate, the owners of such businesses. Now, you might be asking what exactly this post has to do with gardening in Toronto? Fair question. Well, for many who don't want to actually get their hands dirty and have the means of paying others to do such noble work like mowing grass or cutting interlocking pavers, this is what gardening is: reliance on heavy, expensive, gas-guzzling and exhaust-spewing equipment to manufacture and cultivate their gardens and landscapes. So what if it's gardening by cheque-book? 

Landscape Ontario 2014 Congress interlocking paver bbq by garden muses-a Toronto gardening blog
Looks like a pizza oven using pre-cast concrete retaining wall blocks.
Nothing old world about this!