June 30, 2018

A Front Garden Makeover in Toronto's "the Beach" neighbourhood

Landscape Fabric: The Gift from Previous Landscapers that Keeps On Giving


Creating a little bit of beauty is hard enough for a gardener. You may have ideas about how a garden (maybe your own) can be improved visually and functionally but realities like the existing soil and light conditions, presence of mature trees and, more often than not, the condition of your finances can throw such ideas for a loop (or right out of the window.) Low on the list of limiting factors is and should be the presence of that gawdawful stuff known as weed or landscape fabric. But during this Toronto front garden makeover in "the Beach" area, that nasty black material reared its ugly head not once but twice.

Shari and Andrew, the clients, hired me to weed and re-design their small front garden that faces a very busy street. The site receives full sun until about noon with a medium-sized ornamental pear tree shading about half of the garden. Due to the garden's proximity to the lake (Ontario), there's usually a prevailing wind which brings in plenty of weed seeds. There was no mulch on the garden's soil so, of course, the weeds took full advantage as shown below:




New Front Yard Garden Makeover Before in the Beach by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
New Front Yard Garden Makeover Before in the Beach



(Keen eyes will notice the Colorado Blue Spruce to the left in the above picture. The root ball was planted on the neighbours' side of the property line by a few inches undoubtedly but trees have a bad habit of actually growing so this conifer that was likely planted as a cute "Christmas tree" is slowly but sure on its way to achieving a mature height and spread of, hmmm, say 50 feet (minimum) high by 20 feet wide. The clients aren't too happy with this, understandably.)

Here's the garden from other angles, "pre-makeover":



The Beach Front Garden Makeover Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
The Beach Front Garden Makeover Before



New Front Garden Before in the Beach by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
New Front Garden Before in the Beach



Front Garden Makeover Before in the Beach by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
Front Garden Makeover Before in the Beach 



The Beach Front Garden Weeding Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
The Beach Front Garden Weeding Before 



The weeding itself wasn't too bad for me since the garden isn't large. It's always interesting to note what weed species will dominate an area based on soil and light conditions. In this case, I yanked out mainly Petty Spurge and Toadflax and little else.

Shari wanted new perennials which had green or chartreuse foliage and white flowers only so we came up with a list including the "Holy Shade Garden Triumvirate" of Hostas, Heuchera, Hakonechloa in the shadier sections while a white flowering perennial sage (Salvia) and annual Alyssum were to be planted in the sunnier area near the fence.

Transplanting should be an exciting time, even if the soil isn't perfect loam and free of roots and construction waste. For this garden, however, it became a "challenge" when I quickly discovered that a previous gardener and likely the builder had installed not one but two thick layers of landscape fabric under the first 3 inches of commercial topsoil. Of course, digging through these layers with a shovel is impossible so I had cut through and shape something resembling a circle to allow me to dig to the proper planting depth. Repeating this for a dozen 1 gallon sized perennials was maddening and I created some new expletives in my mind for the professionals who put this fabric down for me.

Why is this practice continued? As the "before" shots wonderfully show, the fabric does nothing to prevent wind-borne weed seeds from germinating on top or weeds travelling by underground rhizomes from moving below and occasionally up and through the fabric. I just marvelled at the idiocy of rolling out fabric and then putting down a 3 inch layer of topsoil without mulch. 

Anyway, back to nicer topics like freshly-transplanted baby perennials:




New Front Yard Garden Makeover After in the Beach by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
New Front Yard Garden Makeover After in the Beach





The Beach Front Garden Makeover After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
The Beach Front Garden Makeover After 



New Front Garden After in the Beach by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
New Front Garden After in the Beach



Front Garden Makeover After in the Beach by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
Front Garden Makeover After in the Beach


Alyssum (a sweet scented annual for us) was planted at the front next to the path leading to the door. Behind there are Heuchera, Hostas and Salvia in keeping with the green and white colour scheme.




The Beach Front Garden Weeding After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Company
The Beach Front Garden Weeding After 


Originally I thought to plant the Alyssum along this sidewalk border shown above but the "soil" was mainly pea gravel so for the sake of simplicity and minimal maintenance, I placed some mulch on top instead.

All in all, this was a lovely makeover to plan and execute but I'd love to have the previous gardener explain his/her thought process about spreading down the landscape fabric under some fresh topsoil you added afterwards. 

Idiot.

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