October 18, 2020

A Toronto Garden Makeover in Dufferin Grove

From Messy and Overgrown To....


Heading into October, I usually don't get requests to transplant new perennials and shrubs. Many homeowners are entering "fall cleanup" mode and garden centres and nurseries understandably don't offer a large selection of plants anyway. But recently I was introduced to a new client (I'll call her Joanne) through another Toronto gardening blogger (Helen Battersby, no need to give her an alias!). Joanne wasn't happy with the state of her backyard in central Toronto's Dufferin Grove neighbourhood so she asked for my advice in "renovating" the garden beds. 

Here are some "before" pictures showing the small garden areas flanking the path to and from the back deck to the garage:



Dufferin Grove Toronto new garden renovation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardener for Hire
Dufferin Grove Toronto new garden renovation before 



Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Renovation Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardener for Hire
Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Renovation Before



Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Makeover Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardener for Hire
Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Makeover Before 



Dufferin Grove Toronto Garden Makeover Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Services Company

Dufferin Grove Toronto Garden Makeover Before 



Dufferin Grove Toronto Garden Renovation before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Services Company

Dufferin Grove Toronto Garden Renovation before 


And on the other side of the yard:




Dufferin Grove Toronto Garden Renovation Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardening Services Company
Dufferin Grove Toronto Garden Renovation Before



Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Makeover Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardener
Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Makeover Before



Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Makeover Before by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardening Company
Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Makeover Before




I usually encounter the following in many of the garden makeovers I do:

  • beds not weeded
  • beds not edged or have unattractive plastic edging
  • shrubs haven't been pruned in many years
  • plants aren't in scale with the size of the yard (as they haven't been pruned or simply too large and are the wrong plants in the wrong site)
  • existing perennials are not grouped together, leading to a weak design  

The above pictures should hopefully show that most of these points were in play.

Where to start?


I suppose after many years of thinking and implementing small-scaled garden design, I intuitively think about the functions of the various garden spaces in relation to the site realities, namely, the amount of direct sunlight the garden gets, the presence of large trees, shrubs, hedges, the type and condition of the soil, etc.. In Joanne's case, I considered the low back deck and mature Kentucky Coffee tree as the dominant factors. The tree's shadow does allow for direct sunlight for a few hours around late morning into mid afternoon. The low deck that has no railing means that it was important to have low growing perennials around the seating (and main garden viewing) area. I had the opportunity to introduce shorter plants that flowered for most of summer into fall around the deck.

There are often "prized locations" in many gardens due to favourable sight lines, micro climates, or simply areas which receive more direct sunlight than others. The small area in front of (or immediately below if you prefer) the deck was prime real estate that was wasted due to presence of four old purple leaf sandcherry shrubs previously cut down to the stumps. Of course, such hard pruning doesn't usually kill them so new shoots soon emerged. There were also four small "Emerald Gaiety" Euonymus shrubs growing unchecked. The appearance was very messy looking to be honest. A neighbouring dwarf Korean lilac which hadn't been pruned in years added to the chaos. So with Joanne's blessing, I dug out all the sandcherries and Euonymus and pruned the lilac hard.

Here are some "after" pictures, showing this prominent section of the garden with new perennials. I also planted hundreds of species tulips, alliums and other bulbs to give early spring colour. The new perennials won't add colour until summer so we needed some interest in April and May.



Dufferin Grove Toronto Garden Makeover After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Services Company
Dufferin Grove Toronto Garden Makeover After



Dufferin Grove Toronto new garden renovation after by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardener for Hire
Dufferin Grove Toronto new garden renovation after 



Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Renovation After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardener for Hire
Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Renovation After



Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Makeover After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardener for Hire
Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Makeover After 



Dufferin Grove Toronto Garden Renovation After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Gardening Services Company
Dufferin Grove Toronto Garden Renovation After 



The bed on the opposite side has mature shrubs like a P.G. hydrangea standard, an "Emperor One" Japanese maple, a Korean dogwood and two large tree peonies. They all need some pruning in order to re-establish the correct scale which should exist in this garden. The hydrangea standard currently doesn't look like a standard, the maple looks like a multi-stem shrub, the tree peonies have many dead stems and the dogwood should not have planted in the tight corner as it will get tall and wide, even for a medium sized tree. But I'll do the corrective pruning next spring. For now, I weeded all the beds, removed the unattractive black plastic edging that was popping up in many places, dug a new "trench" using an edger around the beds, planted more daffodils, tulips and crocuses and placed back the mulch.



Dufferin Grove Toronto Garden Renovation After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardening Services Company
Dufferin Grove Toronto Garden Renovation After



Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Makeover After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardener
Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Makeover After



Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Makeover After by Paul Jung Gardening Services--a Toronto Organic Gardening Company
Toronto Dufferin Grove New Garden Makeover After 
 

This small project took about 10 hours from my initial meeting with Joanne to what you see above. I may do 3-5 similar micro garden (re)designs a season which keep the creative juices going in tandem with the more mundane weeding and deadheading. 

Speaking of mundane, the fall cleanups will keep me busy right until the end of November!