The new garden...first glimpses

And it's shady! Which means I am prepared :c)

All gardens are special. Not all gardens are to everyone’s taste, but that’s okay. To the people who enjoy them, they are special.

I remember once writing in a community paper that dyed mulch was unattractive. Oh boy. You’d think I’d called someone’s child ugly. I guess beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

I have always had an opinion about how gardens look; it is a creative exercise to determine what I would change in a planting, how I would place something, or combine colours. And no garden is safe from my opinions, especially famous or public gardens. I think this kind of criticism helps to keep your mind agile and allows it to problem solve so that when you have a similar challenge to face, you’ve already formulated some solutions.

So, with a considerable amount of trepidation, I show you my new little garden.

This is what it looked like last fall. The good news was that there were beautiful sugar maples at the rear, providing stunning autumn colour.

The bad news was that they are water, nutrient and soil hogs, with roots that weave their way across the lower tier of the garden, allowing few other plants to grow.

Few, I say; but not all — hosta, solomon’s seal and lily of the valley, all of whom hug the fence, as well as snuggle up against the maple trunks.

We left the leaves that fell in the fall to insulate the ground and provide cover for whatever might decide to sprout come spring. But there were things that we removed immediately: terracotta coloured plastic edging, black landscape fabric and yes, even dyed red mulch. Why does it haunt me?? lol

And that weeping dwarf hemlock that you can see in the top left corner? The one I dug up and carefully kept watered and cared for over a period of several months before it was moved and transplanted into this new garden in October….yes, the same one whose trunk was chewed by that rabbit until all the needles fell off. Grrr.

That day when Scout the dog tasted blood and ran out the door, chasing it around the snowy garden, only to be thwarted by the *man* who leapt off the deck in his slippers and landed, face first and arms outstretched, around that rabbit only to have it screeching that its life was about to end — yes, that day and that same rabbit. It’s still around due to the man’s heroics but my hemlock is in the great composter in the sky.

The stone birdbath is a new purchase, made with this little garden in mind and is indeed, the perfect sculpture for it. It was made by the artist, John Schweighardt, who lives and works in Lanark, Ontario, just over an hour south-west of Ottawa.

The pebbles on the ground at the end of that flagstone walk are my nemesis. Who doesn’t like to go outside first thing in the morning to inspect their plants? And who likes to do it barefoot — me! But walking on those pebbles is torture. Mark my words, they will be gone before the fall…

The photo above was taken in early spring, with some plants poking their heads out, but others still slumbering under the soil. It was still unclear whether those that I had transported from the old garden would make it through…

Happily, all of the moved plants DID indeed make it! The yellow peony (Paeonia ‘Garden Treasure’) that I thought I’d somehow lost in transit (why, I don’t know!) is now centre stage, directly behind the birdbath. Today it has at least 5 buds on it; it is a miracle that a) it has decided to offer up blooms the summer after it was unceremoniously lifted, and b) it is thriving in such a shady garden with some sunbeams coming through in the afternoon…

The phlox in the foreground is really the only sun-lover in this bed (ok, the herbaceous peony too), a left-over from the previous homeowner. I discovered through talking to our neighbour that the owner had sought the assistance of a “middle-aged woman” gardener (no irony there) to create and plant this space…so the existence of many hosta (there are two ‘Frances Williams’ along the back fence but also the less attractive, to me, variegated cream and green type), makes sense as an easy solution to this shady and competitive garden.


Now a bit more time has gone by and, guess what? The phlox is gone lol!

Two choice hosta were crammed in the background and so I liberated one and placed it where the phlox was, to hold that corner. The golden hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aurea’) got eaten by the <smf> rabbit but it’s still there. Another astilbe purchase, as well as a few more yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) to fill in the spaces between. And that spectacular hosta next to the birdbath is the award winning ‘June’ - a definite requirement in any shade garden (the sad little hosta to it’s lower right is an aberration lol and will be gone soon!)…

My beautiful Itoh yellow peony (Paeonia ‘Golden Treasure’) is now blooming, as is the lemony yellow globeflower cultivar (likely Trollius x cultorum ‘Superbus’) - supposedly rabbit resistant, and so far it is.

I knew that someone who loved gardening had an earlier hand in this space when I saw the mature snakeroot that had some astilbe, hosta and spiderwort companions around its base.

And when I saw a tall, strappy clump of foliage arise next to it early in the spring, and knew it couldn’t be a daffodil, I continued to puzzle about what it might be. And behold! Up from these now floppy leaves shot the flowering spikes of this charming ornamental onion known as Sicilian Honey Garlic (Allium siculum or previously, Nectaroscordum bulgaricum). Middle aged woman gardener indeed!

The birdbath here is from the incredibly talented Clare Scott-Taggart, Rusty Girl, out of Toronto. Her work is featured in my garden in the birdbath, fencing, obelisk and trellises! Can you tell I love her style? She’ll be selling her work at Whitehouse Perennials this summer and so perhaps you can get some for your own garden…she also makes beautiful arbours…

Those who know me know that I also love creating container combinations. This new garden has given me the opportunity to have several planters on the deck (yes, those are my toes, and also the scratching marks were made by Scoutie, in her attempts to access resident rabbit). All the plants must be shade tolerant and I never design the combination beforehand as you never know what you might or might not find at the nursery. This one showcases Begonia ‘Gryphon’, Fuchsia ‘Rose and Mauve’, Coleus ‘Kong Jr.’, variegated Lysimachia and a fern (not sure of the variety, but could be any really). I love the way the shapes and textures relate, and of course, the brightness of yellow and the darkness of the maroon, with the interplay of pink. I’m looking forward to creating more from those where I had planted pansies, which are now failing in this unseasonable June heatwave!

As the season progresses, more to come…