Monday, March 2, 2015

A Community Coming Together: The Enabling Garden

What's a sign that a public garden has been well designed and executed?

People. Lots of people. 

Seniors sipping their coffee, families with babies in strollers, and visitors pausing to admire the flowers on a warm evening last summer were all evidence that the Enabling Garden in the heart of Guelph, Ontario is a community garden in the truest sense of the word. 

Trevor Barton, the Enabling Garden's Chair, tells me that the initial concept for the garden began with a fortuitous meeting with Betty Richard, Disabilities Co-ordinator for the City of Guelph at a round table Millennium planning session back in 1999.  

When the two struck up a casual conversation about community gardens, conservation and horticultural therapy, the idea to create an accessible garden emerged.

Trevor Barton recounts: "From that chance meeting we reached out further to other liked minded people which included a number of key community players who were Master Gardeners, Ability and Senior's Co-ordinators to plant the seed of this accessible garden project. Fortunately, the City of Guelph at the time was an enthusiastic supporter of the Communities in Bloom and I was able to bring the Director of Recreation and Parks and the Park Planner for the city into the group to develop this idea further."

"From that humble beginning we were able to develop a plan. The City of Guelph donated the land within Riverside Park to build this fully accessible Enabling Garden, which officially opened in June 2005 (the hundred year anniversary of Riverside Park)."

"From 2000-2005 we continually fundraised and brought in many sponsors and benefactors like Reid's Heritage Homes who provided the lion share of donations and in-kind support with builders, earth moving machinery and construction expertise. During this time we were also successful in securing a Trillium Grant which enabled us to hire a Landscape Designer to lead the project..."

Glynis Logue, a Guelph-based environmental designer, brought to this venture her extensive background designing 'healing landscapes'. One of the garden's main objectives was to create a safe, accessible, interactive space. The intent was to foster sense of community ownership, while at the same time contributing to the physical and emotional well-being of its users.

Glynis incorporated into the garden's layout gentle, sweeping curves and a spiral refuge which serves as an enclosure for the garden's year round workshops. 

The pathways she designed were wide with smooth, flat surfaces that could accommodate wheelchairs, walkers and clients with low vision. Special benches were made with custom armrests to allow visitors to sit and rise easily easily.

 Echinacea in the foreground with native Cup Flowers in the distance.

In terms of the plantings, one of Glynis Logue's innovations was to use native perennials and grasses instead of the formal bedding plants often found in traditional public gardens. These are tough, hardy plants that don't rely on excess water or chemicals to fend off pests.

In keeping with the garden's emphasis on mental and physical wellness, she also included a wide variety of plants that have healing properties. Here are just a few of the healing plants Glynis incorporated into the Enabling Garden: 

Boneset 'Chocolate'Eupatorium rugosum, which is a fever reducer

English lavender 'Munstead', Lavandula augustifolia can be used a muscle relaxant

Greek OreganoOriganum vulgare hirtum which is a digestive aid

New England Fall AsterSymphyotrichum novae-angliae can be used as a sleep aid

Golden Lemon ThymeThymus x citriodorus 'Variegata' is a herb that can boost the immune system

Culver's RootVeronicastrum virginicum which is a blood purifier

Echinacea with yellow Cup Flowers in the distance.

Cup Flower, Silphium Perfoliatum: The leaves of this native plant form a "cup" around a central stem giving the plant its common name. To the delight of birds and insects, rainwater collects in this shallow leaf basin. In the fall, Goldfinches love to devour the seeds. Cup Plant likes full sun and moist soil best. Height: 120-240 cm ( up to 8'), Spread: 60-90 cm. USDA Zones: 4-8.

Rudbeckia with Liatris in the foreground.

Joe Pye Weed

This is one public space that does not expect visitors to admire the plants and flowers from a polite distance. On the contrary, visitors are encouraged to reach out and touch textured foliage and enjoy fragrant flowers like Lavender. 

Benches overlooking the river also make this the perfect place to sit, listen and reflect.

I am not sure of the exact cultivar here, but if you find this combination of Rudbeckia and Phlox pretty, I am sure you will like this Phlox:
Phlox paniculata 'Nicky': Nicky's deep plum color makes it a great companion for late summer Rudbeckia and Echinacea. Full sun or light shade. Height: 90-120 cm (36-48 inches), Spread: 60-90 cm (24-36 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

One of the things that appeals to me, as an artist, is that many of the garden's fundraisers became nice decorative touches. A perfect example are these bricks that edge the paths.

In the centre courtyard, there are community gardens and raised cedar beds at different heights to accommodate seniors and people in wheelchairs. 

A horticultural therapist on staff structures programming and offers workshops throughout the year for school aged children, seniors and those of varying abilities.

Composting, mulching, water conservation and xeriscaping are a few of the garden's environmentally friendly practices. 

The Mosaic Sculpture Wall on the side of the central utility shed was another fundraiser. 

It was developed under the leadership of Goldie Sherman, a ceramic artist, Katrin Wolters a stained glass artist and artist Barbara Guy Long

The public was given the opportunity to sponsor a ceramic tile for $20.

The health and vigour of the plants in these raised beds speaks to their being lovingly tended.

What can you take away from Guelph's Enabling Garden?

The uplifting belief that a group of civic-minded volunteers can come together to create a wonderful outdoor space that has a positive and far reaching impact on the community as a whole.

Chair, Trevor Barton tells me that, "This special place has evolved into a dynamic destination point that provides over 14,000 clients and volunteers of all abilities and ages the opportunity to share in the joy of gardening each year."

More Information and Links:

The Enabling Garden is located in Riverside Park in the city of Guelph, Ontario. Check the website for spring workshops, volunteer opportunities and if you wish to visit, you can find directions here.

Watch a slide show on the Enabling Garden.

About Designer Glynis Logue:
Glynis Logue is a Guelph-based environmental designer with 20 years of experience designing 'healing landscapes'. Some of her notable project include The River, Markham Museum (commissioned for Land/Slide Possible Futures Exhibition); Guelph Enabling Garden; Pearson Motion Garden, St Joseph's Health Centre (Guelph); and West Harbour Waterfront Trail and Fish Migration Corridor (Hamilton). In 2014, she and her sister Deirdre, created Mood Clusters for the Ottawa inaugural outdoor exhibition Beyond the Edge: Artists' Gardens. Glynis' awards include the Guelph's Mayor Award and the Canadian Urban Institute Award.
Her work is profiled in Ground: Landscape Architect Quarterly Ontario (summer 2012) and CSLA 's Landscape/Paysages, Healing issue ( summer 2014) and Excellence issue (fall 2014). Glynis holds a MLA, University of Guelph, and a BSc, University of Alberta.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Lure of the Darkside

This is garden art that belongs in a horror film. 

I came across this bronze statue of a small child gazing down into the murky depths of a pond last summer. The large, geometric pond was not deep, but the black liner gave it an ominous, dare I say sinister, quality. 

Despite my rather melodramatic opening, this is not a blog post that means to suggest the likelihood of a diabolical side to gardening. With the possible exception of the creepy garden art, I like to think that gardening is a "force" for good in the world.

In this instance, there is no dark arts or science fiction involved - the "dark" I am talking about here are deep, rich colors. Bold colors from eggplant to burgundy to black are the opposite of whisy-washy. They're dramatic. 

I've noticed that many experienced gardeners use strong colors to add a sophistication to their plantings. The repetition of boldly colored foliage is just one trick they use to breakup a scene that would otherwise be dominantly green. 

I am going to begin with a series of wide shots. In each there is a pleasing balance of opposites - the yin and yang of light and dark colors.

Jacquie's garden in Darthmouth, N.S.

Garden Canadensis in Milton, Ontario

The garden of Marion Jarvie, Thornhill, Ontario

Rich colors make bright colors pop in contrast. 

Deep colors can be found in foliage, stems and flowers. Here are just a few 
examples in each category:

The garden of Marion Jarvie, Thornhill, Ontario

At the foot of this pink Phlox is the purplish-black foliage of Bugleweed, Ajuga. Here is a reference to a variety of Ajuga you might want to consider for your own garden:

Ajuga reptans 'Chocolate Chip': has narrow, brownish-green foliage and showy spikes of blue flowers in June. This variety is not as quick to spread as some Bugleweeds. Part to full shade. It will grow in a variety of soil types , but likes moist conditions. Height: 10-15 cm (4-6 inches), Spread 30-45 cm (12-18 inches) USDA Zones: 3-9.

This is a plant I added to my garden last summer. It is supposed to be short-lived in zones 5 and 6, so fingers crossed it makes it through this record breaking February weather. 

Wood Spurge 'Purpurea', Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Purpurea': has greyish-purple-green foliage with chartreuse flower clusters in spring. It likes 3-6 hours of morning or afternoon sun. Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Purpurea' will grow a variety of soil types and can take everything from moist to dry conditions. Height: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches). USDA Zones: 5-9.

The garden of Marion Jarvie, Thornhill, Ontario

Not the best picture, but hopefully good enough for you to see the black magic of this Ligularia. 

Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford': is a plant you grow for the foliage and not the flowers. This Ligularia forms a large clump of mahogany leaves with golden-orange flowers in mid-summer. Slugs can be an issue. Part shade to full shade in warm regions. Moist soil is essential. Height: 90-120 cm (35-47 inches), Spread: 80-90 cm ( 31-35 inches). USDA Zones:3-9.

There are any number of Heuchera with dark foliage that you can choose from.  Some Heuchera, like the Heuchera 'Silver Scroll' on the left, are an interesting combination of frosted leaf surfaces with dark undersides and flower stems.

For late summer consider any number of the Sedums with deep reddish-green foliage. Here are just a few of the possibilities: Autumn Stonecrop Sedum 'Chocolate Drop', Sedum 'Purple Emperor' and Sedum 'Xenox'.

The garden of Marion Jarvie, Thornhill, Ontario

I also wanted to include a few tender perennials like this Canna Lily which must be lifted from the garden each fall. This may seem like a lot of bother, but when you consider how striking they are in a late summer garden, they are more than worth the effort. 

Dahlias are another plant whose tubers must be lifted in fall. There are a good number of cultivars to choose from that have rich, purply-black foliage. 
Here are just two: Dahlia 'Mystic Illusion' has nearly-black foliage with yellow flowers. Dahlia 'Happy Single Wink' has a single magenta flowers and striking black foliage .

Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop' in the garden of Marion Jarvie

One final tender plant which I spotted in Marion Jarvie's garden: Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop'. 
In Zone 6, this plant is unusual enough to make it a conversation piece. Aeonium must be lifted in early fall and brought in from the cold to be wintered indoors.

Black Tree Aeonium, Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop': is a winter-blooming succulent with rosettes of black leaves. It requires full sun and well-drained soil. Height: 60 cm -1.8 m (24 inches to 6 ft), Spread: 30-38 cm (12-15 inches) USDA Zones 9-11.

Public Garden, Guelph ON

Coleus famously comes in some pretty wacky color combinations like this 
one in the lower righthand corner.

Templin Garden, Fergus Ontario

But if you search around you may be lucky to find one of the marvellous varieties 
that are a deep smoky-plum.

Just a few examples of plants with dark stems. This Maidenhair Fern has thin black stems.

Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum: has arching black stems and fans of green leaflets. The foliage is great in cut flower arrangements. These ferns like rich, moist soil. You may find that they take several years to reach a mature size. Height: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches), Spread: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

Private garden near Uxbridge, ON

Combing dark stems and foliage is Penstemon 'Dark Towers': Height: 60-90 cm, Spread: 45-60 cm. Full sun. Normal, sandy or clay soil are fine. Average to dry conditions. Zones: USDA 3-9

Jacquie's garden in Darthmouth, N.S.

Ligularia 'The Rocket': Ligularia like moist conditions. 'The Rocket' forms a large clump of jagged edged leaves. Purplish-black stems and yellow flowers appear mid-summer. Ligularia is one perennial that is quite happy in clay. Height: 120-180 cm (47-70 inches), Spread: 80-90 cm (31-35 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

To wrap-up this post, I offer you several types of flowers that have dark flowers.

Columbine: The Columbine, Aquilegia Ancolie (shown above) has eggplant colored flowers. Cultivar Aquilegia 'Black Barlow' has is a double, plum-purple flowers.

Bearded Irises come in a wide range of colors including purples, plums, inky-blues and black.

Hellebores can also be found in shades of wine-red, plum, burgundy and black.

Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' and Geranium phaeum 'Mourning Widow' (above) both have deep plum-wine colored flowers.

Hollyhocks (seen at the bottom of the post) are a biennial whose flowers come in a range of colors including black and burgundy.

As to annuals, how about some black Petunias?


Have your say:  

Are they black flowers dramatic or just not your thing?

Do you know of some plants you'd like to recommend with dark flowers, stems or foliage?