Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Life in a Cottage Garden

I stumbled across this set of videos and enjoyed watching them so much that I wanted to share them with you. The video series follow a year of seasonal changes in Carol Kein's garden in North Devon, England.

I admire Carol's passion for gardening and her boundless energy. Well into the darkness of evening, she's out in her potting shed filling seed trays and making new plants. As I watched her working away, scattering seed over the surface of the rich, black earth and covering it with "grit" I found myself wondering if her husband must not be a little lonely inside the warm house watching the "telly" all by himself.

Does he peer out the kitchen window periodically and wonder if its time to put the kettle on? Somehow I think that after over thirty years of marriage he has come to understand and appreciate her obsession with plants.

Photo by Jonathan Buckley Source

Carol is a tiny woman, with a bird's nest of short blonde hair, but there is nothing delicate about her. As you will see, she is always hefting and hauling heavy plant pots and trudging through her garden wheelbarrow in hand.

"Come'n have a look at this," she says beaconing to the camera in the fourth video of the series. It turns out there are hornets "tucking into" the bark of some willow saplings. Her delight in this discovery makes me think of my Mom. She too found pleasure in such simple things.

My most favourite scene by far is one of triumph. It is mid-August and Carol's "hot" flower border has come into its height of color.

She adds a pot of tall vermilion 'Bishop of Llandaff' dahlias into the border and then stands back to describe for viewers the glorious mingling of reds, oranges and yellows. Her words end with a crescendo of excitement and her body rocks in a little gig. "I think that its all sort of..." her hands ball into fists as she struggles to find the perfect word to describe just what she has managed to create. Finally the right adjective bubbles to the surface,"Magnificent!"Carol declares in jubilation.

Moments of triumph like this are every gardeners dream!

Go make yourself a cup of coffee and then settle into to watch the snowdrops and hellebores emerge in Carol's garden in the early winter.

Links to Life in a Cottage Garden can be found on my Pinterest page on the board "Gardening Videos".

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Beginning and an End

Today I am going to share with you the start of a big project and the end of what I refer to in my head as "Phase 1".

I have always had an overall vision for the design of my garden and to my plan's credit, I have stuck pretty close to it over the years- never changing my mind or the design direction the garden is headed.

This is not to say that I have never second-guessed myself. I have done that many times! But at the end of the day, my gut instincts usually serve me best and my first ideas are most often the ones that I end up carrying through to completion.

I carry the design plans around in my head. I see it like a drawing- although I have never committed it to paper.

There are a few design challenges. For one, our backyard is like a bowling alley: long and narrow. The previous homeowner put flowerbeds down the outside perimeter and had a circular herb garden at the end of the expanse of green grass that ran down the centre of the property.

It was a fine enough garden, but the yard felt really narrow and much smaller than the 150 feet that it was in reality. I kept many of the original features and have made lots of changes-perhaps a subject best kept for another post- with the addition of a place to relax and unwind being our latest project. 

So here it is! 

Midway down the yard and off to the right- a small circular courtyard of pea gravel (in its present form). A narrow border of plantings enclose it like a cocoon.

One of our biggest challenges in creating any backyard retreat was going to be the mosquitoes. Living this close to the Credit River we have tons of mosquitoes- even in the middle of the day. Who wants to be batting away at mosquitoes while trying relax and sip a drink?

We decided me needed to make a mosquito proof enclosure. Our house is late Victorian and so our plans are to eventually build something traditional in keeping with the house- our own take on a standard gazebo. 

Umbrella Loblaw's Superstore $50 (approximately). The folding wooden Adirondack chairs were also purchased at Loblaw's late last summer (just under $50 each).

If time and money were no object we would have built the gazebo this summer, but that's not the case. So for now, we have mapped out the space with our little pea gravel courtyard. (Eventually we will build the gazebo overtop of this foundation layer of fine gravel.)

There isn't a lot of sun in this part of the yard, but the umbrella is not just for show. It serves several functions including protecting our heads from falling walnuts! At this time of year, the black walnut tree overhead drops a steady shower of golf-ball-sized walnuts that are as hard as rocks. 

The umbrella also holds up the oversized mosquito net that we purchased on clearance (not installed at the time I took these pictures).

The surrounding plantings still need a bit of finessing. Here are a few early favourites:

Phlox paniculata 'Creme de Menthe'- many of my phlox are finished, but this one is just coming into its glory. Love, love the variegated leaves! 

Sunflowers self-seeded themselves into the planting scheme.

Coleus, 'Vino' and Hydrangea 'Little Lime'

Sedum 'Matrona' Height 40-50 cm Spread: 45-60 cm Full sun is best, but I have mine in part shade. The flowers are big and heavy so pinch the plant back in June to prevent it from flopping when in flower.

Agastache 'Blue Fortune' Height: 60-75 cm, Spread: 60 cm. Full sun or part shade. I am amazed at how big this plant has gotten in its first year. It is a blooming machine!

White Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium altissimum 'Prairie Jewel' Height: 90 cm, Spread: 40 cm. 
Moist soil (or afternoon shade). 

Brilliance Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance' Height: 45-60 cm, Spread: 45-60 cm. Part Shade and moist soil.

Another project almost complete are these plants supports. We made two 5' plant supports for diagonally opposite sides of my four raised beds. (The other two raised boxes have lilac standards in the centre of each bed.)

One of these 5' supports sits in my raised herb bed and so I have elected not to finish it any way (the last thing I want is flakes of chipping paint falling in among the plants we eat!).

The supports are made of inexpensive spruce and I used a fence post finial to decorate the top (about $15-20 in raw materials). With the exception of angled saw cuts, they are fairly easy to make. (I wasn't sure if there would be enough interest to do a how-to post. If it turns out that there is interest, I will do one.)

We also made two 6' plant supports for the circle garden at the back of the yard. (You can just see it in the distance through the arbor.)

Turtlehead, Chelone obliqua Height 60-90 cm Spread: 60-75 cm Full sun or part shade. Mine is in part shade. The clump is at least 5 years old and is quite sizeable.

Just before we take a closer look at the taller plant supports, let's pause to admire the Turtlehead flowers blooming just to the right of the arbor we will pass through. It is really amusing to watch bumblebees try to sandwich their little round bodies into these tight-lipped flowers.

I elected to paint these plant supports burgundy, which is the color of the shutters on our white house. Scrambling up the sides is a small bell-shaped clematis that bloomed a little over a month ago: 

A few other recent additions to this area of the garden:

I got this Rhododendron at a 50% off sale in late June. In a garden that tends to the messy, I love the compact shape and neat, glossy leaves. Rhododendron 'P.J. M.' Height: 150 cm, Spread: 150 cm. Full sun to part shade.

On the right a great foliage plant Caryopteris divaricata, 'Snow Fairy'. It has insignificant blue flowers and beautiful variegated foliage. Height: 60 cm and Spread: 60cm (very similar in size and shape to a small Spirea) Full sun to half shade.

This is a perennial Goldenrod new to the garden this year. I misplaced the plant tag, but feel pretty confident that it is Stiff Golden Rod, Solidago rigida

This is a skyscraper of a plant that is almost as tall as I am (120 cm)! Until I find it the perfect home, I have it in half-shade, but it would much prefer to be in full sun. As you can see, it tends to flop and requires staking.

Stiff Golden Rod, Solidago rigida

I hope your enjoying these first few days of fall.

I am going to link this post to May Dreams Gardens Garden Bloggers Bloom Day meme on the 15th of this month and also to Fishtail Cottage's Garden Party on Thursday. To see other pretty gardens, please click the links.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Late Summer at its most Beautiful (Part 2)

Ironweed, Vernonia noveboracenis at Edwards Garden. Height: 180-210 cm, 
Spread: 90-100 cm Full sun, prefers moist soil. 

I hope you had a super long weekend. 

We were very busy working in the garden and I have new things to show you- once I get out there and take a few pictures!

In the meantime, I have more late summer/early fall pictures to show you from my rambles here and there.

Summer Alliums, Lost Horizons Nursery

No matter how long you have been gardening, there is always something new that you haven't seen before or plants that you just plain overlooked.

I am very familiar with spring alliums, but summer flowering varieties of alliums have only recently grabbed my attention. I have a couple of varieties in my own garden (fairly new additions), and I am so taken with them, that I have started to notice them in other gardens as well.

Summer flowering Alliums in the spotty light of early morning at Lost Horizons Nursery. Sorry there was no ID available- quite possibly Allium 'Millenium'

There is always a getting-to-know-you phase with anything new to the garden. So far, my only concern is that these summer flowering alliums will set seed and spread a little too prolifically. To avoid any problems, I planted them in a spot where I can keep a good eye on them.

Also a soft, delicate beauty- Calamintha nepeta. This was my new favourite last summer. I haven't quite found the perfect spot for it though. 

Its pretty, the bees adore it, it blooms mid-summer and continues into fall-all great attributes, but where do you place something this dainty so that it doesn't get lost?

At Edwards Gardens, it has been placed at the feet of some tall Miscanthus. 
The purple spires are Liatris.

Spiderflower, Cleome with Zinnias in the distance at the Dixie Park in Brampton.

This was a drive-by shooting- I happened to see these huge Hibiscus flowers in a local garden and had to stop to take a picture. 

It always amazes me that something this tropical looking can happily find a home in a place with such freezing cold winters.

This one was growing at the Toronto Botanical Garden and so I have an ID for you. Swamp Rose Mallow, Hibiscus 'Kopper king' has coppery-red leaves and flowers that are 10-12" across. 

It dies back to the ground in autumn and does not break dormancy until late spring. Full sun, moist, rich soil. Mulch well in winter. Hardy zones 4-9 Height: 90-105 cm, Spread: 75-90 cm

Note to self- Japanese Maples and blue-green evergreens look stunning in fall.

Annual Fountain Grass, Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' also looks great in 
combination with grey-green foliage.

Container planting at Edwards Garden 

Note the interesting use of the herbs sage and parsley in this container planting.

Davis Austin Rose, The Ingenious Mr Fairchild (Austijus) at Edwards Garden

Butterfly sipping nectar from a Butterfly Bush

Edwards Garden

Summer Snapdragon, Angelonia angustifolia 'Angelface' is an annual here that can be sown from seeds in spring. Full sun. Heat and drought tolerant.  Height: 45-60 cm, Spread: 30 cm

From the trial garden at Edwards Garden

Spiderflower, Cleome, Senorita Rosalita 'Inncleosr' a sterile Cleome that has bright magenta flowers. Full sun. Height: 60-90 cm, Spread: 45-60 cm

Edwards Garden in Toronto

Coneflower, Echinacea 'Colorburst Orange' Full sun. Height: 40-60 cm, Spread: 45-50 cm 

Can it possibly be the case that we need more varieties of Echinacea? 

It seems that some plant breeders think so. The Toronto Botanical Gardens was trialing several new varieties this summer.

Coneflower, Echinacea, 'Glowing Dream' is a compact Echinacea with watermelon-pink colored flowers. Full sun. Height: 40-60 cm, Spread: 45-50 cm

Hopefully up next are pictures of our latest garden projects.