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.


  1. Jennifer girl this is just so lovely !
    Your garden is beautiful .. rustic, and such a wonderful sanctuary. Touches of a "secret garden" with pathways and plantings. I love those wooden supports, so I will be watching for the "how to" post as well!
    I have Blue Fortune too and it is going on 12 years old .. I am amazed it is that old !
    The bouquet of flowers is so pretty .. I just love it : )
    We have horrible hot weather with this weird recent front that moved in yesterday morning .. huge thunder storm that happened with it too!
    I am waiting for the weekend for cooler weather to try and get in the garden again .. fingers crossed I get my missions done ! LOL
    Gorgeous pictures and lovely post !
    Joy : )

  2. I love your new seating area! I think it's lovely the way it is, but I understand about the mosquitos--I'm sure you'll actually sit here more often if you don't have to worry about swatting them away. Your whole back garden is absolutely beautiful! And yes, yes, I'd love a tutorial for building those tutuers! I pinned something similar to my Pinterest board, but haven't looked at the website to see if it's too complicated for me to do.

  3. A great tour of your garden -- I have long wondered what your space looks like. It is lovely, with the seating area, and the arbor that invites you to walk through, and your mix of plants that combine so beautifully. I have that caryopteris divaricata Snow Fairy and in addition to its pop of bright variegated foliage, the leaves stink to high heaven -- very fragrant but sharp!

    What a serene space you have created. I know what you mean about keeping plans in your head all the time -- you can see your future gazebo and future ideas, and we can see the present cool and shady garden you have.

  4. Your garden is beautiful. I don't think there is enough said about the challenge of creating a garden where mosquitoes are so prevalent. It sounds like you've found a good temporary solution for enjoying your garden, and a screened enclosure sounds like a very good idea. Of course, you're still faced with slapping on the the repellent when you want to work in the garden!

  5. It looks like such a peaceful area to sit, and I think a gazebo will fit in perfectly. There is always so much to enjoy in your garden. Yes please, to a tutorial.

  6. A gazebo will be a fantastic addition to your garden! This is the second time I have seen the turtlehead flowers on the blogs I read and I have only seen them for the first time ever over labor day weekend. I think they are a gorgeous flower! Have a wonderful day!

  7. I really have no idea what a gazebo is but your garden looks beautiful just the way it is.
    Have a wonderful day Jennifer.

  8. Such a lovely garden, love the seating area too. Shame about the mossie's though, I probably wouldn't venture outside if I had to put up with a lot of these insects.

  9. I love your new seating area! And how romantic, and very Victorian, to be sitting under mosquito netting! I also love that pop of red - it is very welcoming. I love the photos of your flowers up close, but the wide shots of your garden really show how very beautiful it truly is.

  10. My goodness, this is gorgeous, Jennifer!
    All of your hard work has surely paid off.
    It looks like such a peaceful place, and I love all of the wonderful color.

  11. You guys sure work hard in your garden, Jennifer, and your dedication and efforts really show. I think it's very smart to enclose the lovely little pea gravel spot. Bugs bug me too :) And being able to sit outside comfortably in our short summer is a MUST.
    You still have so many lovely things in bloom. Bravo! My garden is fading quickly and I may even start cutting it down early so I don't get caught in late October with lots still to do and freezing weather.
    Anyway - beautiful job you've done so far. I will carry on listening to the incredible storm happening outside! (Wed eve. 10:30 pm)

  12. The plantings around your new courtyard area are lovely. I'm particularly admiring the sedum. The plant supports are like something I would expect to see in a Gertrude Jekyll garden. I hope a 'how to' will be forthcoming.

  13. This post is fabulous. I loved every piece of it. It has inspired me so much that I am rushing the daylight hours here to get outside and start some project. That is a great sitting area and the arbor pictured is beautiful. Thanks for the inspiration.

  14. A slice of Paradise on Earth! It looks like such a peaceful place, and I'd love to be there right now, instead of being under this torrential Scottish rain. ;) Thanks for all this beauty!

  15. What a delightful garden, how I'd love to sit and chill on those lovely chairs and drink it all in.xxxx

  16. Amazing and beautiful, love all the colors!

  17. I really commend you for keeping on track with your plan. The design is coming along beautifully and very cohesively. Dealing with the long narrow space as you have done is a designer trick and one many do not consider when planning. I like your gazebo idea and the solutions you employed until it can be built. Good thinking.

  18. Um - when can you come over? I need you in my back yard, badly! I am always so impressed with your eye. Everything looks picture-perfect.

  19. Your garden is always so beautiful and your choice of plants perfect! I really like the way you combine your plants, different shapes and textures. The mozzie problem must be so frustrating, I like the sound of what you are planning.

  20. So much goodness here Jennifer!!!!! Wow!!!!!! Your oasis is Gorgeous!!!!!! And the gazebo is going to be wonderful in that spot!! You had me laughing at falling walnuts! And thank you for sharing some of your plantings in the space!!! Have a great weekend!!!!

  21. What a fantastic post. I just keep coming back and looking at it again and again. I want to recreate so many parts of your garden.

  22. What a fantastic tour Jennifer and once again I've pinned a photo for future planning. The lime hydrangea and coleus caught my eye immediately. I can empathize with the mosquito issues. PEI is dreadful for bugs and many people have enclosed gazebos here. Although at our house the June bugs are more cause for concern than mosquitos

  23. Wow you have been busy. We have an enclosed gazebo because of the mosquitoes that are here 24/7 all spring and summer until the first freeze. The flowers in bloom are just lovely. We share many of the same flowers in our gardens.

  24. I love it! I love the festiveness of the red as well as the embracing feel of the round space. I was just thinking today that my dwarfy looking chelone needed more moisture. After seeing yours, they will definitely be going on my To Be Transplanted list. :o)

  25. Your projects AND gardens are awesome … and I'm intrigued by your mosquito proof enclosure and look forward to hearing and seeing more about that! Best wishes on that and all your projects!

  26. The red chairs and umbrella are vibrant and welcoming! I can see the future looking at them on the raised bed...but chuckled when you wrote: the black walnut tree overhead drops a steady shower of golf-ball-sized walnuts that are as hard as rocks ...good to have the umbrella!! You know what else I see....more red in your garden ;-)

    I have always loved turtle head..such a sweet adorable plant and the bees love it don't they.

  27. No matter how nice a garden may be, you just have to put your on mark on it. Making an excellent job as far as I can see. Love your picture of the Fern, which is becoming one of my favourite plants.

  28. Jennifer, you made very useful plant support, I liked them and will try to make in my garden too. I love your sedum and sunflower,they are really fall plants!

  29. You have such an amazing & interesting garden, full of colour and visual splendor! I've always admired the type of supports you have built, and have a book with plans in them. I'm waiting for my son to complete a woodworking course & then I'm going to put him to work making all the things my husband doesn't want to :) Thanks for naming all of your pretty plants ... comes in handy when I'm at the nursery and remember seeing a few of the same plants here on your site. Have a great week! Wendy x (ps ... checked out the Homestead Paints site, and find it's one that I have a pamphlet for and have used previously ... I'm really re-thinking the painting now with your suggestion on the wooden basket)

  30. I'm really impressed by what you've accomplished so far. We have some of the same favorite plants, especially the Agastache. I love that phlox as well, but the variety is new to me. I like the idea of using pea gravel for a patio but my spouse likes to walk barefoot in the backyard so we need some kind of smooth paver or stone. I hate mosquitos but they seem to love me (or my blood) - very clever tactic for preventing them from driving you insane.

  31. A clever temporary arrangement, Jennifer, and I love the red-on-red. Beautiful garden.

  32. I really admire that you are able to stick to your plan. Are the adirondack chairs wood or plastic? How are they holding up? That's a great price. Do you know who the manufacturer is because I would like to see if I can get any around here.

    1. Hi Carolyn, The adirondack chairs are wood not plastic and are fairly lightweight. What I love about them best is that they fold up for easy winter storage. Early in the gardening season they retail for around $100, but we waited for the end of July sales and got our chairs for half price. I poked around a bit online, but sorry I couldn't find the manufacturer's name.

    2. I bet you are feeling some satisfaction in seeing those plans come to fruition. The garden is looking absolutely beautiful - amazing agastache! I am wondering how you will keep those mosquitoes at bay so I am looking forward to that post!


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