Monday, April 6, 2015

Jacquie's Garden Part 1: Spring


I arrived one evening last June to find Jacquie in the garden, potting up some plants. She was dressed in rough garden clothes, her silver hair tucked up under a baseball cap. 

Barking and circling my legs on sentry duty was her tiny, but mighty dog named Valentine.

Jacquie and Valentine 

Valentine gives me a watchful eye

You'd like Jacquie. She's got an open, generous personality that puts you immediately at ease.

Often, when I photograph a garden, the nervous homeowner will follow me around the property, fidgeting and pulling at the odd weed apologetically. I understand. It's hard having a camera lens pointed at such a personal and private a space and not feel a little self-conscious. The irony is: I never see the weeds! I am there to discover what is special and unique about a garden. There is always something beautiful to be found if you are observant enough to see it.

Jacquie, on the other hand, wasn't the slightest bit uncomfortable about having her garden photographed. She continued to work away on her potting and left me on my own, free to explore and take pictures to my heart's content. 

And if it was beauty I was seeking, it was beauty I found.

Jacquie's garden is in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on one of the hills that rolls up and away from the Halifax harbour. 

The home's front is level with the street, but the backyard falls away from the house in a long, gradual slope. A walkway, deck and set of wooden steps take you from house's main floor down to the small terrace that you see in these next photographs.

Two perennials with interesting color:

Fleeceflower, Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon': is a foliage plant with purplish-maroon colored leaves a silver v-shaped marking. In colder areas, this plant will require some winter protection. Full sun or light shade. Average garden soil is fine, but it likes conditions to be on the moist side.  Height: 60-90 cm (23-35 inches), Spread: 60-90 cm (23-35 inches). USDA Zones 6-9

Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow': forms a bushy, upright mound of foliage with the bonus of fiery orange bracts in early summer. This is supposedly one of the most reliable Euphorbias for Northern garden zones. Note: The milky sap of this plant is irritating to skin, so wear gloves when pruning it. Full sun. Average garden soil should be fine, but this Euphorbia prefers the soil to be on the moist side. Height: 60-90 cm (23-35 inches), Spread: 60-75 cm ( 23-29 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.


A pleasing mix of green textures and shapes. The pale pink groundcover in the foreground is Saxifraga. In front of the Saxifraga on the left is Ornamental Sorrel, Rumex sanguineus var. sanguineus.

Saxifraga: has rosettes of evergreen leaves and sprays of flowers carried in spring. This plant likes light shade and somewhat moist soil with good drainage. Height: 15-25 cm (6-10 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches) USDA Zones 3-9. 

Ornamental Sorrel, Rumex sanguineus var. sanguineus: is a foliage plant that forms a clump of spinach-like leaves. The leaves have interesting maroon colored veining. This plant does get greenish flowers in summer, but they aren't particularly pretty. To rejuvenate the foliage, clip it back after the plant blooms. Clay soil and moist conditions are its preferences. Full sun or light shade. Height: 20-30 cm (8-12 inches), Spread: 20-30 cm (8-12 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

Viola 'Rebecca'

Geranium 'Rozanne' with Spanish Bluebells in the distance.

Geranium 'Rozanne': is hands down one of the best Cranesbill Geraniums and blooms for an extended period of time. Height: 30-50 cm, Spread: 45-60 cm. Full sun to part shade. Normal, sandy or clay soil are fine. Average to moist soil. USDA Zones: 4-9.

Cushion Spurge, Euphorbia Polychroma in the center bottom of the picture. The spotted leaf to the left is Pulmonaria. The tall yellow daisy is Doronicum orientale.

Cushion Spurge, Euphorbia Polychromaprefers full sun and somewhat dry conditions. Normal or sandy soil is best. Cut Euphorbia Polychroma back in early summer to keep it neat and compact, but be careful to wear garden gloves as the milky-white sap the plant extrudes can be irritating to the skin. Height: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

You'll notice beautiful clumps of Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa dotted throughout Jacquie's garden. I asked her to tell me about her experience with growing Hakonechloa.

She replied: "I believe the Hakonechloa on the steps is 'All Gold'. It's more golden in the sun, but on the steps, it's beautiful chartreuse and stays like that all summer: nice and fresh. I love the way it drapes over the stairs and everyone comments on it. Many pieces are now growing in friends' gardens."

"I also have Hakonechloa 'Aureola' in another spot that gets morning shade and afternoon sun. It gets a little dried out by the end of summer. I had a huge 'Aureola' in direct sun and it was beautiful until the heat of summer hit. It looked awful for the rest of the season. I finally moved all of it (all 2'x 2') after many years of arguing with myself, gave away some and put the remainder in part shade."

Jacquie tells me her garden began with the steeply sloping bank just off the back of the house which had become a problem to mow:

"We turned over all the sod, put down soggy newspapers and covered it with topsoil. Then I planted it with shrubs, which looked tiny at the time, but after 30 years or so, you can't see any soil. I've used this method with nearly every garden I've made and it works beautifully. I've planted it immediately and it is an instant garden. I've also used this method in the fall and left it to plant until the following spring. This works even better."

Lungwart, Pulmonaria

Candelabra Primrose, Primula japonica is a group of woodland plants with fresh green foliage and a crown of flowers in late spring. They prefer moist or wet clay soil that is rich in organic matter. Part Shade. Height: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA Zones: 5-9

In the middle foreground, you can see the white flowers of the Pearl Bush, which is the next closeup.

One of the great advantages of laying out a garden on a slope has been the ability to look down on the garden from on high. After the bank was completed, Jacquie found herself looking out her window at the as yet untouched expanse of grass in the backyard:

"I'd sit upstairs by my living room window and plan where to dig the next garden patch. When that project was finished, I'd do the same thing until the whole garden was mostly the way I wanted it."

"At one point I dug a very large garden in front of the upper bank. It had a straight edge, and when I looked from the window, I knew it was totally wrong. It needed to have curves, so I had to rearrange the whole thing. That happened a lot and still does."

Pearl Bush, Exochorda macrantha 'The Bride'

Jacquie: "Very short bloom time, but so beautiful."

Pearl Bush, Exochorda macrantha 'The Bride': is a deciduous shrub that has a height and spread of about 3' to 4'. 'The Bride' has white flowers on arching branches in spring. It can be easily grown in average, well-drained soil, but it prefers a slightly acidic loam that is rich in organic matter. This shrub flowers on old growth, so prune it after it finishes flowering. Full sun to light shade. USDA Zones 5-8. 

You'll notice that none of Jacquie's island-shaped flowerbeds are filled with only flowers. There is always a conifer or a few shrubs, and often a small tree, like a Japanese Maple. I asked Jacquie of she used shrubs and trees as a kind of anchor in her flowerbeds.

She replied: 'I have trees and shrubs in every bed for a reason now, but it didn't start out that way. If the beds are fairly flat they become boring to me."

"The attraction for me is colorful and unusual foliage or flowers, unique shapes and evergreens for year-round interest.  Japanese Maples, Azaleas and Rhodos of course, Berberis, Chamaecyparis of all types, Cotinus, Hydrangeas, Pieris, Roses and many varieties of Sambuccus (some of which look almost like Japanese Maples) are some of my favourites. Most of my trees and shrubs are trellises for my Clematis."

I love the graphic sweep of this drainage ditch which moves water down the slope of the garden.

A gazing ball with Solomon's Seal just in behind it. 

This ends the first post on Jacquie's garden. More up shortly!


  1. That garden is a heavenly place to live in, it looks so peaceful and quiet with all those different greens and different shapes of foliage.

  2. What a stunning garden! I absolutely loved it and as always wonder if I'll ever get mine like this! Jackie and Valentine sound lovely!!! I have the bride, it is a lovely shrub and I've seen it trained up

  3. What a heavenly piece of earth she has. She's a true designer looking out the window and seeing what works or doesn't. The drainage ditch is very clever and makes one want to follow it. Thank you for the reminder Jennifer that, fingers crossed, spring isn't too far away.

  4. I really think this is my favorite garden to date! How clever is that drainage art sweeping through her garden. And her combinations are unique and striking!! Just unbelievable!!!! Thanks for sharing friend!! Nicole xo

  5. Stunning garden, I am amazed at the sheer number of plants, and how superbly they are arranged.

  6. Such a beautiful garden, so well planted, it just shows what can be planted so far north.

  7. Hi Jennifer, TY for visiting my blog, A New England Flowerbed, and leaving a comment. Your photography is very beautiful. You have a great eye! Jacquie's gardens are amazing! We have a lot of sloping property so it was nice to see how she has managed hers.....
    Spring is battling winter here.....everyday there's less snow on the ground and I'm out to see what is coming up. I can hardly wait to see my Columbine and other spring blooms!

  8. Jennifer, this is a wonderful garden! I think I would like its owner very much! Though I am thousands of miles south of her, we share many of the same plants: columbine, persicaria, hosta, primula, solomon's seal and Japanese maple, among many others. Thank you for sharing, and I look forward to your next post!

    Also, thank you for taking time to watch my podcast! I appreciate your kind comment!
    Best wishes,

  9. That is my sort of garden, lovely and informal but with structure and some fantastic planting! Thanks for the tour! I love the Persicaria next to Euphorbia 'Fireglow' - inspired!

  10. Comment via email posted on behalf of Bonie at the Urban Cottage:
    To visit Jacquie's garden is a true Garden Spiritual experience, her love of her plants and the space is evident. Jacquie's garden offers movement, pattern, ornamentation, focal points, layers, wonderful views, color, spontaneity, intimacy and above all a timelessness. She is generous, kind and so knowledgeable. I am happy to have her as a friend and mentor.

  11. Jacquie's garden is just lovely and your photo's are brilliant. I love the 'walk' around the garden, it has started my morning so well, thank you.

    All the best Jan

  12. Wow! What a gorgeous garden! Just lovely. Your photos seem to do it justice, too.

  13. How great is it that Jacquie knows her garden has got it goin' on? This is good lesson that gardens take years and she has a lot of great advice. Her garden is stunning.

  14. Jennifer girl ... there is something special about Nova Scotia gardens : )
    Jacquie's is gorgeous ! .. I love the use of the Japanese maples, the forest grass and all the different shrubs as accents. I planted a pearl bush last year "Blizzard" and I can not wait to see if it will flower here .. when ever Spring actually arrives and stays ? haha
    She is a confident gardener that knows you will enjoy all of the pictures you capture .. isn't that a wonderful way to roam and wonder through a garden ?
    These are beautiful pictures and I have truly enjoyed them too ... thank you !
    Joy : )

  15. She must have her hands full, looks like a place I could sit and relax in for hours. I love the rock river that is functional. Thanks for the beautiful pictures

  16. Jennifer you show such beautiful gardens...I love the shade plants and especially when columbines seed themselves.

  17. and I'm bookmarking several things in this post. So great to see a maritime garden and see the types of plants thriving there. Not to mention new to me plants. Thanks so much for this tour, now I'm off to part 2!

  18. Oh this sparked a lot of ideas!!! Thanks Jennifer!

  19. What a wondrful space! I love every bit of it and there is so much inspiration!

  20. Beautiful, Breathtaking.. Next time I over, I will call and see if I can take a walk through..... Jealous

  21. I live in the south and it is much too hot for some of the plants so I can only dream. Such beautiful arrangements of plants and trees especially colors. What a delight to see. Truly a labor of love. Thanks so much for sharing.


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