Friday, April 10, 2015

Jacquie's Spring Garden, Part 2

Traditional thinking links creativity with some lightning strike of genius or some crystal clear "aha" moment. 

But people like Jacquie don't wait for a flash of inspiration; they simply get down to it. Making a garden is about hard work and perseverance. When you talk with a gardener who has as much experience as Jacquie, you realize that creativity involves planting a perennial in the wrong spot, digging it up and moving it to a more appropriate one. You make mistakes, but hopefully, you learn from them. 

When I asked Jacquie about her methods for creating such pleasing plant combinations, she told me:

 "I used to be that I'd plunk a plant in where I had room. Now I'm much more careful. Often a shrub or tree will remain in a pot for a month until I decide for sure where its permanent home will be. Smaller plants don't take as long, but even so, it takes me a while to decide."

"I look at the foliage and plant colour, texture and size, walk around the around the garden with it or sometimes I just sit the plant where I think it should go, and leave it for a few days just to be sure. "

"I might do that two or three times before it's a done deal. If a plant doesn't do what I think it should do the first season, I'll try it somewhere else next year. I'm much braver now and more ruthless. Eventually, it all works."

I was curious to know the story behind this tall, totem-like wood carving.

Jacquie says, "I had friends for dinner including Steve, an ex-priest and Maureen, his wife and an ex-nun. Steve passed away last year, just before Christmas, but he was a character and as big as life, so his memory lives on. "

"During dinner, he told us he had taken a course at Lee Valley on how to carve outdoor trees but didn't have a tree to work on. 

"During Hurricane Juan, two 100' poplars fell down into our neighbour's property. When the people we hired had trimmed one of the poplars to about 25', it popped back up and landed in the 8' hole it had left. When I saw it standing, I realized I could probably do something with it and so stopped them from cutting it down further. Then I forgot about it." 

"When Steve complained about not having a tree, I said, "I have just the tree for you." He was excited and started that summer. It took about a week in total to complete it."

"Steve had a very dry humour. I was watching him up on his ladder one day and asked why he was using a mirror. He replied, "I want to get the wrinkles just right." And they were! We were very pleased with the carving, and now, we treasure it even more."

The lower section of the hillside garden

Unknown variety of Euphorbia 

Jacquie kindly spent over an hour trying to find the name for this Euphorbia for me but to no avail. 

"It must have been given to me because I keep a record of everything. It seeds around a lot, but in spring I gather the seedlings up and clump them together. It also has to be cut back in mid-summer, so it leaves a bit of a hole. Despite all that, I really like it for its colour."

I did some poking around myself on the internet and I wonder if it is no Euphorbia 'Mini Martini'. Any suggestions?

Flowers or foliage? I asked Jacquie which she valued most. 

Her answer: "I think I value flowers and foliage equally, but am much more interested in foliage than I used to be. For instance, hostas didn't use to interest me much, except as a filler, and now I'm crazy about them."

Golden Comfrey, Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminister Gold'

Jacquie: "I love Golden Comfrey for its beautiful foliage and have moved it several times because it burns in the sun. I think it's finally found its home."

Golden Comfrey, Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminister Gold' has long oval leaves edged with a creamy butter colour. Note: the foliage can cause skin irritation, so use gloves. It has pale blue bell-shaped flowers in early summer.  This plant likes moist soil in full sun or light shade (afternoon shade is best in hot regions). It has a spreading growth habit. If you cut back the foliage after the plant flowers it will produce a new flush of fresh growth. Powdery mildew can be a problem. Propagate from root cuttings or grow plants from seed. Height: 75-90 cm (29-35 inches) Spread: 75-90 cm (29-35 inches) USDA Zones: 4-9

Gentian Speedwell, Veronica gentianoides

Jacquie has two different cultivars of Veronica gentianoides"I have one that is pale, pale blue - almost white and another that is a deeper blue. Love them both."

Gentian Speedwell,Veronica gentianoides: forms a low rosette of wide leaves with upright powder blue flower spikes in late spring/early summer. Veronica gentianoides tolerates a variety of soil types but likes the soil to be moist. Full sun or light shade. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches) USDA Zones: 2-9.

Jacquie's "flower fairy" who presides over the lower part of the garden from the top of a 
stump of an old crabapple tree.

Lysimacahia cliata 'Firecracker': is an upright plant with burgundy-purple foliage and insignificant yellow flowers. It prefers clay soil and moist conditions. For best colour, plant it in full sun or light shade. Be warned this is a pretty aggressive plant that spreads. Height: 75-90 cm ( 29-35 inches), Spread: 75 cm and more ( 29 inches...) USDA Zones: 2-9

Jacquie's review of this foliage plant: "It's a horrible spreader, but worth keeping contained in a pot for its beautiful colour. I have one area where it has gotten fairly wild and I'll never get rid of it."

Unnamed variety of Verbascum. Jacquie says,"I've had trouble with these in the past because my garden is so wet, but this one is doing well.

Jacquie told me, "I found the Buddhist hand in one of those small boutiques you stumble upon in a mall and just have to enter because everything looks so interesting. It was very inexpensive and I thought it might dispel evil or bring good luck or something good. I've looked it up and it appears to have many possible meanings. It's lost a finger, but now it has more character."

I asked Jacquie if she had a favourite perennial. 

Not surprisingly she replied, "Favourite perennial? That's impossible to answer. They're nearly all favourites!"

Geum borisii: Forms a low growing clump with sprays of bright orange flowers from early spring into summer. It may occasionally re-bloom in fall. Part shade and moist soil are best. Height: 30-45cm (12- 18 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches) USDA Zones: 5-7. Note: Geum borisii struggles with heat and humidity south of zone 7. 

An interesting mix of colours and textures with a large, glass bottle as a centrepiece.

Geum rivale: has nodding reddish-brown and butter-yellow bells in May/June. This plant will grow in average garden soil, but it likes moist conditions and some light shade. Bees love its flowers. Height: 25-50 cm (10-20 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm ( 18-23 inches) USDA Zones: 5-9.

Creeping Speedwell, Veronica whitleyi

Jacob's Ladder, Polemonium caeruleum

Jacob's Ladder, Polemonium caeruleum: forms a low mound of ferny foliage with star-shaped blue flowers on tall, upright stems. It can self-seed prolifically given the right growing conditions, so deadhead it after flowering if you want to limit seedlings. Average garden soil is fine, but Jacob's Ladder likes the soil to be moist. Height: 45-80 cm (18-31 inches), Spread 30-45 cm ( 12-18 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

Even though the sun shines well into the evening in June, the light in Jacquie's garden was starting to fade. Happy, but weary after taking pictures for well over an hour, I sat with Jacquie for a few minutes while she continued to pot up her plants. You can learn a lot from someone like her. We compared notes on plants and chatted about gardening. 

As Jacquie's beautiful garden shows, creativity is mostly conscious hard work. With a little passion and determination, we all have it in us to be creative.

I have one more post showing how Jacquie's garden transitions into late summer 
This third post will appear in the coming weeks. 

Have a wonderful weekend!


  1. Beautiful flowers, foliage and garden decorations especially the fairy.

  2. What a gorgeous garden. Thanks for listing so many of the plants with detailed information. Very helpful.

  3. Oh....I love the art as much as the planting! The tree sculpture is delightful, as is the flower fairy. I was thinking of carving the tree stump in the back garden, I just need to get the right tools. I just loved that second picture!xxx

  4. This is another great post! The tree sculpture is delightful, and I also enjoyed the story behind it. I imagine Jacquie has many stories to tell throughout her garden.

    Regarding the unidentified euphorbia - if you had not told me euphorbia, I would say that is a primula, but then perhaps I am looking at the wrong flower!

  5. I would really like to meet her. Not just because of her garden but she just sounds so neat! Loved the idea about keeping things in pots for a while before planting and that tree sculpture is fantastic!!! Thank you for sharing her garden Jennifer! Nicole xo

  6. Thank you for taking us for a visit to this stunning garden! As we get our first taste of spring warmth, its encouraging to see how it will all transform in the next few weeks.

  7. I'd love to go plant shopping with Jacquie ~ her plant choices are beautiful and interesting. I also like the garden art, like the little bunny peaking through the plants and the big glass jug. I'll be pinning some of my favorite perennials in this post! They need to go on my wishlist!

    1. And I forgot to mention that your peony header is stunning! That color is one of my favorites!

  8. Her garden is just beautiful. She really has a flair for design. I love the totem sculpture.


  9. another exquisite garden. it takes a real artist to blend colors, forms and bloom times so perfectly.

  10. Jennifer, thanks for sharing with us this beautiful garden. I love color combinations there. Especially dark red and light blue flowers, dark green and red maple.

  11. This garden is so lovely and I think every garden should have a "flower fairy". My grandchildren live near a Woodland Trail that has fairies hidden among the tress and plants. They love going there, 'it's so magical', and good to see their happy smiling faces.

    I really like the Buddhist hand too, never seen anything like that before.

    Have a good week

    All the best Jan

  12. This is a very nice garden and it sounds like Jacquie is a very nice person too. She really has a large garden and I like how the grass path winds its way through. I love the color of the geum, so bright.

  13. What a well loved garden. :o) I like her philosophy about being patient to find a plants just-right-spot. I can't let lysimachia loose in my garden, either. It's a gorgeous thug!

  14. I always allow myself plenty of time to read your posts because they are packed with good things. So comforting to know Jacquie has a history of relocating plants. Her skill with various levels of height impresses me the most and her use of light and dark. I always look for this in a garden after reading your dark side post.

  15. Magnifiques scènes, c'est très beau, merci pour cette belle balade matinale.

  16. I always get giddy when I see you have a new post. Then I save it for a time when I can sit down at the actual computer, and go through all of your photos slowly. Her gardens are so, so beautiful and I can not wait to see it later in the season.


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