Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Stylish City Garden

This is another one of my favourites from last summer. I think what makes this garden stand out in my mind is the design and the plantings.  

At the front of the house, there is a very large Norway Maple whose canopy casts the garden in shade. 

There is no bare earth here waiting for the arrival of weeds.

Instead, a mix of groundcovers, which includes miniature euonymus (see note below) and periwinkle, fills in the spaces between the hosta. You'll see this layered approach to planting elsewhere in the garden.

While I have heard Miniature Euonymus or Miniature Wintercreeper, Euonymus fortunei 'Kewensis' recommended as a groundcover that can take foot traffic, I caution you to consider its use very carefully. It is a plant that has made it's way on to lists of invasive species. In some parts of the States,  this aggressive perennial has spread to native plant areas and is crowding the natives out.

By the front door, there is a large square planter that is a nice change of pace
from the urns one usually sees.

More hostas, with a backdrop of feathery yew, line the pathway to the backyard.

There are just a few hosta cultivars that are repeated down the length of the path and that unity really helps the pathway feel like a quiet introduction to the rest of the garden.

Again, there is no bare ground. Between the stone pavers, Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' has been given free reign. 

I always feel sorry for gardeners who unwittingly plant an aggressive groundcover like Creeping Jenny only to discover that this plant has a secret masterplan hellbent on world domination. By the time they discover their mistake, getting rid of the problem is a nightmare! 

Here I think the choice of an ambitious spreader was an intentional and informed choice. The garden's designer chose to embrace the madness, so to speak, and let Creeping Jenny do its thing. Will the homeowner regret this rather bold move? Hopefully not.

In many situations, Creeping Jenny might be a really bad option, but I think it works in this context. It's going to do just what it was intended to do; fill in the gaps and choke out any weeds. It's never going to overtake the much larger hosta. Still, I feel obliged to caution you to consider carefully before planting Creeping Jenny. 

At the end of the pathway, I frog sits waiting to greet visitors.

The plants include more Creeping Jenny, some hosta and grass-like Carex (Sedge Grass).

The property is wider than it is deep, but the garden doesn't feel small. Shrubs and evergreens hide the yard's boundaries and make it feel spacious and private.

The large flowering shrub you see to the right of the outdoor eating area is a Beauty Bush. Note the shrub has been pruned to remove the lower branches and allow room for an understory of more hostas.

Beauty Bush, Kolkwitzia is a really pretty shrub. It has a fountain shape with branches that hang in long, sweeping arcs. The flowers are a soft pink that fades in the sun. Plant a Beauty Bush in full sun in average garden soil. This shrub blooms on old wood, so prune in spring after it flowers. Cut old canes to the ground to renew the shrub. Height: 8-10', Spread: 8-10' USDA Zones: 5-9.

More layers. Tucked under the leaves of the upright yellow-green hosta is a much smaller blue-green hosta. The foliage of the small hosta has a stripe of the same yellow-green as the hosta above it. 

To the right of the table and chairs is a small seating area with a gas fire pit (the concrete bowl with grey stones that you see in the centre). The custom-made lime green chairs were crafted by a local artisan.

Beginning with the large Japanese Maple in the centre of the backyard, one of the things I want to point out is the repeated use of plants with burgundy foliage. The red color adds warmth to a color palette that is largely green.

Adjacent to the seating area is the garden's water feature. Water bubbles up from a low flat stone and adds the relaxing sound of splashing water as it flows into a reservoir below.

In early June, a Dogwood tree is covered with white blossoms.

Another example of warm color contrasting with cool is the combination of a Barberry bush, Berberis thunbergii, with a Japanese maple with its fine-cut green leaves.

A striking pairing of a hosta and a deep burgundy Heuchera.

At first glance, these two plants would seem like an unlikely couple. Hostas generally prefer shade and moist conditions. Euphorbia prefers sun and much dryer soil. The only way to make this pairing work is to choose a hosta that can take a bit of sun.

Cushion Spurge, Euphorbia Polychroma: prefers full sun and somewhat dry conditions. Normal or sandy soil is best. Trim Euphorbia Polychroma back in early summer to keep it neat and compact, but be careful to wear garden gloves as the milky-white sap it 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.

As small city gardens go, I think this one was pretty amazing. It was a treat to visit. 

Design and Construction: Aldershot Landscape Contractors

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  1. stunning combinations, lovely textures and colours. Gorgeous!!

  2. I love this garden! It isn't a mishmash of colour...basically greens and white which I find so peaceful.

  3. Jennifer, Do you know what the columnar evergreens are around the perimeter behind the fire pit area? Also, that fire pit is amazing! Is the gas piped in or is there a portable canister somewhere?
    The hostas look luscious! It looks so serene, yet has great texture and color variation. Thanks to you and the owners for sharing this with us.

    1. Karen, I did try to get hold of the homeowner to confirm a few of the design details, but unfortunately I was not successful. I blew up a few of my images to see if I could tell for certain what the columnar evergreens are, but there isn't any close views with enough detail for me to tell. They look like ordinary cedars, but I'm sorry, I am not certain. I don't remember seeing any piping for the fire pit, so perhaps it was a canister. Again, I am sorry to say that I am not sure. I love the look of the concrete bowl and the stones. It is very tasteful isn't it?

  4. Thank you Jennifer! It's amazing - there is NO bare soil, just as you said! This fact impressed me the most! And, of course, the variety of plants, plant combinations!

    1. It does seem like an interesting alternative to mulching between plants, doesn't it?

  5. Sigh. All those beautiful hostas! I can only grown them in containers because the voles and rabbits make a meal of them. The green flower chairs are terrific too. I love that touch of whimsy.

    1. Funny– my hubby hates those chairs and thinks they're ugly. I am with you Karin, I think they're fun and add a nice touch of whimsy.

  6. What a beautiful place this is, Jennifer.
    The variation in plantings makes this SO interesting.
    You can see all of the love that went into this.
    I like that so much.
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks Lisa! You're always so good to leave such positive feedback.

  7. This was a wonderful article with stunning photos! I love the richness of the hostas. As you mentioned, there is no bare ground...and it makes it look so clean and lush! This garden looks particularly well-kept. There are not many gardens like this where we live in BC. I do see some lovely well-kept city gardens when we visit London ON to see family...this reminds me of those gardens! Thanks so much for this inspiring post. I'm off do more garden planning! Cheers, Mary Jane

    1. I am so glad you found the post inspiring Mary Jane. I must say that I am surprised that there aren't any well-kept gardens where you are in BC. I have always thought gardening was a really popular hobby in your Provence. Maybe your garden can be the start of something great!

  8. I'm worried about the Creeping Jenny, too. I have used it in an urn, and can't even get rid of it there without replacing all the soil, which I should do this year.

    The thing that really caught my eye is not in the garden at all. It's the row of small lampshades in the front window. I am a sucker for small lamps and have them tucked in here and there, but have never seen them all lined up before. Do you have the inside story?

    1. I believe she collects them, but I don't know more than that. There is a tradition of placing a candle in a window as a beacon to weary travelers or as a welcome to visitors. I wouldn't be surprised if her collection has grown out of this kind of tradition. All the lights in the window is certainly arresting, isn't it?

  9. What a soothing garden, I do like all the green. The hostas and yew are a nice combination. I loved the groovy chairs and that unusual planter!xxx

  10. Beautiful post. I love the Japanese Maple- it is stunning and that pop of red is such a contrast with all the shades of green. Cute chairs too!!!

  11. I love all the green. Absolutely beautiful.


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