Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Blue House on the Corner, Part 2

Cottage gardens have a long history of being useful. They began as a simple way for poor, working-class people to stretch a very modest income. In the tiny plots that surrounded their cottages, these humble folk grew vegetables, herbs and fruit as well as raising small livestock. Colorful flowers and roses were simply a way to make the garden pretty as well as practical. 

In the garden that surrounds her little blue house, Candace Carter continues this tradition of using an informal, dense planting style that incorporates a happy mix of flowers and edibles.

"I have designed many gardens over the years; a new one each time I moved (seven in total, I think). This latest one is my favourite," she says.

In part one, we finished our tour here on the outer edge of shade garden.  Next, we will look at the sunny area where Candace grows a wide range of fruit, vegetables and herbs. 

But before we go too much further, I want to call your attention to a white flowering Clematis and a shrub that Candace has repeated in a couple of locations– a 'Tiger Eyes' Sumac.

Looking back the way we've come, we can see a better view of both the Clematis and Sumac.

Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger' Tiger Eyes is a dwarf Sumac cultivar. Staghorn Sumacs are named for the reddish-brown hairs that cover their young branches much like the velvet that covers the antlers of a male deer. The great thing about this Sumac is there is minimal suckering (unlike the species Rhus typhina). This shrub can be grown in well-drained, average garden soil. Long, odd-pinnate leaves are bright yellow-green when they emerge and turn shades of yellow, orange and red in the fall. Female flowers produce showy pyramidal fruiting clusters that become bright red in the fall. Full sun or light shade. Height: 3-6ft, Spread: 3-6ft. USDA zones: 4-8.

Clematis 'Paul Farges' (sold under the trade name 'Summer Snow') has small white flowers and is a great alternative to 'Sweet Autumn' which has become a problem in some areas of the States. It is a group 3 Clematis that blooms in mid-summer to late summer/early fall. This is a Group 3 Clematis that flowers on new growth. Prune it hard in fall or early spring. Grow 'Summer Snow' in rich, well-drained soil. Full sun (with its roots in the shade). Light afternoon shade is good in warmer gardening zones. Height: 12-15ft, Spread: 4-6ft. USDA zones:3-9.

Not an inch of space is wasted in Candace's garden. Here strawberries trail at the feet of veggies that are grown on a metal support.

"I tend to over-plant and then prune as necessary to fit in as many plants as possible. I also practice sequential planting. For instance, after the peas are done, I plant lettuce that can grow late into the gardening season", Candace says.

"One of my goals for this year is to improve my fruit bearing capacity. Some of the fruit trees I originally planted have not produced fruit for a couple of years. I may need to remove them and plant other varieties or find a new spot for them."

Tiny goldfish swim in the shade provided by a cluster of lilypads.

Running through the centre of the garden is a rill or shallow channel of flowing water. In the centre of the garden, a wooden bridge crosses the channel. 

The garden looks like a big space from these vantage points, but the sunny area is really rather modest in size. I think it is the dense, informal planting style make the garden look so much larger than it is.

Another photo of the small bridge that crosses over the rill. 
In the distance, you can see the garage.

Peas cover the arch just beyond the bridge.

Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca has honey-scented, rose-colored flowers in mid-summer. The foliage of this plant is an important source of food for monarch caterpillars. This plant does spread rapidly via rhizomes, so consider the location carefully before placing this native plant in your garden (there are alternative types of milkweed that are less aggressive). Common Milkweed  prefers well-drained soil and conditions that are dry to average. Full sun. Height: 3-5 ft

I was unable to get Candace to identify this clematis (she has so many it is easy to lose track of them all!) Here are two cultivars with similar pink, bell-shaped blooms:

Clematis viticella 'Queen Mother' has pink bells whose flower petals curl up on the ends. Full sun. It is a Group 3 Clematis that flowers on new wood. Prune it hard in early spring or late fall. Height: 6-10 ft, Spread: 6-8 ft. USDA zones: 4-9.

Clematis texensis, 'Duchess of Albany' has dainty pink flowers streaked with darker pink in late summer. It is yet another Group 3 Clematis that flowers on new growth. Prune hard in fall or early spring. Full sun. Height: 8-10 ft, Spread: 6-8 ft. USDA zones: 4-9.

Against the back of the garage, there are a couple of areas dedicated to pot storage.  This rustic cupboard is the first of the two.

This is the view toward the back of the property where Candace keeps her birds.

Some of her birds snacking in the yard and Candace showing one of them to a garden visitor.

"I don't like to buy things I can raise myself, so I grow veggies. I keep chickens for the eggs (and occasionally, when the chickens turn out to be male, the meat). I love baby chicks and ducklings, and would keep them all, if I could but only have the space for them. The neighbours don't like the roosters (too noisy). I raise the Silkie breed of chickens, which are very good mothers and don't fly much (so they are easily confined to the yard). I also have Muscovy Ducks which lay enormous and tasty eggs and are delicious when roasted (when I can bare to butcher them)."

There is a birch tree at the back of the property and underneath there are more shade lovers like Hosta and Heuchera (two different cultivars can be seen in the foreground). I love the mix of leaf textures and colors here, don't you?

A closer look at shady area you can see in the previous image. Again there are Hosta as well as Brunnera (with patterned, silver-green leaves) and Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa macra (on the right).

Gorgeous Delphiniums

This box-shelving is the second area dedicated to the storage of pots. (I've shown my husband this picture and asked him if he could make a set of shelves just like it.) Partly obscuring the stacks of pots is a Clematis smothered in little purple bells.

I am sorry I don't have a definitive I.D. for you, but here is a reference to a Clematis that looks almost identical:

Clematis Integrifolia 'Blue Boy' is a profuse bloomer developed in Canada. In mid-summer it is covered in hyacinth-blue flowers. (Group 3- flowers on new growth. Prune hard in fall or early spring.) Height: 4-6 ft, Spread: 4-6ft. USDA zones: 4-9.

A variety on Clematis cover the sunny side of the garage.

On the opposite side of the garage there is a Rose Compion, Lychnis coronaria next to a Hosta and other shade loving plants.

Rose Campion, Lychnis coronaria is a short lived perennial with velvety-grey foliage that self-seeds throughout the garden (the plants like to live where the seeds land and do not like to be moved). Flowers are white or magenta. Normal, sandy or clay soil are fine. Average to dry conditions. Full sun. Height: 60-90 cm, Spread: 45-50 cm. Zones: USDA 3-9

Next we will turn and walk down the path at the far side of the little blue house.

At the side of the house there is enough sun for roses.

If you like the look of this rose you may like Groundcover Raceme Rose 'Fairy Dance' which is a Polyantha rose with clusters of deep pink flowers.

A window box filled with pink geraniums is flanked by two trellises.

If you like this white rose, you may also like any of these: 

Raceme Rose 'White Fairy' is another groundcover rose with clusters of white flowers. Sadly the flowers have little or no fragrance. Full sun. Height: 40-50 cm (16-18 inches), Spread: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches). USDA zones:3-9.

Flower Carpet White Groundcover Rose has white roses and foliage that is mildew and black spot resistant. Full sun. Height: 60-100 cm (24-30 inches), Spread: 80-90 cm (30-36 inches). USDA zones: 5-10

Raceme Rose 'Iceberg' is a classic white Floribunda rose. It's nearly thornless and is disease resistant. Full sun. Height: 40-60 cm (36-40 inches), Spread: 50 cm (50-60 inches). USDA zones: 5-9.

The family cat on the left and daisies with pink roses on the right. 
I am pretty sure the rose is 'The Fairy'.

On the outskirts of the white picket fence is a dry garden where grey Artemisia 'Silver King', Russian Sage, and blue flowering Sea Holly, Eryngium flourish in the sharp drainage that the rocky soil provides.

Queen Anne's Lace may be a weed, but it looks lovely paired here with Russian Sage.

Sea Holly, Eryngium has prickly greyish-blue flowers and stems. It likes hot, dry sites and soil that is high in salts. To dry the flowers, pick the stems just as the flower clusters open fully and hang them to dry. Attractive to butterflies. Height: approximately 40-75 cm (16-29 inches– may vary according to the cultivar), Spread: 40-70 cm (16-28 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

You can see the full Sea Holly plant in the image below on the outer right:

Here are a few ideas to help you create a cottage garden of your own:

• Plant densely and informally. Flowerbeds should feel like they are overflowing.

• Use brick or flagstone pathways as a means for visitors to stroll through the garden.

• Don't separate edible and ornamental plants. Instead mix flowers in amongst your vegetables and herbs.

• Plant old-fashioned classics: roses, peonies, hollyhocks, primroses, lavender, foxgloves, dianthus, and columbine.

• Set the mood with an arbor at the entrance to your garden. Cover it with climbers like clematis and roses.

• Enclose the garden with a low fence. 

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Cottage gardens may have sprung from humble origins, but their cheerful tangle of edibles and flowers feels both abundant and charming.  It's reassuring to know that a garden can be both useful and beautiful at the same time. As Candace Carter's garden proves, one does not exclude the other. 

More Information and Links:

Candace Carter wants everyone to know that visitors are welcome to visit her garden beginning May13th. The pictures you see in the post were taken mid-July when the garden was at its summer peak.
Candace has an array of potted plants for sale including roses and hostas. Look for that distinctive blue house at 4885 Victoria Street in Claremont, Ontario.


  1. Wow all these photos are amazing and the house sounds like a lovely place

  2. Wow! What a beautiful garden. Love all of the varieties of flowers. Thanks for showing us this lovely garden. Still waiting for it to get reliably warm enough to do anything with my flowers here.

  3. What an amazing garden. I couldn't imagine designing spaces like that....and then moving!!

  4. An inspiring garden, I loved it all. I'm inspired to plant delphiniums again this spring as I regularly planted them before we had a long drought.

  5. What a delightful garden, one of my favourites, utterly charming!!! I love hollyhocks and always grow them but they do suffer the most awful rust every year.xxx

  6. Candaces garden is amazing!!! What a pleasure to see and thank you for sharing the tour. Wish I lived closer so I could do a tour!!!

  7. Such a lovely garden, thank you for sharing your visit. It is hard to know for sure from the picture, but the unidentified lavender bell-shaped clematis may be a Viticella, Betty Corning -- it looks like the one I have in my garden. Happy gardening!

    1. Thanks for taking a stab at an ID Kim. I have Betty Corning in my garden as well, and while I agree this one looks very much like it, the shape of the bells of Betty Corning are a slight bit different. If other gardeners are looking for a Clematis with purple bells however, Betty Corning is certainly a great idea. Thanks again for mentioning it.

  8. What is that frilly pink poppy?!!

    1. It is an annual poppy garden that has self-seeded itself in the garden. Look for annual poppy seeds anywhere you purchase garden seeds. Online seed companies might offer the best selection of annual poppies.


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