Monday, January 28, 2019

Jacquie's Garden, Part 1: Spring into Summer

After over forty-five years in one home, Jacquie Jordan was ready for a change. Now in her seventies, Jacquie was looking for a fresh start and a smaller, less demanding garden. The opportunity to create something new more than made up for any regrets at leaving her old garden behind. Over time, there were many things about the backyard garden she had grown to be dissatisfied with. It seemed easier to start over with a clean slate than it did to make changes to the existing garden. So last spring Jacquie sold the property to an interested party.

Now, with new owners in place, the garden will invariably change. It makes me glad to have a photographic record of what was the culmination of years of work.

In this, the first of two posts, we will look back in time to see the transition of Jacquie's garden as it moves from spring into summer. The pictures were taken in June and then in August (several years later). The views are not identical but offer similar vantage points.

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

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

Self-seeded Columbine

Hardy Geranium with Spanish Bluebells in the distance.

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

One of the great advantages of designing a garden on a slope is the ability to look down on it from on high.  

"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," Jacquie recounts.

By August the garden has really filled out and is full of color.

The final layout is comprised of irregularly shaped flowerbeds that are defined by areas of lawn. The neatly clipped grass contrasts with the fullness of the flowerbeds and offers just the right amount of order in this informal setting. The grass also functions as pathways that lead visitors through the plantings.

A cottage garden like this requires full sun. And it would be impossible to have such healthy looking plants without good, rich, organic soil. 

A big garden like Jacquie's takes a fairly serious time commitment. Why, oh why then, would anyone take on so much work? Jacquie would reply that she enjoys all the hours she spends in the garden.

"It's the 'doing' I love most," she told me in a recent phone conversation.


Too many accessories and a garden can start to look cluttered. How many is too many? I think Jacquie has it about right. There is usually a single object in any sightline.

A lime-colored Barberry and Japanese Blood Grass.

The shift between spring and summer is quite pronounced in the picture above and the one proceeding it. In August, the garden has decidedly reached its peak.

Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum album has huge branching spikes of white flowers from mid-summer into the fall. It likes rich, moist, well-drained soil.  Full sun. Height: 120-180 cm, Spread: 75-90 cm (29-35 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

Clematis 'Ville de Lyon' is a Group 3 clematis with large (4-6 inch) reddish-magenta flowers. It blooms mid-summer into early fall. Moist, well-drained soil. Full sun. Height: 10-12 feet. USDA zones: 4-9.

When Jacquie and I last spoke, I asked her which plants she lifted to take with her to the new, smaller garden. 

"In a large garden, like my old one", she told me, "there are a lot of filler plants by necessity. In my new, smaller garden there is only room for what's truly special." Not surprisingly quite a number of perennials came with her to her new garden. Daylilies and Clematis are among Jacquie's favourites. "I absolutely love, love Clematis. And I like daylilies. They are two plants I couldn't be without."

Perennial Salvia, Salvia nemorosa

I think it is a bit of a shame that ornamental grasses aren't used more often in cottage gardens. 

As you can see in the photograph above, they have a dramatic presence. With their tall, upright stature and fountain of green foliage, ornamental grasses make a striking backdrop for late summer flowers.

Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum has huge branching spikes of lilac flowers. It likes rich, moist, well-drained soil. Full sun Height: 120-180 cm, Spread: 75-90 cm (29-35 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

Phlox is another key flower in August.

I hope this look at the transition from spring into summer has brightened a cold winter's day for you.

Not any single part of a garden can shine all of the time, but the constant shift of plants coming in and out of flower ensures there is always something marvellous to see. 

In an upcoming post, we will take a more in-depth look at the garden in the summertime.

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  1. Thanks for a little 'pause' from winter! What a beautiful garden Jacquie had - I would find it difficult to move to another!

    1. Jacquie seems very happy with her new garden, but I am sure she must miss the old one just a bit.

  2. What a beauty. I hope the new owners take good care of it.

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed touring Jacquie's beautiful garden. It is a real labor of love. I can imagine it was hard to leave. The clematis is very pretty and I am curious to know if it is growing on a support of some kind. It has only been within the last 5 years that I have come to appreciate the ornamental grasses. Now I love them and am amazed at the variety to be found. This Japanese Blood Grass is one that is new to me, but it sure is pretty. Looking forward to part 2.

    1. One year Jacquie lost a number of mature trees to a big storm, and looking back at my pictures, I think that this clematis climbs on the stump of one of the trees that perished (I'd say the stump is about 5 feet high).
      Jacquie also has a big rustic trellis support that is almost like an open wall at the very bottom of the garden (not shown). On that support, she has a really nice collection of clematis. I am sure it is like a wall of flowers at various times.

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  5. OMG ..What a beautiful tour of the gardens ... I can well imagine the love that has put all beauty into being...hopefully the new owners a gardeners....Thanks for sharing ...Hugs

    1. Yes, I agree that much love went into this garden.

  6. I do hope the new owners tread gently in this beautiful garden

  7. What a lovely garden. It must have been hard to leave it.

    1. Jacquie seems quite happy with her new garden, but I am sure some part of her missed the old garden.

  8. beautiful. a lot of lovely plant choices

    1. Yes, I agree. Jacquie has chosen some outstanding plants.


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