Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Early Summer Garden of Interior Designer Sandi Duclos

Every once in a while I get an invitation to a reader's garden. In all the years I have been blogging, these visits have yet to disappoint! Sadly in the case of Sandi Duclos's garden, I was unable to find a time to capture her peonies and roses in all their June glory. Normally this would mean my visit might be delayed until the following year, but as luck would have it, Sandi's own photographs are so wonderful, it is hard to imagine I could ever do a better job of capturing her lovely garden. 

Usually, the photographs on this blog you see are all my own. In this case, any compliments must be directed to Sandi's considerable skills as a photographer. As to her garden, you are in for a visual treat! With its white picket fence, charming details, colorful perennials and shrubs, it's a traditional cottage garden at its very best.

Sandi's front garden must stop traffic!

1. Flower Carpet rose, Rosa 'Flower Carpet Pink Supreme' 2. Shasta Daisy 3. Clematis 4. Unidentified Pale Pink Rose 5. Echinacea 6. Daylily 'Stella De Oro' 7. Phlox 8. Heuchera 9. Lavender 10. Clematis 'Jackmanii'

When it comes to gardening, Sandi's grandmother was a formative influence. "I can only attribute the love I have for gardening to my grandmother.  She has a beautiful old-fashioned garden that was built more out of necessity than pleasure.  As a child, her garden was a form of beauty I never saw anywhere else," Sandi says.

Of course, the property did not always look like it does today. When Sandi and her family bought their home in Kitchener, Ontario, the front and back yard were largely untouched. "We moved into our house in 2003," Sandi tells me. "The few gardens that did exist were planted with periwinkle." 

Interior design has been the primary focus of Sandi's professional life. In 2009 she opened her own firm, Sandi Loreen Duclos Interiors, and quickly garnered a reputation for her work. If you follow her Instagram account, you'll know her interiors are fresh, tailored and chic. Her skills extend to outdoor spaces and the gardens she has designed have caught the attention of the Kitchener Horticultural Society, the Cambridge Horticultural Society and the Toronto Master Gardeners Association. 

"Being an interior designer helped me to envision an outdoor living space that works perfectly for our family. The same principles of design used to create an interior space can be applied to an outdoor setting as well. Scale, proportion, balance, repetition, form and function are elements key to success in all forms of design," Sandi says.

At the front of the house, there's a wide perennial border paralleling the sidewalk. Three steps take you up to the picket fence and an enclosed garden where hydrangeas are the star. 

This arbour is in one corner of the front garden and leads to the side of the property. It's one of the many charming plant supports and structures you'll see in Sandi's garden.

"All of the interesting structures in our garden are either found vintage items we have come across in our travels or things I have designed and created with my husband.  I come up with the concept and my husband is always able to build what I have in mind, " Sandi says.

"Shortly after moving in, we started construction on the new deck and gardens", Sandi says. "The main goal of the back yard design was to make the best use of the outdoor living area in the nicer weather.  I wanted to both beautify the yard and create a layered canvas that both our family and nature could enjoy."  

"I laid out the backyard with several garden rooms in mind.  One room featured a pergola that houses a hot tub. In a second area, I designed a deck for relaxing on chaise lounges. Finally, in the area in close proximity to the house, I designed an upper deck for eating and entertaining. To house our bbq, we constructed a strategic privacy screen that distracts from the utilitarian properties of the bbq while providing support for vertical plantings", Sandi says.

 English Rose, Rosa 'Graham Thomas'

 English Rose, Rosa 'Graham Thomas' has cupped yellow blooms with a light fragrance. This is a David Austin rose that forms a bushy, upright shrub with smooth green foliage. It blooms in early summer and is an excellent repeat bloomer. Good disease resistance. Full sun. Height: 5 ft, Spread: 4 ft. USDA zones 5-9.

We'll begin our tour of the backyard with this pretty gate.

"Most of the plant material is indicative of old-fashioned flowers.  I love roses, clematis, allium, foxglove, hydrangea, phlox, peonies, dahlia, daisy and daylily", Sandi says. 

As someone who works with design and color for a living, Sandi does not shy away from mixing color, texture and form. 

"Lots of color is always my personal preference. My English cottage-style garden is a riot of color from spring till fall. I love pinks, blues, purples, yellows and whites", Sandi tells me.

Pink peonies and Beared Iris

Read more about growing Peonies here. More information about Bearded Irises here.

Herbaceous Peony, Paeonia 'Cora Stubbs'

Unlike many-petaled varieties, single peonies don't tend to flop in the wind and rain.

Clematis spp. Santa Fe

While flowers are the focus of Sandi's garden, there are many decorative touches as well.

"I am an old soul who loves vintage things," Sandi says. "I incorporate special pieces in my garden whenever possible.  I have a collection of vintage gardening tools that take their places throughout the garden." 

Columbine, Aquilegia vulgaris 'Nora Barlow' has tri-coloured flowers over a low mound of ferny green foliage. Columbine are a short-lived perennial, but they readily self-seed. Leaf miners and sawfly can sometimes disfigure the foliage around the time they bloom. If that happens, cut the plant back hard after flowering and new green foliage will emerge. Attractive to hummingbirds. Full sun or light shade. Height: 60-70 cm (23-27 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

Pacific Giant Delphiniums, Delphinium elatum 'Pacific Giant' has tall flower spikes in a variety of colors over a low rounded mound of light green foliage. Plant delphinium in a spot where they are sheltered from strong winds. They like rich, well-drained soil and full sun. These plants are heavy feeders so apply a slow-release liquid fertilizer every 2 to 3 weeks. Remove spent flowers and fertilize to encourage a second flush of blooms in the fall (usually the second round of blooms are smaller and shorter). Do not stake individual flowers spikes as they may snap in a strong wind. Instead, provide overall support for the plant at the base of the flower spikes.
Delphiniums are short-lived and may only last for 2-3 years. If the plant is stressed by heat and drought, the foliage may sometimes develop powdery mildew in mid-summer. Cut the foliage back hard to encourage fresh growth. Height: 120-180 cm (47-70 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

Delphiniums and hardy Geranium 'Anne Folkard'.

Cranesbill Geranium 'Anne Folkard' has magenta-pink flowers with a black eye.  The foliage is yellow when it first emerges in spring and becomes chartreuse. This is a vigorous, trailing groundcover noted for a long flowering period. This perennial prefers evenly moist soil but is drought tolerant once established. Height: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches), Spread: 70-90 cm (27-35 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Alliums start to bloom just as the last of the tulips are finished.

Roses, peonies and foxgloves– a magical combination!

Purple Alliums (on the left), tall pink foxgloves, pale pink peonies and a rose on the right.

Growing Foxgloves
Traditional foxgloves are a biennial flower that produces a rosette of green leaves the first summer and tall, stately flowers the following spring. Then they set seed and finish out their life cycle. Foxgloves grow naturally on the edge of woodlands, so the conditions they like best are part-shade and rich, well-drained soil. You can find Foxglove plants growing in pots at your local nursery, but the most cost-effective way to grow them is from seed. Start Foxglove seeds from mid-May to as late as mid-July. Foxglove seeds need light to germinate, so don't bury them!  Instead, scatter the seed as evenly as you can over the surface of the soil. Gently rake the seeds in making sure not to cover them. Finally water them with a very, very gentle spray. Be patient. Foxglove seeds will take 20-30 days to germinate. In the second year, your Foxgloves will produce flowers and trust me, they are well worth the wait! One note of caution: foxgloves are poisonous if eaten. 

"I have a love affair with flowers. For me, gardening has always been a source for creating beauty through living things. They aren't just in the garden, my home is full of all things flora too!" Sandi laughs.

"I have always been a lover of blue and white pottery and have amassed a large collection over the years.  In the summer, part of my collection makes its way outdoors to accessorize my exterior garden rooms," Sandi tells me. 

Growing Oriental Poppies, Papaver orientale
When thinking of Oriental Poppies, most people picture bright orange-red flowers, but there are also salmon-pink, orange, white and burgundy-rose blooms. This type of poppy is a perennial. They bloom in late spring and then go dormant through the hottest part of the summer. Once they've bloomed, the foliage can look weary and bedraggled. Cut them back hard and fresh growth will slowly emerge by late summer (Sadly, they will not repeat flower in the fall). These flowers are easy to grow, but they hate being moved. Average soil is fine, but good drainage is essential. Full sun. Height: 2-4 ft, Spread: 2-3 ft USDA: 3-9

Canadian Explorer Rose, Rosa 'William Baffin' is a super hardy climbing rose bred to handle Canadian winters. It is a semi-double, deep pink flower with a yellow eye. The foliage is medium green and is fairly disease resistant. Like all roses, William Baffin prefers evenly moist soil but is somewhat drought tolerant. It tends to bloom just before the Japanese beetles hatch and will repeat bloom if deadheaded. The rose hips that follow are orange-tomato-red. This rose needs to be planted against a fence or on a strong trellis for support. A couple of minor drawbacks: this is a vigorous rose that will need regular pruning and, although beautiful, this is also a very thorny rose. Full sun. Height: 9ft, Spread: 6t. USDA zones: 3-9

The yard slopes up at the back of the property. Rather than seeing a problem, Sandi saw the potential. A rose-covered arbour now leads you up a central path. From there, a series of flagstone steps take you right in amongst the flowers.

"We took full advantage of the up-slope at the back of our garden. It provides the perfect canvas for staggering the heights of plant material.  Adding flagstone steps to this sloping garden makes it feel like you are climbing up into floral heaven", Sandi laughs.

Rosa 'Funny Face'

While much creativity went into the design and plant choices, Sandi's pretty garden rests on the solid foundation of good soil. Years and years of adding organic amendments have transformed what was once clay into the beautifully fertile soil it is today. 

Canadian Explorer Rose, Rosa 'William Baffin'

Clematis 'Jackmanii' and Clematis 'Romona' intertwined on the trellised privacy 
wall that sits to one side of the deck. 

I hope you've enjoyed this early summer tour. In the coming weeks, we'll revisit Sandi's lovely garden in mid-summer/early fall.