This post first appeared on my old blog in 2008. We had to move from this home in 2010. I still miss my old garden although I’m working on a new one now…
Also see Tour My Garden (2010) | Tour My Garden (2006) | Tour My New Garden (2012)
Zone 5a Ontario, Canada
Approximately 122 frost-free days a year
small suburbanish lot
started in 1996, started having a clue in 2002
I first posted a tour of my young garden in 2003 and then 2006. This is the first year I have some of the tall, jungle-like plants that enticed me into gardening years ago, particularly in the older, sheltered side garden. I give much of the credit to the deep and fairly consistent rain we’ve had since June. Other years we’ve had dry spells that pretty much destroy any new plants I’ve added and leave the older plants tired and thirsty looking. This year, everything is thriving. Knock wood.
2010 Update: Soon after I posted this tour, I started to seriously steer my garden to focus on growing edibles (fruits & veggies). Stay tuned for a newer tour….
Our late and extreme winter, however, was not so kind. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of yet another plant that I had last year that did not survive the cold this time: coneflowers, moonbeams, butterfly bush, wegelias, clematis, roses….on and on it goes. It’s astonishing how much was lost this year. My sorrow is somewhat softened by the strength of this year’s growing season. But it’s very much a three steps forward and a couple steps back process. [This spot reserved for a deeply philosophical observation about the power of Nature and our foolish notions about ever really being able to control it.]
Today, I’d rate the garden at A Good Beginning level, duly noting that while a garden may have a beginning, in my mind it can never really have an end. What I’m working toward is masses of perennials of all heights, colours, and textures, with lush underplantings, so densely planted that draught is not an issue. I’m also mindful to have a good selection of native plants.
Each year I also increase the food production (trees, berries, and veggies). In other words, I want more, more, more of everything. Let no soil remain barren!
I also hope to eventually remove every last blade of grass in the yard, though I have to say it’s not much of a problem having some lawn now because I would never, ever water it, I never amend it, and I rarely cut it: it’s next to zero maintenance. If I increase the current garden wisely, I won’t be creating a huge additional amount of weeding but a crazy additional vat of beauty.
I initially set out with some very ambitious and lofty ideas about controlling colours and style, but after dozens of plant purchases which completely changed blooming colour from their greenhouse charm, I decided to surrender (as if I had a choice!) and just let the garden unfold in ways I can neither control or wish to. If you listen and watch, the plants will tell you where they want to be and what conditions they enjoy. Fight it, and you’ll probably be wasting precious resources (water and compost) or worse, adding chemical and poisons that will take their toll on our collective and only home planet.
Much like furnishing a house, so long as I buy that which attracts and pleases me, I do believe those items all tossed together will somehow produce something better than I could have planned or imagined. Forget the mature, sophisticated gardens planted with foresight and restraint that I admire so much on tours: mine is a mish– mash of whatever and then some, which now attracts lots of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds (and, of course zillions of other fine creatures who go about their work invisible to my dull eye), and brings me a lot of happiness. It’s like I get to be the messenger who only later gets to know the message, and in small fine pieces at that.
Enough idle chatter. Here’s the tour:
2008 Tour of the Empire
Front garden (west side)
Right now this garden occupies about 1/3 of the front lawn. As mentioned, I’m hoping remove the remainder of the grass in the next two years. I first have to get permission to dig it up (without damaging any underground cables and conduits), which I will have to plant above and around.
This year my veggie garden was assigned to planters in the front in 1/2 day full southern sun. This has kept the rabbits out entirely and I like having it away from the driveway (car exhaust). It’s also very handy as a kitchen garden for fetching items for meals. This photo was taken about four weeks after planting it. Three weeks later it was at the top of the bamboo stakes:
I planted my favourite types of tomatoes, basil, lettuce, kale, broccoli, chives, and peppers.
I also have a lot of volunteer tomatoes in other beds, as well as grapes, raspberries, strawberries, and (future) pears, apples, and blueberries (all way too young to fruit but planted).
From this angle you can see its relation to the front garden bed (and my favourite way to get it watered):
Front garden (east side):
It was a wee veggie garden just two years ago but, as mentioned, I switched to container veggie gardening this year for crop rotation and other benefits. Between that and adding another 30 feet to this bed, there was a lot of room for growth this year. I’ve added many newer plants and with the excellent rainfall they are thriving. In other years, this terrible soil and hot dry area has not done well at all. Let’s hope this is a new beginning (not for the climate change but to get the bed established so it may thrive or at least survive in future droughts).
Both front garden beds have terrible soil (shallow with loads of gravel, concrete and other house builder’s dumpings just below the surface). I amend it as much as I can on a zero budget (compost, compost, compost), but the main key seems to be underplanting. Creeping sedums and other ground covers do a great job protecting the soil and keeping the moisture in. It’s my goal to eventually get all the beds fully underplanted. It’s like insurance with a one-time premium.
Side garden in July
In this photo, the rain knocked down some delphiniums. It’s a 1/5 sun area and not a lot wants to grow here, but the delphs, some lilies and daisies are content, though late blooming, which is fine since it provides late season colour and it’s not like I’m working on a deadline here. One of my favourite self-comforting expressions is, It is what it is. [Funny what sentences will follow it when you try using it.]. My garden definitely is what it is.
Farther along the side garden
Grapes grow over this arbour. Zillions and zillions of green grapes. I don’t know if they’ll ever be sweet enough for me but the birds love them. I’ve thought about cutting it back to see if that changes the quality of the fruit but the vine provides such essential shade (which translates as moisture) that its value is top notch as is:
Side Garden: looking back toward the grape arbour
You can see the grape vine has made its way along the fence (left) and house wall (right). There’s a patch of brilliant orange lilies that brighten up June. On the right are the raspberries and rain barrels. The raspberries have been invading the area but I don’t mind. The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. It’s not like we’ve even begun to reach our eating limit and even then, we’d share them. If you’re good.
Same area as viewed from the upper back deck
My ‘flagstones’ are actually concrete scraps I picked up from someone’s garbage. I had to level this area this year to remove a slope that was sending certain visitors to my garden flying (sorry, Mom). I would like some nice low ground cover like wooly thyme to fill in around the pavers. We’ll see if the opportunity finds me. For now, I’ll let the grass and weeds do their thang.
I can’t have enough rain barrels. In fact, I’ve got plans to add a few more next spring. I do not like running out of water and cannot bring myself to use hose water (which is restricted to once a week use anyways).
Don’t let the sparseness fool you. This photo was taken in early June from the upper deck. By mid July, the raspberries will have taken over the entire bed. Many great conversations have taken place there while devouring the berries:
Back Garden East Corner
The ninebark almost covers up the eyesore of the back corner and its storm water sewer:
Along the pathway are my strawberries. You can’t tell from the photos but there’s a steep slope to one corner. The whole yard has a crazy slope. Guess who never even looked at the yard when buying the house all those years ago? Today, if we were moving, I’d do it all in reverse order, examining the location and grounds with great interest and a very critical eye. Houses can be renovated. Bad locations: not so much. Crazy sloping yards? Sort of.
The Head of the Tomatoes oversees the production of sweet gold tomatoes on the back deck which I love to snack on while gardening. I’m always waiting for her to crack a smile. Literally.
The perfect days of summer are the ones where my entire day’s worth of food can be freshly picked and eaten. No kitchen, no dishes: just rinse and munch!
Back Garden West Side
Photo taken in the spring:
You can see my back neighbor’s garden beyond my fence. After getting over my younger and more immature notions about wishing for everything beautiful and good to be mine, I became very thankful for that garden of theirs. They are heavy on the veggies and fruit trees and spring in that yard looks gorgeous with all of is blossoms.
In summer, the leaves all fill in giving lots of privacy between us and attracting the greatest collections of birds. While I’ll continue wishing for a bigger, more private garden in the country (with acres of woods and walking fields), if one gives up the concept of It’s only good if it’s mine, a lot of mental chains break free. I feel that way about a lot of nice things (clothes, books, home furnishings….). I’m glad the lovely things exist but I have no need to own them, though occasionally feel blinded by the pull…. [Inspiring tangent on how short life is and how valuable good health and love are….]
Back to the garden
As the garden grows, so does the variety of visitors:
Back Garden – Centre
For now we have a seasonal swimming pool set up as our summer vacation destination, which pretty much takes up the tiny back yard. Eventually, this circular space will provide a fabulous gardening opportunity….The good news is, we had to level it to put the pool in (hand digging about four feet of clay soil!).
Prior to that, the backyard was very awkwardly sloped toward one back corner and basically unused space (except to weed and mow). I was able to rig up a salt water system for the pool so there’s no added chlorine and I run the pump absolutely minimally (just to use the salt generator).
Back Garden Against House
Below my back window is my little pond. It’s a great location to enjoy it (and check on the fish) year round since I can see everything from the inside the house. The snow drifts in the back get huge from the winds so I only go out there when I need to adjust something or feed the winter birds.
This photo is actually from 2007:
This year I’m debating the pond. I moved it to this location when we were rebuilding the deck and making room for the pool last year. This year, it seems a bit over the top, from a green perspective, to have both the pond and the pool. It runs on a tiny pump (200 gph), but I’m mindful of the use of electricity versus it’s value. Still thinking it over….
Hidden behind the wooden wall (a recycled portion of my former deck) at the back of the pond is my compost area, filled with rotting, decomposing and splendid goodness. I’ve got it positioned so I can compost year-round. In the winter, depending on how deep the snow is, I either leave my compost in a garbage can on the deck (where it freezes), or drop it over the side of the deck into the compost pile during winter thaws. I like to make use of every scrap: it’s gold for the garden. I could always use more.
That’s all for now. It’s a small garden but I’m digging it. Hope you enjoyed the tour.
And Sir says, Thank you-come again: