This post first appeared on my old blog in 2010. We had to move from this home later the same year. I still miss my old garden although I’m working on a new one now…
Better Late Than Never
I was an impatient, eager, but knowledgeable (that’s a nice way of saying it) gardener when I started out. Knowing what I know now, if I was starting a garden again, my priorities would go in this order:
1. Structures and drainage.
Which is, coincidentally, the exact reverse of how my garden has unfolded. I really believe in learning from experience but man-oh-man I wish I could have a do-over using the same amount of energy and materials. I’m hoping we move again one day so I can try creating a whole new garden.
But for now, here we are.
Bad Planning Yet Happy Mistakes
My garden as it is today is a mixture of bad planning, happy mistakes, and luck. I’m not an expert, I can’t remember a lot of plant names, and I work in a rather wordless, intuitive way, looking up information when I need it.
There are shining moments along the way but it’s the ongoing process and brilliance of nature that keeps me there. Collectively we have eternity through the cycles of life and death. And, ironically, I feel most alive and connected to the world when I am alone in the garden.
On with the tour. Here’s the view from the street. My front yard is eight feet wide and so is my garden:
and a month later with different blooms:
This is the view from the front door. On the left are herbs in cedar planters. On the right is my little pond. Having the pond in a high traffic area is a good idea. It means maximum enjoyment and it’s really easy to keep on top of maintenance. The pots contain various tomatoes, potatoes, sunflowers, and more herbs. I use this area to conduct various experiments with seedlings and transplants.
I bought my newest water lilies through an ad on Kijiji after some sticker shock at the garden nurseries this year. I re potted them and they’re already blooming:
The Head of the Tomatoes has been reallocated to supporting the vining plants (zukes, cantaloupe, watermelon) this year. Her head holds the bamboo stakes nicely in place. I’m not sure if this is a promotion or demotion but she never complains.
One day she’ll smile…
Vegetables are beautiful. And you can quote me on that.
The border along the other side of the driveway is mainly perennials plus my strawberry patch (the black basket is hiding the big almost-ripe ones from the birds) and two dwarf apple trees. I’d remove all the remaining grass but what’s left is a no-dig zone due to underground conduits. Sheesh
This area never thrived until I added a ton of (my own) compost plus two inches of mulch. Let that be a lesson to me. If you’re a new gardener, focus on the structures and soil first. Get the big picture and work from there. You will thank me later for years and years to come. But please don’t invite me to your parties. I’m a solitary creature at best.
My side garden gets about two hours of partial sun a day. In my ignorance, I went ahead and planted full-sun perennials anyways and it turned out okay. The delphiniums are late bloomers but they’ve hung on for many years. Same for the lilies, daisies, monkshood, and other assorted treasures. They seem to enjoy the shade. The bleeding hearts are among the first to bloom each May.
At certain points in the blooming season, this part of the garden has the SGWF (Secret Garden Wow Factor) I always wanted. The one goofy thing is that it feels like it’s leading to something equally wonderful at the back yard but it doesn’t. The back yard has been plagued by all sorts of clay and drainage problems and everything I’ve ever planted there has been wiped out by one villain or another. So for now, the side garden is The Pretty Road to Nowhere Interesting.
I love deep blue colours in the garden. I started putting blue bottles on sticks to stand in for the delphiniums when they’re not in bloom.
If you’re new here, you’re probably noticing the mirrors. I started using mirrors so I could see my side garden from my high-up kitchen window. It just sort of spiraled out of control from there.
Farther back along the side garden is another difficult area. Masses of rain water washes down this path. On the left are the raspberries, which I let take over a lot of territory because they are so plentiful and delectable.
I have three rain barrels and plans for two more. I do all my watering from the rain barrels and, knock wood, we always seem to get rain just when they’re running dry.
Here’s the same side area from my deck:
I love orange and pink and red together which here means the Weigela is next to the deep orange Asiatic lilies. Bam!
The area by the green arbour has been very fussy when it comes to growing vines. Right now the honeysuckle is having a turn. Many fine clematises/clemati have perished there….
The corner of the backyard houses a storm sewer, clay soil, and vigorous natural plants. I finally smartened up and surrendered to nature’s will, letting it be wild and untouched. If gardening seems like a fight, you’re not listening to what’s right. The little tree is a pear. So far it approves of this quirky location. This is the same spot I found a GIANT dead skunk this spring:
I already warned you the back yard is a bit of a snooze. But I am very proud of all the work I put into it this year. I buried a weeping tile tube along the back fence, surrounded it with rough stones, and then built the planters over it. So far we’ve had three big rain storms and…drumroll please…no flooding! No standing water! No kidding! I had resisted the idea of raised beds there because it looks so utilitarian but now I have some ideas brewing for tall arbours and vines over top. Onward and upward.
The two small trees here are cherry and nectarine. The centre lawn area is left open for our seasonal salt-water swimming pool. That’s our version of summer holidays since we don’t go away for vacation. Should the swimming novelty wear off, it will be an ideal location for a lot more plant growing. Before we got the pool, the entire back yard was so sloped it was useless, unless you have one leg about a foot shorter than the other, then you’d be able to walk across it without toppling over. To make room for the pool, we dug out masses of soil and levelled it out. Man I wish I’d done that years ago!
Yet another new beginning:
My neighbor’s chickens:
My back deck has a few vines started to eventually cover it in green. This one is butternut. On the opposite side I’ve got a wisteria on its way to world domination.
Tucked up by the house is my compost pile. It’s invisible to humans and right under my living room window. In the winter I drop my food scraps right out the window! Why not?
This area also houses my peach tree. I kept noticing the happiest peach trees around here seem to be close to a building in a protective area so that’s what I’ve done too:
And that’s the entire little Empire. Always good to end with a sweet peach.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour. Now go mulch something!