gardens by daisy moore
Daisy's Own Garden:
Woodland Plants from a Plant Rescue
Trilliums and other woodland plants that I rescued from a development site last spring were an early spring highlight in the garden. Wild ginger, ferns, sedges and Jack-in-the-Pulpit were some of the other known plants I got, but there are many others I am sure I haven't seen yet. I am certain that a few seeds will have tagged along in the soil and that these will germinate and make their home in my garden.
The spring was cool and dry and not the best for gardening. I didn't want to disturb the soil too much in order to conserve moisture, so I did very little dividing of my perennials. I purchased a number of new perennials from a local grower who was going out of business and re-vitalized the garden with these needed inputs.
The Stone Wall
Paul had wanted to build a stone wall for quite some time. He had a vision and there was no stopping the process. 11 tonnes of stone arrived one day in May and the process of changing a gradual slope into a two tiered landscape, retained by a dry stone wall began. Thankfully the soil is sandy so that the re-distribution of the soil was relatively easy. Bobcats are handy, but not many people have them. It's amazing really what you can do with a wheelbarrow, shovel and a rake. My job was to re-distribute the soil into two level surfaces and get the grass cover back.
The stones were mostly very large and weighed in the neighbourhood of 300-600 pounds. We used a dolly to move the stone and place them as near as possible to their permanent spot. To make things slightly more challenging, the largest stones need to go on top. Stairs were put up the middle of the was and a ramp was left for wheelbarrow and mower access.
The wall looks like it has been there forever and has really added to the appearance of the garden. The grass cover was established by a mixture of seed and sod. The day after I had seeded the area, a friend arrived with a load of sod which he had dug up from a gardening job site. I greedily accepted the sod and laid it along the areas which would get the most traffic. This looked the best right away, but now the seeded areas have by far the best turf cover. Some of the sod turned out to be infested with crabgrass. I have never had a crabgrass problem and I suspect that now I do. Even though they are an annual grass, they seed prolifically and invade open soil in many years to follow. This is quite problematic for the perennial gardens as well as the lawn. I used a straight-edged shovel and chopped the crabgrass vigorously in several different directions prior to seed development. I raked away the remains and seeded the area with a sun-shade mix. I did this two or three times and I will report on how successful this was in getting rid of the problem.
The Vegetable Garden
The vegetable garden was planted with a new and exciting pattern of rows and mixture of vegetables. We managed to get the peas in early and had a great harvest. We also grow good greens and have a steady supply of mixed lettuce, arugula, spinach and coriander. We grew cylindrical beets for the first time and these made the pickling job so much easier. The carrots achieved record-breaking depth indicating that our cultivation practices are improving the soil conditions for growing vegetables. The girls get a great deal of pleasure in digging the carrots so I suspect more will be planted in future.
I would like to get back to growing potatoes but I don't really have the spot. The area directly behind the vegetable garden, in the picture, was the potato patch until the blight moved in two years ago. It has been planted with small fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and currents and also has the asparagus which came in to production for the first time this spring.
The tomatoes were planted in the sunniest parts of the physic garden. The fruit-load was small but of very good quality.
The "Lower Pond"
I spent a great deal of effort re-vitalizing the perennial garden which extends beyond the pond. This was the first garden planted on the property 10 years ago. The original vision was a sunny perennial border with delphiniums exploding out of billowing masses of colour. Miscanthus sp., a rapidly spreading yet handsome ornamental grass, took over. About 4 years ago I realized I had a battle on my hands and chipped away at it. This spring I was close to ruthless and demanded the space back. We've put a stone pathway in which encircles the 'new' shallow pond (for the girls), and a bog garden. The bog contains blue flag iris, marsh marigold, bloodroot and water cress to name a few. There is a stone space for sitting, lingering or playing.
Behind the lower pond I have planted delphinium, compass plant, an 'eglantine' rose and have encouraged the nearby beebalm, brown-eyed Susan and Echinacea. I needed to do some extensive limbing up of the nearby trees because I soon discovered that it had turned into more of a shade garden than a sunny border. The garden faces east so the pruning has increased the sunlight and opened up the air circulation throughout the garden. This brought many plants to life as they suddenly have better conditions to live.
The soil is very different on this side of the garden. It is dry and hard and prone to weed invasion. What it chiefly needs is a bi-annual introduction of manure to enrich the soil with organic matter. The renovation of this garden bed will be an ongoing project.
The Central Beds
The two central beds are the focus of a lot of the vibrant colour in the garden. These are slower to start but the colour comes in late June and remains until the fall. Cup Plant and Vervain were a striking combination which grew over 7 feet tall. These are native plants which I hope will seed themselves into other regions of the garden. This was a busy area for bees and butterflies so I had the feeling that I did the right thing by planting them.
The gardens showed an amazing resistence to drought. Watering restrictions were on during the summer causing the lawns to brown out and some established plants to wilt. I resorted to carting buckets of water from the pond to the plants which needed the water most. The pond was lowered but the plants recovered admirably. By mulching, not disturbing the soil and watering individuals as needed, the gardens looked great until the rains came in the late summer.
I think one of the main reasons for this success is that the right plants have been chosen for the site conditions. My goal is to have a low maintenance garden that is attractive to look at all year long. This takes trial and error along with a little knowledge because conditions do change from year to year. Those plants which thrived in the cool wet season of 2000, may not have done so well in the hot and dry summer of 2001.
The Physic Garden
The herbs in the physic garden did extremely well this year. We managed to beat back the Himalayan Balsam which had peppered a huge radius of soil with their seedlings. It's not a bad plant but it needs to be kept in check and was preventing many other desirable plants from growing. We widened the pathway along the eastern side of the garden and put down a sand/gravel mixture which is nice to walk on a easy to manage. We bought a new type of hoe, we call it the 'Stealth-Hoe' because it looks like a Stealth bomber. It is a triangular piece of steel which you push along the surface and decapitate the weeds. It works well to control the seeds which drift in.
This pathway now leads you to the woodland garden which has become one of my most favourite places to sit. Now that the edges of the physic garden are firmly set, I plan on bordering the beds with germander. Chives, boxwood and lavender have all been considered in the past but my recent research and experimentation has led me to believe that germander is the best plant for this job.
The Physic garden is developing into an attractive mix of highly variable plants. In this picture, the patch of sweet grass separates horseradish, lavender and creeping speedwell. The sweet grass is always dangerously close to looking untidy so needs to be tucked away and surrounded by bolder specimens. Sweet Cicely, lemon verbena (a tender perennial), borage, rue and artemisia are all contributing in a positive way to the garden. There are so many stories to tell about the plants in this garden and now that we have a suitable pathway, the journey is all the more pleasant.
The Rose Garden
It was a disappointing year for roses and they didn't achieve many flowers. The difference from the bumper crop the year before was the amount of rain. They got off to a poor start and could never quite catch up. Something which may have added a problem was that I mulched the roses heavily with pine needles to keep the weeds down. In some respects this may have harmed the flowering perhaps due to the increase in acidity or light reflection, I don't yet know. I won't use the pine needles here again and plan on managing the roses by the frequent cultivation with my new hoe and mulching only with compost. Yet again the roses demand that extra attention.
No matter how the roses are doing, the boxwood hedge will always receive the praise it is due. I rooted a few cuttings, they root easily by sticking the cuttings in a cold frame or out of the way place, and I must increase this production since they are slow to grow but well worth the effort.
Fiesta of Colour and Diversity
The garden is becoming a fiesta of colour and diversity. This picture shows a mix of gooseneck plant, which spreads and forms a ground cover, with the self seeded Joe-Pye Weed and Jewel Weed growing near by. Behind there is the explorer rose "MacKenzie", which I highly recommend with the new stone wall in the distance, also highly recommended.
For a look at the garden in the summer of 2002, click here.
"Daisy created a lovely environment with stunning plants and beautiful lines that people stop to admire and photograph ... "
-- B. & B.W., Oakville
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© Daisy Moore 2006