Thursday, April 17, 2014

Love thy Neighbour

When we moved into the house where I grew up, my mother, who was an avid gardener, decided to remove the overgrown hedge of wild roses that ran along one side of the backyard and plant a long border of perennials instead. 

On hearing this news, the gardener next door was anything, but pleased. Removing the hedge would mean that they would have no privacy.

From that point, the disagreement over the common lot line only escalated.

Once the thorny rose hedge had been removed, my parent's discovered that the neighbour's rock garden extended up the slope and over the property line approximately three feet. Lawyers advised them to reclaim their land and insist that the rock garden be removed.

The sad ending to this story is that decades of animosity followed the removal of the garden and its replacement with a pedestrian strip of green grass.

Childhood experiences like this tend to inform the actions of your adult life. I often think of the hostility that simmered quietly under the surface between the two waring factions and have always tried to avoid such unpleasantness with my own neighbours, although it hasn't always been easy.

In our current home, we have neighbours on two sides. The land to the east and back of our lot is owned by a Regional government. Depending on the particular government official we have crossed paths with, they have been both a wonderful and mean-spirited neighbour.

On the other side we have had the steady company of one single neighbour for all the years we have lived in Huttonville. She's been great and we always got along famously.

Then last fall she moved...

Our new neighbours are a young couple. The house they ended up purchasing had fallen on hard times in recent years and the garden had become a neglected mess of weeds. 

Wasting no time, our new neighbours immediately set to work on all fronts; house and garden. They approached renovating the house and neglected yard with such vim and vigour that it made us, the much older couple next door, tired just to witness.

When it comes to the exterior, our new neighbours have been like two bulls in a china shop. Late last fall all the shrubs and weeds were ruthlessly slashed to the ground. I was absolutely heartbroken to see that a peach Quince, whose flowers you see pictured in this post, was cut down to a height of one foot. That pretty shrub, which had bloomed faithfully each spring, had to be at least twenty or thirty years old.

The yard next door immediately began to look more tidy, although no thought appears to have been given to the need to permanently remove any roots. It does not seem to have occurred to them that it will all grow back this spring.

Hardest of all to watch has been to watch the ruthless trimming of tree branches. The big maple and black walnut in our yard, whose branches dared to stray over the property line, were cut off in the crudest of fashions. Falling maple limbs broke sections of our fence in two places. There was an apology for the fence damage a few days after the fact and a vague offer to make repairs that has yet to materialize. 

A majestic evergreen whose branches used to drape over the fence into our yard was limbed up two stories. Now it is naked, ugly pole with a story of uneven growth at the very top. Words cannot describe how truly horrendous it looks!

Adding to this carnage, is the damage to our trees from last winter's ice storm. 

A view of the back corner of the yard with the house in the distance.

A key tree at the side of the house had to be taken down last weekend and we still have to sort out what is to be done with the trees in the back corner of the yard (pictured above). 

Unfortunately, we share custody of these trees with the aforementioned Regional government and they are never easy to deal with.

This spirea is the one bush that escaped being slashed to the ground.

In the past, our backyard always felt very private. Now that the tree is gone at the side of the house, we can clearly see our neighbour's house and they can see ours. 

If the trees at the back go too, I am likely to have a sunny garden where once I had shade. 

It's a brave new world and this gardening season is likely to be one where my garden undergoes really big changes...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Visit to Andre´ Eve's Rose Garden in France

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

It is always a bit thrilling to connect with readers in far away places. 

Recently, Annemarie Gendre-Peter who lives near the grand palace of Versailles in France emailed me pictures of the visit that she, and her little Corgi dog named Nancy, made one summer not to long ago, to the garden of renowned French rose breeder Andre´ Eve.

Nurseryman, landscape designer and rose expert extraordinaire; Andre´ Eve is less well known here in North America, and so I asked Annemarie if I might share her pictures of his garden.

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Andre´Eve lives in a modest terraced house in the town of Pithiviers, fifty miles southwest of Paris. A narrow passageway leads between the old stone houses to M. Eve's rose garden where he has amassed an remarkable collection of over 500 roses, many of them rare and historic cultivars.

The garden is not open to the public, and so for Annemarie, receiving an invitation to visit was a great honour. She wrote to me that:

 "Andre´ Eve is an interesting man. I think he is not keen on being famous (although he is). He is happy with his work and likes people who share his passion for gardening and roses. As an example, I found a very nice rose in his garden (Sheherazade) he had never sold. It is a just trial variety of rose, he said. I told him I would be delighted to plant this rose in my garden. Two years later, he sent me the rose through one of his colleagues I know. I was very touched."

Nancy whose full kennel name is 'Dragonjoy Empress in Black'. Nancy was born in Bologna, Italy out of true Welsh Corgis. Annemarie also has a second Corgi named Shu-Shu.

This is Nancy. Annemarie also wrote to me that:

"Both Andre´ Eve and his wife love dogs and cats. They are both older now and it is not possible for them to keep a dog of their own, but Mme. Eve brought water for Nancy and both enjoyed her very much."

And now, here are AnneMarie's own pictures of Andre´ Eve's rose garden:

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

A little clay figure sits in a shaded alcove in the garden's stone walls.

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Photograph by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

  Now in his eighties, Andre´ Eve still cares for the garden himself. 

Here's wishing to be over eighty and still gardening so happily!

Nancy photographed by Annemarie Gendre-Peter

Many thanks to Annemarie for allowing me to share her pictures of Andre´ Eve's garden.

More Information and Links:

Read a magazine article (PDF format) on the garden of Andre´ Eve. The picture to the left is from the magazine article.

See roses at the Andre´ Eve Nursery.

Read an article from Fairfield Country Living.

Watch a video in French.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Two very Grand Gardens

" To sit in the shade on a fine day and look across to the verdure is the most perfect refreshment."
Jane Austen

For a change of pace, I thought that I would show you two gardens a world away from the garden I last profiled.

Though it seems to hail from a bygone era, this ivy covered house in the heart of Toronto actually dates from the late 1930's. 

A grand set of stone steps lead down to a long, narrow terrace, and at either end of the terrace a further set of stairs drop down to a sunken garden.

The steps at one end of the long, narrow terrace.

An eagle watches over the sunken garden.

Located near the centre of the city, the garden's high walls just barely keep out the bustle of traffic on Avenue Road and the somewhat disconcerting noises of the car park next door. 

In sharp contrast to its urban surroundings, the sunken garden feels magically leafy and green. 

Though it isn't exactly my cup of tea, I think that the introduction of a piece of contemporary art (the twiggy bronze in the foreground) into such a traditional setting makes the space feel more edgy and current.

I thought that this Bottlebrush Buckeye had the most marvellous foliage.

Most of us will never be able to afford house or a garden like this, but the good news is, creating a quiet refuge of one's own is something that calls more for imagination than it does for money. 

This is the view from the cobblestone driveway.

The next garden seems to have stepped from the pages of a novel by Jane Austen. 

A short stroll across an impeccable lawn brings us to the wrought iron gate at the entrance to a large, walled garden.

Opposite the main house, is the elegant entrance to a guest house. 
The flowering vine is a climbing hydrangea.

Just inside the gate of the walled garden.

For some reason this garden puts me in mind of a summer party.  

I can imagine ripe strawberries and champagne as part of an elegant, but casual afternoon tea or perhaps a more grand affair with a big tent erected on the lawn, tables laid with crisp, white linen and fresh flowers, women in flirty summer dresses and men in light summer suits.

The falls of these irises look like rich, purple velvet. Behind the irises are the tall, blue spikes of a 
Salvia and the soft, pink petals of a peony.

Aren't these deep purple lupins stunning?

As in the first garden we visited, a step of stairs lead from the terrace
down to a sunken garden.

A wide view of the sunken garden.

There is something so restrained about this carefully clipped and manicured garden that it seems to provoke an opposite, slightly-out-of-control emotional response. 

Perhaps I have read to many Jane Austen novels or watched too many episodes of Downton Abbey, because I can easily envision the slightly inebriated guests at my imagined summer party might begin to feel a bit giddy or perhaps even a bit reckless as the party extends into the twilight hours of early evening.

Here in the garden is the perfect backdrop for a stolen kiss or the less-than-proper 
rendezvous of two star-crossed lovers. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Garden Canadensis: The Final Post

Larix decidua 'Puli' on its own stem. Chen tells me that you most often see it on a high graft.

Do you see the tall, fresh-green conifer in the middle-background of this picture? 

On the day I visited Garden Canadensis I didn't pay it much attention; the focus of my camera lens fixed solely on the flashier flowers in the foreground. But now, as I looked back at my pictures, I can see how hard it had worked to try to catch my attention; flirting and waving its soft green curls at me, "You-hoo, Mz. picture taker. Over here!"

What a shame I didn't pay it any heed, and my images of the curly conifer are all in soft focus!

The beauty of conifers is conspicuous as that of flowers. It requires the patience to take a closer look. 

Pinus contorta 'Taylor's Sunburst' Chen: "This pine is famous for its cream color 
shoots in spring that contrast nicely with the green foliage."

My immediate response is tactile. I always want to reach out and see if the sharp bristles are hard to the touch or... 

or soft as a feather.

We tend to think of conifers as "green", but that brusque description overlooks the amazing diversity and complexity of their color. 

Abies procera 'Sherwoodii' has creamy yellow needles. 

Fresh growth can sometimes be a lighter, brighter color that contrasts beautifully with the deeper colors of more mature growth.

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'True Blue'

I love the steely blue of this Chamaecyparis pisifera 'True Blue' against the deep, dark Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford' on the right.

You know when you're a serious plant geek when a color combination like this makes your heart skip a beat.

Abies balsamea 'Eugene's Gold'

"This is one of the most ornamental conifers in my garden. The beautiful light gold foliage is maintained throughout the growing season. So far my 'Eugene's Gold' is showing no signs of developing the strong leader that will transform it into a compact tree. I like its low, spreading habit so I might just leave this as it is and purchase a second Abies balsamea."

Thuja occidentalis 'Rheingold'

And look at this absolutely amazing color! 

This Thuja occidentalis 'Rheingold' is a blaze with yellow-green and orange.

Here is the step-back-view.

The bluish conifer in the foreground is Larix laricina 'Blue Sparkler'. The yellow one behind is Taxus cuspidata 'Aurea' with Picea mariana in the distant background.

Mix a group of conifers together and you can have a really rich and varied tapestry.

Here is a star of a grouping that literally spots traffic. 

Chen tells me people often pull their cars to the side of the road and come to the front door to ask about this particular False cypress.

Picea pungens 'Spring Ghost' on the left. Chen tells me that, "This is one of the most ornamental blue spruce, with creamy white new growth in May/June."

On the right is Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Limerick' Chen:"It is one of the most bright golden False cypress."

But what I possibly like even more than the color, is the interesting shapes and textures conifers add to the garden.

This Larix kaempferi 'Pendula' cascades like water.

( That fantastic geranium is one of Chen's favourites: Geranium pratense 'Dark Reiter' and on the right is Sedum alboroseum 'Mediovariegatum' )

I know this is getting long. Just one last thing I want to draw to your attention: the cones on a few of Chen's conifers.

How cool are these!

Here we are a little closer.

Abies koreana 'Lippetal'

Here is a full view of this dwarf conifer. Approximate dimensions of a 10 year old
Abies koreana 'Lippetal' is approximately 4' x 2'.

Abies koreana 'Blauer Pfiff'

I thought these reddish cones were quite intriguing as well.

Penstemon and a dwarf Eastern white pine Pinus strobus 'Vercurve'

Now, I am sure you must be wondering why, if I am so keen on conifers, there aren't more in my own garden.  

Well, they are not inexpensive for one. You can often buy two or three perennials for the cost of a single conifer. There is something immediately gratifying about going home with a trunk load of plants rather than a few choice specimens.

But gardening is one of those pastimes where patience and perseverance reap the greatest return. If I learned anything from visiting Chen's garden, it's the importance of thinking long range.

The greater reward is not immediate, it's long term.

In conclusion of this series, I want to say a very big thank you to Linda and Chen for allowing me to photograph their private garden. 

It was such a pleasure to wander around for a couple of hours and take pictures.

Chen and Linda, I think your garden is simply incredible!