Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Two Challenges/Two Water Features

It has been awhile since I have showcased any gardens with water features, and so I thought I would make up for it today. Each of the two gardens, I am about to show you, faced a number of hurdles when it came to designing a water feature. 

In the first garden, size was an issue: the backyard was a shallow, long, rectangular piece of property with not much room for a pond. 

The delicately balanced ecosystem of a healthy pond requires full sun or part shade at the very least. Mature trees however, cast most of this particular backyard into shade. 

In answer the challenge of insufficient sunlight, the pond was placed off centre and close to the back fence where there was a small pocket of sunshine. 

Water flows from a reservoir next to the fence and spills from a small waterfall into a shallow pond. To the right there is an area of lawn and to the left there is a patio area of flagstones and fine gravel.

Plantings around the pond include a pale mauve Clematis, a variety of grasses, daylilies, Bigroot Geranium, 'Geranium macrorrhizum', a Japanese Maple and a Corkscrew Hazel.

Next to the house a Penstemon, 'Husker Red' glows in the afternoon sunshine. 

Penstemon 'Husker Red': Full Sun. Height 75-90 cm, Spread: 30-45 cm. Normal, sandy or clay soils are all suitable. Average to moist growing conditions. Flowers are attractive to butterflies. USDA Zones: 3-9

Bigroot Cranesbill Geranium, Geranium macrorrhizum: Full sun, part shade or even full shade. Height 25- 30 cm, Spread: 45-60 cm. Normal, sandy or clay soils are all suitable. This is a pretty adaptable geranium: average, dry or moist growing conditions all work. Magenta-pink flowers in early summer. USDA Zones: 2-9

Goat's Beard, Aruncus dioicus assumes grand proportions, but is a wonderful 
plant for part shade if you have the space.

Goat's Beard, Aruncus dioicus: Full sun or part shade. Height 120-180 cm, Spread: 90-150 cm. Moist or wet growing conditions. USDA Zones: 2-9

The difficulty this next backyard presented was a fairly steep slope. The designers of this water feature  turned what could have been a problem into an asset. 

Just off the back deck, they put a koi pond (hidden from this vantage point by the plantings around it).

From the koi pond, the water runs down the sloping terrain and under a small foot bridge.

Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia punctata: Lysimachia punctata is a vigorous plant that forms a spreading clump with spikes of star-shaped yellow flowers.  

Yellow Loosestrife, Lysimachia punctata: Full sun, part shade or even full shade. Height 60-90 cm, Spread: 60-90 cm. Normal, sandy or clay soils are all suitable. In a border Yellow Losestrife needs to be reduced in size every year or two so it does not take over. There are a number of newer cultivars, some of which are better than others. I'd recommend doing a bit of research before selecting this plant for your garden. USDA Zones: 2-9

The stream empties into a second, larger pond at a lower elevation.

Do you see the frog stretched out on lily pads? 

Isn't that the life! Sunbathing and swimming all summer long.

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!