I’m traveling on business to San Francisco this week, quite fortuitously avoiding the East Coast blizzard of 2015.
It’s been several years since I’d last been here, so I took a walk to clear my head and get a little bit of fresh air. It’s struck me how a city can look so different each time you visit, whether it’s a place you’ve known for years or have only visited a couple of times. The paths and edges you remember may have been completely transformed, or is it one’s perspective that has changed? In any event, it reminded me of one of my first undergraduate reading assignments, Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City.
What does this have to do with gardening, you might ask? Our built environment is an interconnected whole — indoors and outdoors blur, intentionally or not. Urban, suburban or rural, the landscape is just one element of the fabric of our environment. We move through these spaces and interact in them, and with them. How many other elements can you spot?
Who says the warm months are when the garden is the most interesting? I was perusing our photo archives of the garden, this photo of one of our roses reminded me of the beauty around us at other times of the year. Even in the late fall, winter or early spring garden, there are lovely things happening.
The leaves are turning late this year in our neck of the woods, and I’m awaiting the magnificent colors of the Shishigashira Japanese Maple in our backyard. It’s known as the Lion’s Mane maple — perhaps you can see why!
Part of the fun of a garden with any history is discovering what the original or former owners created. The grounds of our post-war colonial house were very much a clean slate when we arrived. We had learned from the former owner that when they bought it, it had an incredible, if overgrown, garden. There are so many reasons people take things out — whether they don’t know how to manage rejuvenating an old and overgrown garden, to needing room for children to play, to wanting the quick fix. Bringing a garden back to its former beauty and health takes time, for sure. In any event, it provided us with an opportunity to build something anew. In the process of creating a back bed in an especially shady part of our yard where little could grow (save the pachysandra and hostas I diligently planted, and now many more plants over the years), I dug up an old plant tag. Amazingly, it had a date on it — 1954! Nearly a decade after the house was built. It was for “Cinderella” impatiens, and the close-up photo of the red bloom cheerfully peeked out, preserved by years of soil and darkness. Of course, I researched this variety to no avail — probably the hybrid of the year, or such. But it really sparked my imagination in what the planting scheme may have been. Clearly, they liked to add annuals and liked hot colors. What a gift to find this piece of history.
There are remnants of these former owners, if you look carefully. Thankfully, nobody has cut down the viburnums at the back, which I believe is something akin to a Snowflake variety — who knows for sure? It is absolutely lovely, but was growing wild and the best it could at the back of this shady border. I saved the ones I could (one or two were near dead and suffering under a towering evergreen). I’ve carefully removed dead wood and opened up areas for new growth over the course of years, while maintaining their graceful habit (no chopping branches mid-way). It seems to be working, but it takes time. And the area is now really too shady for it.
It is a joy in the spring with its while flowers, as well as in the fall, with its red leaves and berries.
There is a certain joy in putting together a fall planter. Here is my first this year. I like the size for a mixed planting, such as this.
A guest post from my better half
Spring at the garden centre is always an exciting time. New plants arrive almost daily, and curious finds are around every corner. The Mugo Pine (pinus mugo) caught my eye as I was looking for some pots. A quick inspection revealed its interesting trunk and dense growth. Below are images of the tree as I bought it, cleaned of dead pine needles, and the tree as it starts to take shape after the first trimming.
Initially I intended for it to be displayed the other way, but looking at the photographs, I think the front and back could be swapped.
Let it sit for a while to adjust to the light pruning, then consider some hardier trimming in a week or two. Stay tuned as it takes shape!
Mugo Pine Bonsai untrimmed
Mugo Pine Bonsai – First trim – The Back
Mugo Pine Bonsai – First trim – The Front
…or very early spring, to be hopeful. The lawn yielded another section to the rich soil of our plant beds, giving home to a beautiful rose. She sits dormant now, but the signs of life are everywhere.
There’s much to be said for the winter garden and the aesthetic interest of perennials, grasses and seedheads covered in frost and snow. Come March, though, I start itching to order plants and plan changes and additions.
Here are some photos from our early Spring garden — anemonies and tulips.
… it all started when we moved to a small town in New Jersey. The type of mythical place where there’s a soda fountain in the drug store, a Fourth of July parade, and lots of small and cozy post-wars homes. Our own home’s yard was begging to be cultivated, and the idea of a garden took root. Nothing like starting with a clean slate. Thus, the fledgling garden began.
Where the sea meets the sky – British Columbia. Its unique climate make it one of the most garden-friendly places on earth. Here, some photos from the garden on “the hill” in Vancouver, Queen Elizabeth Park. Also worth (repeat) visits: VanDusen and Butchart (the latter is in Victoria).
Another site you might want to check out while planning a visit: http://www.gardeninspiredtourism.org/.
The gardens of Helsinki, Finland, from a visit in August 2005. This is a view of the greenhouses at the botanic garden at the University of Helsinki.