In this week’s Globe column I suggested some wonderful plants that did well in a summer of endless sun and little rain.
Here’s my column for this week:
From: Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’: The perfect plant for the urban gardener – The Globe and Mail
I’ve been accused of hating hydrangeas: not true. I like some of them a great deal. I hate it when they are overused in a landscapery design. You know, a grass, fifteen hydrangeas and three squares of heucheras. Voià a modern garden. Sooooo boring. In the next week, I’ll put up some of the gardens we’ve been doing this year. It has been thrilling. Great clients and wonderful plants.
My column in the Globe and Mail can be found at:
globeandmail.com go to Life then Home & Design then Gardening
Spirea ‘Double Strike Red’
Read this on The Globe and Mail
I have been so busy this summer but things are returning to a normal work load so I’m hoping to be on this blog more often. And if anyone can tell be how to get a direct link to my column I would be ever so grateful.
I have a Spring Newsletter ready if you haven’t signed up. Just hit the contact me button and I will send it to you.
There is also a piece in today’s Globe about Daphne X ”Lawrence Crocker’ have a look at it wonderful plant from a great grower. Harvey Wrightman is one of the great alpine growers and his webs site and is an amazing place to spend time.
I was on Fresh Morning this weekend. Great fun with Mary Ito. I mentioned a couple of plants I think people should look at for indoors possibilities:
Papyrus ‘Baby Tut’ was a marvelous annual this year. If you can rescue it, bring it indoors in a container with bagged potting soil. Cut back to about an inch above the soil in the container. Make sure it never dries out and do the pebble in a saucer trick. Keep them in a sunny spot in temperatures between 16 and 24C and see how they will work out during the winter. The soft floaty fronds are worth the effort.
The other plant I enjoyed in containers all over the garden, deck and now I have one indoors. It’s called Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’. In the past these annuals have performed really well indoors. Just don’t water them too often and give it lots of light.
I’ll put up pictures of them as soon as I figure out, once again just how small I have to have them. It’s a constant learning curve.
But the new Quarterly will be out this week so contact me and we’ll send it along to you.
This edition of the quarterly is in a new format. Our webmistress is on holidays so here it is as a blog:
The garden has been giving a huge amount of pleasure all year. But this summer it has been outperforming itself. This is what I see from my dining room chair of what I thin of as my Designing Chair. It looks perfect. But in the back of the garden us was another story.
I feel like I’ve been in a blanket of water and mud until this past week when, finally, we solved the hydrology of the garden. Well, we think we have. John who works for Marjorie Harris Gardens is very enterprising and I dumped the problem in his hands. I live on a flood plain, have an underground stream running through the property (including the house). I survive on sump pumps. Somehow John has made the French Drains fit in with the loose and romantic sense of the garden. They are surrounded by plants so don’t seem too, too obvious. I’m now waiting for one of those horrendous rainstorms where the rain is so thumpingly hard, it barely stays in the ground, to test all these waterworks. So far two trees have drowned and I solace myself with moving things around. One thing about soggy soil: the plants love it at first. It’s when it continues for months that death occurs. What I had been doing with this part of the garden was adding plants that can cope with lots of water. Grasses, barberries, daylilies, various evergreens and gingkos. A few weeks ago before the holes, the stones and so on it looked like this:
The grasses will sop up a lot of the water and though I did plant a small Japanese maple (A. p. ‘Shiraz’ barely visible among the grasses), it’s not there permanently. And also added Salix candida for a whack of silver among the gold and magenta. It’s another moisture-loving deciduous tree. This is still my Jardin de Refusé and I love it more than ever.
I recount this story because it’s a tale I’ve heard too often this year: death of plants, woe and despair with diseases and weeds. We’ve had two dreadful winters, and in parts of the country such as BC there’s a drought. Nothing seems to be right in the natural world. Things truly are changing.
In this shot you can see a dead tree in the background. It was a 15-year resident In Chiononanthus virginicus; . The slender tree on the right is the liquidambar
We gardeners have to garden defensively. This year I have not used some great plants such as Liriodendron tulipifera ‘Fastigiata’ because they’ve arrived dead or dying from the growers. As a garden designer I don’t get a guarantee so I’ve had to replace trees out of my own pocket (and sometimes my garden) which is not good business. Redbuds: unreliable now in our city. Some came out with the familiar blooms in spring and have lots of leaves; others stumbled and staggered through spring and are just now putting out leaves.
Derek Welsh, my go-to guy on trees, says to leave them alone. Prune them back in August and they will probably be much tougher trees in the future. We have to put up with a little ugliness if we want to keep these plants. I am, however, not inflicting them on anyone else. And a great looking Serviceberry called ‘Autumn Brilliance’ which we picked by hand in the spring, arrived at the gardens hit by a late frost looking terrible. They will recover but meantime people are not very happy about the way the plants look.
We are going to have to be very very careful about how these go into the winter this year. Perhaps we have to lower our expectations about how perfect our plants should be. Perhaps we have to be more patient with them, they are after all living creatures with individual DNA and we should respect those differences. Plants are going to have a hard time keeping up with climate change. It may take some species longer than others to adjust, but our job is to help them in the best way we know how: with loving care.
Right now is a great time to do some serious nipping back:
* Cut back perennials that are getting way too tall. They will sulk a bit, and then come back to bloom furiously in autumn. Asters, mums, most prairie plants and anything that looks out of bounds.
* Lespedeza ‘Gibraltar’ is one of my favourite deciduous shrubs. But boy does it grow: way more vigorously than anyone let on. This is a monster plant and worth the space but watch where you put it. It’s now blotting out a gorgeous Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’ and I’m a tag reader but this is crazy. I should have given it the Chealsea chop in June but failed to do so voilà
* This is a perfect time to prune shrubs. You can take off spring blooms, remove dead stuff. And though you read this all the time—check crossed branches—take it seriously. Down the road it leads to an inarticulate mess.
* Japanese maples respond magnificently to skillful pruning. My place was given a hair cut of such supreme beauty that you cannot see it’s been done. The plants looks the same or better than a few years ago when they were photographed for Gardenista. Monique is a master at this and along with variegated dogwoods, viburnums nothing was safe from her pruners. I can now see through the garden and appreciate the varying layers of colour and density.
*And don’t be afraid to nip out brown spots from evergreens. You may end up with some odd looking Bonsai shapes but the plants will grow and who knows, perhaps be even lovelier.
* I like ground covers a lot but am not mad about Sweet Woodruff. It’s sometimes a bit adorable, but mostly it spreads like a wildfire and looks completely wrong with many of the woodland plants my garden favours. Out with it into deep shade somewhere else. Ditto the endless machinations of lungwort, Pulmonaria officianalis. It seeds. It spreads by rhizomes. It grows in between the roots and branches of other plants. It is indomitable. Therefore it has to be out of my garden. Love love love Pulmonaria ‘Excalibur’ here it is out of bloom and it looks superb. Has never budged from this spot even though that would be fine.
- If you are having problems with rain or lack of, it’s a good time to water deeply and then add a nice thick layer of mulch to keep the temperature down and weeds at bay. Hand water what counts (newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials). Leave the grass alone (in BC people who water their lawns are called Grassholes)
- If you’re plagued with rain, digging drains does help the water flow away from plants and gives it a chance to re-distribute itself. But maybe we will be looking for garden umbrellas like the farmers who covered their strawberry crops with plastic trying to save them for a few sunny days and then to market.
Keep thinking up ideas on how we can protect our gardens in these parlous times. Defensive gardening may be one part of the salvation of our gardens. If you come up with great solutions let me know here. The next newsletter will be in its usual format when the redoubtable Anna gets back from her holidays and we will carry on with signing people up who would like to read this. Marjorie marjorieharrisgardens.ca will show what we’ve done in the past. If you would like us to renovate your garden just push the contact me button and I will respond quickly.
I complained about the water a few days ago, now with a brisk tidying up of the much, the paths edged nicely and bulbs just popping everywhere. Makes this old heart soar with joy, This morning I was on Niki Jabbour’s radio show this a.m. Tremendous energy and information. Now to go out and admire the garden and see the things about to unfurl: Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ and the fabulous Stewartia pseudocamillia which is going to be smothered in blooms shortly.
The damage to the evergreens is intense and in most gardens they should be watered this weekend if the soil around them is at all dry.
Spring always means a rise in ground level water, everybody in the neighbourhood draining into my garden and the usual playground: Some friends tell me I loe the flood and could do without it because it’s so much fun slogging around the back garden. It sure is like being a kid again. I’ve been messing around with sump pumps and getting people in to help make the whole crazy system work. There are days when I could do with out it all. Then there are other days when I can see so much stuff burgeoning albeit slightly under water. Things are getting drier slowly. But it meant we couldn’t put duck compost everywhere so we’ll fling it about later this week
As thought by magic the mud subsided and the crocuses appeared in all their glory. Not ravaged by squirrels these beauties last long enough to feed any passing bee.
Spring is coming slowly into the garden and finally it’s possible to actually do some work.
Listen to me on Fresh Air: http://www.cbc.ca/freshair/ this morning Sunday April 19 between 8 and 8:30
The perennial I mentioned today is Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’ I have a shot of it on my winter newsletter if you’d like to sign up