It has been the busiest summer of a busy life. We have  installed so many gardens and now things are slowing down and I can take a breath and be in m own garden.

Here we pulled out trees and shrubs and moved things around to such an extend it feels refreshed and new to me. I suspect anyone looking at the pictures of my garden, however, feel like they were seeing the same old thing. But this isn’t true.

dining room combo

Near the house, things were looking ratty so I had the Cornus compressa exchanged for a larger one; the Acer shirasawanum  exchanged for a larger healthier one and those the plant combination is the same, the results are much much better.


Cornus compressa is an interesting plant (that’s it on the left). I like to put it in as many gardens as possible. The catalogues say it will grow to 50cm obviously written by someone who has never grown it.  In my garden sometimes it hits 2.5M (8 ft) and is still growing.

The Japanese maple Acer shirasawanum ‘Aurea’  which we brought from the front garden where it was overshadowed by other plants but shines here. Once all these plants hit their maturity it’s going to be incredible. I’m patient.


I’ve been working on the summer quarterly, a little late but filled with information that is timeless (she said).  If you’d ike to subscribe, please let me know.


And here’s the link to the story on my garden published in Gardeniseta with photographs with the amazing Andreas Trauttmansdorf

If you need help please have a look at   Or being in touch here.


6th Jul, 2014

July in the garden

I was on CBB’s Fresh Air Sunday morning with Karen Gordon which was such a pleasure.

And here’s the link to   GARDENISTA with the superb photos by Andreas Trautttmansdorff

hope you enjoy



3rd Jul, 2014

This Week in the garden

I’LL BE ON CBB’s Fresh Air Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. with Karen Gorden.

Try and have a listen.

If you missed the story in Gardenista: here’s the link



Wow here’s a link to a story I wrote on the garden for GARDENISTEA

hope you enjoy


13th Jun, 2014

June in the garden

June 11 overall




What a great week in the garden. It started with the great photographer Andreas Trautmansdorff shoot in the garden. He’s doing it for Gardenista the gardening blog everyone seems to be reading these days. The garden looked ravishing and, of course,  Andreas’s magnificent photographs captured the garden that day in those moments. It was a lot of fun for me and brought back the glory days when we shot Canadian gardens for the now defunct Gardening Life magazine.

The garden has been incredible for the last month as it has revealed all the damage from a terrible winter. Things have come into fullness later than usual. Some things died which didn’t surprise me but other things have struggled and managed to live.  I will publish some of my favourite Spring plants and how they looked in this garden. And I’ll let you know when his shots are published.  They will be a treat.


Andreas in action is always a delight to watch. Andreas

5th May, 2014

Spring newsletter

The spring quarterly is going to be sent out today and if you want to receive it and aren’t on our list, hit the contact me and I will forward it to you.

Spring has reluctantly arrived.  The garden has the sound of spring in it:  water being pumped out of the dry well; the famous Annex clay attaching itself to my boots; the birds singing for the soy of seeing the sun. And plants rising about 18 inches a day.  It’s heaven. may5 overall

13th Apr, 2014


I was on Fresh Air this morning with the wonderful Mary Ito who makes everything feel fresh.  We discussed the incredible damage our canopy was slammed by the winter ice storms which hit especially hard here in Southern Ontario.


I called my arbourist, Derek Welsh (Authentic Tree Care) about the surrounding damage our trees are suffering right now. He says:  “Get the damaged wood from all the storms out of the garden as quickly and safely as possible.  The trees are starting to wake up and they’ll want to heal themselves. Give them all the help you can.”


You can do this by whacking away at the timber yourself, but it’s really safer to hire a certified Arbourist.  Don’t hire Fly by Night Tree Guys.  There are too many idiots wandering up and down trees doing more damage than good.  Be very careful. Don’t believe a lot of bafflegab (taking on more than you really need) and get them to quote in stages.


Chores you can do yourself:

* If you see shrubs and trees with stubs, remove them.  Really bad clumsy arbourists leave these things sticking out and they are ripe for bugs and diseases to enter.  Plus the tree wastes energy trying to make a collar around these things.

*A good cut is a thing of beauty:  it should not be flush against the trunk or branch the same thing happens tree can’t heal itself. It should be a slight distance away from trunk or branch and it should form a natural collar with the plant.

* Derek recommends that you do not try to do this with very old tree like big old red maples and beech trees.  Wait and do as little pruning to them as possible.  Obviously someone has to take out dead stuff but wait to do that until they leaf out. He says he’s even holding off on cedars right now because they are going brown. It’s a tricky year so don’t beat yourself up with it.


In fact, hold off a lot of the normal pruning you’d do right now because we have no idea what kind of damage there’s been. I’d prune my Japanese maples any old time but I’m giving them a few more weeks and then I’ll take out the dead stuff, twigs and branches that are crossing or don’t look good.

But don’t over nip and tuck—any plant can die of a thousand cuts.

I always go for a refresher to   Alex Shigo is my hero of all things to do with trees.  Very wise man he was and if you hire an arbourist who doesn’t know his work find another one.  He is the Tree God no doubt.

So if you wait a week or two and see how things are:

* Don’t hack away at maples or birches, they tend to run sap like crazy and look awful.        Could also attract bugs

* Never cut flat against the branch or trunk.

* NEVER leave a stub.

Make sure you get a certified arbourist. There are so many gardeny scams and this is one of the big ones. These guys come around doing cheap work and they are wrecking our trees.

All the trees we had pruned properly last year had no damage whatsoever.

Try not to get at your trees and shrubs by standing on wet or soggy soil.  If you must do this because you it’s absolutely necessary:  get boards to stand on so it doesn’t compact the soil.


You can cut back the ugly look of grasses right now. There are warm season and cold season grasses and if you can remember which is which, good luck. I just whack them all back before they start growing or you’ll take the tips off.


We’re spreading around yards and yards of compost right now. Duck is my preferred but whatever it is make sure it’s well composted, doesn’t smell and isn’t frozen. It should be well screened.  We do this now because it’s easy and we’re not disturbing plans and it will feed them as the soil thaws out.


If you can’t resist the lure of  a completely cleaned and sharpened pair of secateurs, do the following:

ROSES:  Take out all the dead stuff, put compost around and later on plant some garden beside them

FRUIT TREES  do now in in early spring

Hibiscus  cut out the winter kill when buds start swelling.   Don’t let it seed over the entire neighbourhood please


SHRUBS  such as forsythia and lilac, wait until  after they’ve bloomed.

VINES:  cut Clematis back unless they bloom in spring.

Wisteria  whack it back like crazy for shape.  Then be prepared to cut it back in summer as well.



Go at your pruning this year with extra care.   Always use really clean tools.  Never stand on soggy soil, use wood slats to distribute your weight.


I’m working on a spring newsletter if you’d like to sign up. Go to contact me and I’ll get it to you.

It seems an impossible length of time since I’ve been on this blog. Somehow I managed to be in Paris and came back to winter; and then we went to California and came back to winter. So now Spring is arriving in such a stealthy manner it has made us all anxious.

During these periods I made the decision  not to go on any more tours. I love to travel so if I’m going anywhere it will be with my beloved husband. My days of touring groups of people are over.  Unless, of course, I change my mind.

I will be on CBC’S  Fresh Air   with Mary Ito Sunday April 13, 2014  between 7:30 and 8 a.m.

I’ll post notes about pruning tomorrow a.m.  We had a very lively discussion.

I have a piece in Zoomer magazine about my favourite gardens.


This is the long long connector for my Globe and Mail column last week. It also has the videos we’ve been making on there as well.  They are fun and fun to do.


Here are links to the videos themselves:







3rd Aug, 2013

Water in the Garden

I was on CBC’s FRESH AIR this morning and promised  a fresh new shot of my garden which is here.  The one thing I cannot get is the depth, the layering and the constant sense that is changes minute by minute.   A perfect morning to watch the light coming into the garden.

Aug 2013 overall

29th Jun, 2013

All that plastic grass

The horror happened on our street this week.  Truck after truck carted away trees, hostas, shrubs and soil.  All gone.  Then more trucks rolled in with herbicides to spray the ground, truckloads of screening was dumped and then  thumped into place with heavy duty machinery.  The final insult was ugly looking unreal all-plastic grass.  It’s awful, terrible, dreadful.

We neighbours stood around gobsmacked and upset.  There was not a damn thing we could do. The owners of this plastic hell can do whatever they want with their property. The trees were of small enough caliper that they didn’t need a permit for removal. And no one cares about that other stuff.  It’s legal and we can just mind our own business.

But what no one has taken into account  is how this is going to change the ecology in our area.  We live on underground streams from the  Taddlecreek system which runs through downtown Toronto.  This water eventually ends up in Lake Ontario.  What we dump on our gardens will end up there too.  We are on a flood plain which means the ground water rises dramatically  in a year like this one and floods everyone’s garden.

Well this stuff plastic stuff is supposed to be permeable but when you see them pounding limestone screening into the ground, what comes to mind is cement.  The water that would normally rise and then fall is going to tumble into the gardens on either side  of this awful green horror.  What’s there for birds in this wasteland?  Where will the millions of  animals that make up the soil go? It will have the smell of death about it forever.  Nothing will change.

I understand it when put plastic grass (and there some good products) in a small area, say around a swimming pool.  But to completely destroy an entire yard for plastic is unconscionable.  You can bet this home owner will get a leaf blower to remove any offending bits of nature which might stray on to his property.  Why isn’t there something we can do about it?  It’s all perfectly legal.