3rd May, 2015

May in the Garden

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.


2015 May 2 garden

27th Apr, 2015

The Spring Flood

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

Garden flood April 2015





white crocus purple crocuspurple crocus white crocus


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

13th Feb, 2015

Alison Gordon

Our friend Alison Gordon died this week and the shock of it is only beginning to hit.  The depth of the hole she  left in so many people’s lives is hard to describe.

I was a friend, not an intimate but we told each other intimate things. It was always great to park fears and problems with Alison because you knew they were safe with her. What you said would never come back to bite you in the ass. She described the word trustworthy. A woman who loved gossip but knew a whole lot more than she ever passed on..

We went to the opera together for years until we deciced that part of our lives was over. It had become too expensive. Neither of us know a great deal about opera but we had years of fun exploring singers, inane plots and discussing the performances we’d just seen. We both wept at exactly the same spots in La Boheme to hell what anyone else thought.

One of the great gifts she gave friends was her annual New Year’s Day Levee. It was always proceeded by a witty beautifully crafted invitation and no one that I know of ever turned it down. You met everyone you wanted to see in that year. But only if they were funny and smart, really smart. So rooms full of smart, funny politicians, writers, musicians and journalists of every stripe made for a marvellous way to start the year.  It gave a sense of confidence that things weren’t really so bad if all these people, these terrific people could come together.

She stopped doing it a couple of years ago. Going out with a bang, she explained. More like a pang for the rest of us. So she and I decided we would go out for lunch at that time of year. The rallying cry being the same for all our lunches and dinners:  “Let’s treat ourselves the way we deserve to be treated.”

We saw each other last on December 30th hoping it would be a better year to come. We met at Pangea (close to the subway easy to get to) partly because it doesn’t have thumpy music and we could hear each other talk and well, of course, we deserved a treat.  It was also where Noodles used to be. A place we spent way too much time in during its heyday. This set off a waterfall of anecdotes about good and bad behaviour.

I remember there were oysters but not so much the taste as the pre order talk of liking West coast oysters better than East coast. I  had no  idea she was an afficianado . But that was Alison. We didn’t have an organ recital about all our aches and pains it was just not part of the conversation as we hacked our way through lunch (and helped eat each other’s desserts).

If I had known that was going to be the last lunch, the last long talk, the last anecdotes of her times with Desmond her beloved great nephew, I would never have stopped hugging and kissing her. But it was winter and it was cold.

I forgot to tell her a whole bunch of stuff I had meant to. I wanted to ask her more questions about this and that. Much is being made of her work as a baseball writeer and her novels but no one is mentioning her e-mails. They were keepers just like all the rest of her writing. She didn’t toss them off casually. Every word counted and they were moments to savor so of course you’d try to write half decent ones back.

I counted on her to keep me totally informed when out of town which she did with glee especially with political shenanigans. But I  never heard her say a mean word about her friends. She glowed with a pride in them.

She was jaunty. She dressed that way and she had that style in her e mails. The last one she sent just before we left town described one of her scary visits to hospital like a story that belonged to someone else. “But I’m home now with Miss Molly curled up on my bed.

I’ll see you when you get back from California. You are a lucky dog.”

I am. I knew Alison.






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 www.marjorieharrisgardens.ca   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 Shigoandtrees.com   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.