On my way from before to after

Grand simplification in progress, May 2012 A couple of years ago, I embarked on a garden project I called my Grand Simplification. My goal was to make my gardening life less complicated by rethinking the space. Simple is hard, as any designer will tell you. While the process is nowhere near finished, this is my […]

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Darned good ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ This is when the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) ‘Bloodgood’ really starts living up to its name. Today, the sun was lighting up maples like this all over the city. ‘Bloodgood’ is one of the tougher ones – which it has to be in my dry shade garden. This is its second year, […]

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Two less-known bulbs for dry shade

A carpet of Pushkinia and Chionodoxa at Rosetta McClain Gardens In his chapter on bulbs in Planting the Dry Shade Garden (a review of that will follow), Graham Rice mentions two that for me are tried and true, one that is on my wish list, and one big surprise. The charmer brightening the path above, […]

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Pushing the limits of dry shade

A splash of morning sun helps this dry shade front bed Dry shade can be a gardener’s worst nightmare. It’s definitely a challenge. I know. I’ve been a dry shade gardener (on sand…under Norway maples) for 25 years. Many of Toronto’s city gardeners are in my dry, shady boat. But like any problem, dry shade […]

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The Aptly Named Hell Strip

I’d been gardening on it for almost 10 years before I knew these garden spaces actually had a name: The Hell Strip. And suddenly all my challenges made sense. Yep, I’ve been trying to garden on a little strip o’ hell. For those of you unacquainted with the “hell strip” it’s a long garden space […]

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Shade garden housekeeping: Sports

With shade gardening, there’s a difference between plants that are shade lovers and shade tolerant. Hostas, for example, are often considered shade lovers. Some do require shade to produce their best leaf colour. Yet, most hostas are simply tolerant of shade. And here is my baby corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’), which does best in […]

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Love/Hate: Soapwort opera

This pretty double soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) has been sharing my Microgarden for more than 22 years. I say “sharing” because soapworts have this wacky idea that the garden belongs to them. They have, after all, lived here longer than me. We tussle over ownership for a while, but they usually give in without much of […]

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Blooms Day: Mid-June in Toronto

Full disclosure: On this Blooms Day in the Microgarden, it’s mostly green. However, you can see my opening statement of columbines; some blue Aquilegia alpina and an unnamed pink of the granny’s bonnet form. Both prefer the cracks in my paving stones, where their feet stay cool and moist. All efforts to get the alpinas […]

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What’s growing in May: Helleborus

This clump of hellebores (Helleborus orientalis) started to open up a week or so ago, towards the end of April this year. But I could see the flower buds marshalling for the big push under the leaves as early as March. That’s why a common name for this flower is the Lenten rose, because it […]

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Double digits!

Yes, we have spring weather! In the middle of April. At least, we do temporarily, as it is threatening to transition right into summer, with 21˚C predicted this week. On the weekend, I gingerly scrumpled the leaves on top of the garden, and found some of my favorite spring things. Here is one: Lathyrus vernus, […]

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