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In the Changing Garden

My garden is in constant revision, as you may notice my web page is, also.
This will be a way to show some of the updates and revisions I make to the garden throughout the years. There may be excerpts from my Garden Journals, and links to my Blog.

  • In the Beginning

    When we moved into our home in 1988 there was no landscaping done to the lot.

    I got my first digital Camera in 1999, so there are no photos for the first 11 years when I was making my yard into a garden. I kept a hand written garden journal, recording purchases, writing notes of daily gardening, drawing maps of plans, and of plans completed. I have been skimming those journals, purchase pages, and maps of the garden with completed beds. There were quite a lot of plants lost or trees taken out when they became over grown. I get tired just looking at all the planning, purchases, digging and planting done. The first page will describe the garden up until how it is in 2014.

    I stopped writing in my garden journal in 1999, and was transfering all the information to my computer, but it all got to be too much. I have tried to keep a journal now, on my computer, beginning in 2012. So, with the help of my journal, my blog and my photos I am attempting to record the garden changes over the years.

    The Light Garden

    In 1997 I got my 3 tier 48 inch wide grow light garden I keep a few orchids, African violets, cacti and begonias. It is easy care with watering, fertilizing and cleaning the plants as needed.

    The Back Garden

    When we purchased our home in 1988 the lot was not landscaped. We had a landscaping company put down sod, add old railroad ties around the vegetable patch in the back (what I will call the right side or east side of our lot) and add some good top soil to that spot. The Vegetable Patch is 16 by 16.

    The landscapers added more concrete to make the drive way up the left (west) side of the lot and around the back of the house to the back steps that come down from the deck. This extension of the driveway goes into the back garage and creates a patio area behind the house.

    They added top soil to the right side of the house, where I have 5 feet between my house and the neighbours house. I planted rhodos, azaleas and a camillia in this area at the beginning. The landscapers put in about 7 or 8 cedar trees along this side of my deck to screen our deck from the neighbours. They also put in a nice cedar hedge the length of the driveway on the left or west side of the driveway. This hedge runs from the front of the old garage up to the front of the house. It must be 40 feet long. This strip along the driveway is about 6 feet wide. As I write this in 2014, the hedge is house high and is a very good privacy hedge between our neighbors on that side and us. All the rest of the lot not covered by buildings and the old sidewalk was covered in sod.

    Over the next ten years I dug over a five foot wide border along the fence at the top or north side of the lot in the back yard. I put in a wisteria at the top north corner of the vegetable patch, some asparagus next in the direction to the left or to the west. The asparagus never caught on, so I put in a few herbs, A rosemary, a lavender, an oregano plant and sage, in front of two more cedars where the asparagus had been. The cedar hedge has grown house high now. Then to the west of the vegetable patch cedars, along the back border, there is a small birds nest spruce beneath two tall western red cedars. The back border had various trees and perennials over the years and loads of compost and peat moss added. As I type this, in 2014 there is now, next to the western red cedars; a couple more hedging cedars, a firethorn, a blue leafed eucalyptus tree, 3 more hedging cedars, a yew tree, 3 more hedging cedars, some Saskatoon trees, a clump of torch lily, a tall Japanese cedar (now a beautiful bronzy green in summer and darker brown in winter). There is a grove of a few sumachs in the corner, and a small douglas fir. This border has expanded and been planted with various perennials and shrubs over the years. All the grass has been taken out along the back 6 to 8 feet, and there is no grass at all behind and around the old garage. It is about 6 to 15 feet wide along the back of the garden. I call this back area, behind and around the old garage, the woodland garden. At the moment it is a problem area in that I planted some bulbs that are called bluebells. They are extremely invasive and have taken over all the wild flowers I was trying to re-establish in the area. I have one trillium left. I had a very nice patch of fawn lillies growing and will probably have to dig it all over to remove the bluebells and replant the fawn lillies. I have a water tub in this back woodland area in front of the Saskatoon bushes. The tub sits on the stump of a huge eucalyptus tree that we had to have removed by the Davey Tree guys, in 2008. The tub was once in a half barrel that I had as a water feature in the front garden, before the barrel broke down. It now contains a few water iris. Next to the tub at the front of this bed, that is, along the old sidewalk behind the old garage are tall bearded iris, with primulas in front of them, and the cedars behind them. I need to clean out a tall herb I have planted there, as it looks rather weedy and ugly. There is a mock orange shrub, and a couple more shrubs in the back corner of the woodland. There are a few more perennials in this woodland and the back border. I let the columbines, honesty, dames rocket and foxgloves self seed. So, the woodland is quite wild at the moment. The woodland wraps around the old garage on the west side with the tall cedar hedge along the property line and a bark chip trail seperating a bed of woodland perennials on that side of the garage, from the hedge.

    Moving back towards the vegetable garden, in the back border, there is a patch of germander. The germander is easy care and low maintence, the bees love it. There is a yucca behind the germander and very close to the cedars. This plant bloomed for the first time in 2013. It has been in there for years and I was never sure what it was until it bloomed. Next, after the end of the old sidewalk is the firethorn, that I now keep trimmed back. I need to keep it trimmed because there is a narrow walk way between the firethorn and the variegated holly tree, which also is clipped back. The walk way leads into a small grass area that has a golden delicious apple tree in it. After the firethorn, in the back border the cedars are under planted with dianthus with a front edging of flat rocks. This rock edging goes around the little grass area, along the back border and the little rockery that is on the west side of the vegetable patch.

    On the east side of the old garage at the back there is a narrow flower bed and a side walk. I had the landscapers leave this old sidewalk and the flower bed next to the garage. The flower bed continues around the garage to the back where there were steps and a door into what used to be the front of this garage. Pat boarded up this door and the old window at what is now the back of this garage. I filled in the steps with stones and some of the clay soil I had dug out of the beds. The Compost bin sits on top of the old stairs. To the west of the compost bin is more of the woodland that now containes a rhododendron and a pin oak. The woodland bark chip trail meets the old sidewalk in front of the compost bin. This cement square in front of the compost area is a good spot for setting the wheel barrow for digging out the compost. On the other side of the compost bin there was a lilly of the valley shrub and a big evergreen fern, in a bed that is about 6 feet wide. The lily of the valley shrub and the fern are doing fine. They screen the compost area from view of the back garden. The plants in the rest of this bed have changed over time.

    In the narrow bed along the east side of the old garage there were Dutch iris and Oriental poppies. The plants in this bed have changed over time. There is now a nicely fragrant Jasmine vine at the north end of the bed, some lily of the Nile, some self seeding malvas. At the bottom of this bed I have a seedless green grape under planted with a very good erodium. There is a very good cyclamen, a good gentiana and a couple of other rock plants in this area. There are steps that go down to the patio area from the old sidewalk. On the east side of the old sidewalk I have created another border. At the top (north) end of this border I have the variegated holly tree. It has berries that are ready for the robins just about Christmas time. Next in the border is a patch of perennials, mostly tall campanulas and michaelmas daisies. About half way down this border the stepping stone path marks the end of the little grass area. The stepping stone stretches across to the Japanese garden area, dividing the grass and apple tree from the other half of this back area. Along the old sidewalk there is a strawberry tree (arbutus) and then the fig tree that is next to the other end of the stepping stone path. This path goes from the steps over towards the Japanese garden and curves up or north to join the path that goes across from the old sidewalk and enters the vegetable patch and continues on into the Japanese Garden area where it meets the pond walkway and edging. Above or to the north of the top stepping stone path is the small grass area where the golden delicious apple tree grows (between the old sidewalk border and the little rockery by the vegetable patch) The stepping stone paths are planted with Corsican mint and some scotch moss. I took the grass out of this area and made the stepping stone paths because this area was always soggy in winter and impossible to cross over to the pond or vegetable garden. There have been various bulbs and other perennials planted along this area, over the years. The tulips are finished before the fig tree leafs out, as are the windflowers.

    Along the steps that lead up to the deck, I now have 3 rhododendrons, an azalyea, hellebores, and the beginning of the fern/moss garden which goes under the steps and deck. Just in front of these rhodos I am getting a small primula bed established. The stepping stone path borders this primula bed. As the stepping stone path curves to go to the vegetable patch, there is the screen of a small blue spruce tree, a Harry Lauders walking stick shrub and a fake bamboo. These shrubs are the border of the Japanese garden area. See the paths and garden art album for a view of the new paths created in and before 2009.

    In the beginning, in the area where the water garden is now, there was grass, and I had planted a yellow plum tree. This was one of the first areas I worked on. I first put in a plastic tub. In 1998 I took out the 20 inch deep tub, and dug a 30 inch deep by approximately 9 ft wide and 9 feet long hole, lined it with old carpets and then with EPDM. I had to level the edges with all the clay soil I had dug out of the hole. I lined the edges with big flat rocks that I had hauled home from various places. This spot was under the plum tree which is the only spot I had available for the pond. After the initial installation of the pond and waterfall, it continued to change with new edging plants, a cement block path, the little Japanese garden area including the Japanese lantern, dry stream, and moss garden. The drystream and the moss continue under the deck. The plum tree shades the water garden and produces abundant crops of juicy plums. I have a marsh marigold, water irises, and water hawthorn in the pond. There are grass like under water oxygenating plants. When the water garden was new, I had water lillies in it, but it is too shaded now for them to grow. The water iris, water hawthrorn and marsh marigolds look good, though At first I had koi and goldfish, but the blue heron, racoons and river otter lunched on these expensive fish. Now I only add inexpensive goldfish to keep the mosquitos down. At first I cleaned the pond every year, then every second year. I have the nuisance duckweed covering the open water and must skim it off to allow oxygen into the pond from the open water surface. The edging plants are filling in the 'rock necklace'. At one corner I have the waterfall that is now growing moss and has the mermaid sitting on top of it. On the opposite corner there is a Lebanon cedar extending over the pond. At the north end there is the yew hedge, with a boxwood hedge and then the square cement blocks edging the pond. Along the west side of the pond there are eding stones and the continuation of the path of square cement blocks around the pond. This continues around the pond to in front of the deck. There is a clematis going up the deck post, a rhodo, some primulas, a small boxwood, a small cedar and far too many violets between the cement path and the deck.. Between the cement stone path and the rocks that edge the pond I have some campanula, some wulfeni, and some other saxifragia. These little edging plants are slowly growing and filling in around the stones edging the pond.

    On the west side of the pond the cement squares path runs between the yellow plum tree and the pond. On the West side of the plum tree is a field stone path that runs from the edge of the vegetable path to the Japanese lantern and the beginning of the dry stream that goes under the deck. This is what I call the Japanese garden area. The stepping stones have moss growing between them. From the entry way into the Japanese Garden there is the bay laurel on one side of the stepping stones and a small bamboo and the lily of the valley shrub on the other side; the moss extends into the Japanese garden, under a small cut leafed Japanese maple, under a mountain laurel, and along the little drystream and under the deck to become more moss and fern garden. Just to the west of these small shrubs we see the other side of a rhodo, the blue spruce, the curly branches of the nut tree (Corylus avellane- filbert), a small variegated lily of the valley shrub, and across the path that leads into the Japanese garden, just at the edge of the veggie patch there is a bay laurel. I try to keep the shrubs in this area clipped to a smaller size, and try not to have them touching each other. There is a nice mossy rock near the head of the dry stream. Across the dry stream from the lantern, there is a rhodo, and far too many violets. Next to the rhodo is the bed with a delphinium, and the clematis at the corner of the deck (... mentioned above.) The cedars and evergreens along the east side of the property line are slowly growing to screen out the neighbors view. This part of the water garden also has a bluebell infestation and will need to be cleaned up, also.

    The area under the deck has never looked very good. The soil is all clay and uneven. I have a few shrubs under the deck that are far too shaded and will need to be taken out on the next renovation of this area. At the west end of the deck and under the steps I have the moss, ferns, welsh poppies, the dry stream, a small variegated euonymus shrub, and the solomon's seal perennial that are doing quite well. This more or less finished area takes up about half of the space under the deck. Taking out the shrubs that are not doing well should give a view to the pond from the window of the suite that looks out over the moss garden. The sitting area could be moved closer to the pond, and built up on a platform to allow a view of the pond. A rustic bench might be good in this area.

    The Front Garden

    an overview of the front inner garden taken from the living room window in February of 2010 and posted to my blog.

    The front yard was covered with sod. Pat would ride around on his little lawn mower cutting the grass all over the lot. I wanted a shade tree for the front yard. After the first attempt (an evergreen magnolia) blew over and broke in a windstorm, we got a liquid amber tree. This tree was to have branches that were 10 feet long, so that is the distance I planted it from the house. Needless to say the branches are almost twice as long, and the tree is higher than the house. It is a lovely tree with great leaf colour in the Autumn. The sun gets in during the Winter when we need it. In 2013 I had the Davey Tree guys cut the branches that were pointing towards the house cut off at the trunk. It looks a bit flat from our window, but the windows are much safer now from the branches whipping around in the wind. The Autumn leaves are allowed to fall and create leaf mulch in the garden beds below. I rake the leaves off the rock plants and rake up the excess leaves, throw them on the grass path and mulch them with the mower, now. This mulch and any extra leaves are now going to the woodland area in the back.

    I bought 8 boxwood plants to start the boxwood hedge that now runs from the front entry way over to the neighbours property in a curving line. The hedge was added to; inadvertantly, by a boxwood with a different leaf, from a catalogue order, to finish the hedge. Over the years I have started cuttings under the plants across the whole length of the hedge and the difference in the kinds of boxwood is not so apparent as it was at first. Some years later, I planted boxwood cuttings across the grass path which is about 4 feet wide, in a matching curve, to set the grass path between the two boxwood hedges. I planted roses within the outside of the curve of the hedge. The roses that have survived are the iceberg rose by the front entry and a pink simplicity rose on the other end of the hedge in the 5 foot space between my house and the neighbours sidewalk and house. I have to keep the iceberg rose pruned back off of the entry way door. At the entry way deck end of this hedge there is a globe cedar, that has grown quite large to fill in almost the whole length of the entry way deck. The tree peony which I planted in the same bed, now appears to grow out of the globe cedar. This tree peony is the star of the show every year in the Spring time. The globe cedar is pruned back to keep it within bounds of the grass path. The grass path begins at the driveway and goes across the top of the front garden to the neighbors property. As the front garden is now, I have 5 foot wide strips of grass around the outter edges that act as a frame for the front garden. The top grass is a curve, the east side is the neighbours grass, and across the bottom, there is about 5 feet of grass of the boulevard that is frame along the street. I am using the boulevard or Saanich property as though it is my own garden. This effectively makes my front garden approximately 40 feet by 40 feet.

    Prior to 1997, I double dug about 12 feet of this boulevard area. I put in cedar hedging across the the front, making a rectangular flower bed on each of the west and the east ends of the hedge, on the south side of the hedge. In the middle of the hedging the flower bed is on the north side of the hedge. I have the garden bench sitting in the nook of the hedge that is on the north side. Over the years the boulevard beds expanded to another 6 foot deep strip all across the front garden. There is about 10 feet of space still in grass on the south side. The hedge and boulevard plants end at five feet from the edge our driveway, giving the illusion of the grass frame continuing on the west side. This piece of grass becomes more flower bed about 3 feet towards the house from the hedge (about 18 feet from the street). The crocus field runs across the front in the 5 feet of grass that is closest to the flower bed, leaving about 5 feet of grass that gets mowed as the frame on the street side. The plants in the boulevard beds include a little honeysuckle hedge that runs right across the front dividing the two rectangles from the long bed in front of them, giving some structure to the design on that side of the cedar hedge. I am slowly getting a few good perennials established in the rectangle by my driveway. There are 3 peonies, a good veronica , a couple of hollyhocks, a lupine, and some I may have forgotten. This bed is across the hedge from the black bamboo, so I need to keep after the bamboo to keep it out of the perennials. The other rectangle bed is a bit wild with campanulas, malvas, and a peony that was not suriving. This rectangle has been infested with bluebells. I dug out the peony and now have it in the back garden bed until I get the rectangle cleaned up and the soil improved. On the neighbors side of the long strip in front of the honeysuckle hedge, I have planted a purple plum tree. This tree just started producing fruit a couple of years ago and it has been too much of a temptation for those people next door. The old thief is out there picking off my plums before I can even get to them. Towards our driveway, in this flower bed, I have established a little pink and blue area with lychnis, pussytoes, a very good little low veronica, and some dutch iris. There is lemon balm under the plum tree, that I cut back before it goes to seed, at about the time that the crocuses are hardened off and I mow the crocus field grass. Next to the plum tree in the pink and blue area there is a red currant that produces lots of berries and makes a nice jelly when I pick them. There is a tall bearded iris and then the black eyed susans and thread leafed coreopsis, that bloom in the Autumn; to bring us to about the middle of this front strip. In the middle there is a bridal veil spirea shrub that is getting quite big. I keep it trimmed in a globe shape. It is a feature of the Spring garden in front of the hedge. On the west side of the spirea bush, there is a patch of blue fescue grass, a lupine, achillea, self seeding verbena, daisies growing out of the under planting of thyme. In the corner of this bed closest to our driveway there is a french lavender that is doing very well. The bees love the thyme and lavender, and the honeysuckle when they are in bloom. I will need to reestablish the honeysuckle hedge at the east end of this area, as it is getting quite ratty.

    Before 1997 I had double dug and improved the soil in about a 6 foot area around the inner garden. The inner part was grass at first. I had planted the border on the east side with a deodora cedar and a lovely big Austrian pine. Both of these trees were too close to the propery line and I had to take them out when the neighbors complained about them. They were too close to their driveway. After these trees came out I again planted cedar hedging and have the honeysuckle hedging running along the outside of the cedar hedging from the grass path down to the cedar hedge at the boulevard and around the little rectangle to meet the honeysuckle hedge running acoss the front of the lot. This little hedge beside the larger hedge details the "frame" around the front garden. In this east side border there is a star magnolia and a California lilac. There was room for perennials along this border and I had lupines and foxgloves that looked really good one year. I was mowing the grass of this inner garden and the outside borders grass with a push mower. In 1997 Pat was away to Europe with Lloyd and I had about 6 weeks to garden all day and nite if I wanted to. There was more double digging, adding compost, peat moss, sand to this clay. The grass was dug under... probably too deeply, but I did not get any grass growing into the beds in subsequent years. The soil on top needed a lot of improvement and still does. After the whole area was dug over, I started to make the paths and the little rockery with flat field rocks and more sand added to the clay. This made a fairly firm bed for the paths. I bought a few pieces of garden art and established them in the garden. The bench was put into its niche in the bottom cedar hedge. I planted a black bamboo, a magnolia, a smoke bush, two more roses and a few choice little rock plants. While making this inner garden I made a 7 foot diameter circle of thyme. Its a lovely feature of the front garden and is just on the north side of the bench. The bees love the thyme. To the east of the thyme circle there is a smaller circle with stone path around it and the sundial in the center.

    There have been many plants over the years. The garden is getting a bit more settled now as I am trying to move to lower maintenance. All the beds need weeding, the leaves cover areas and keep the weeds down, while turning into leaf mulch each year. There are more 'mounding' plants like heathers that are easy care, now. Sedums, hebes, and the hedging are all easier care too. I now have a rechargeable mower and hedge trimmer, that are light weight and a joy to work with. Naturally, the renovations and changes continue every year.

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Last revised: September 30, 2020.