I wish I could show you what this front yard (above) looks like in my head. It doesn’t have a lopsided spruce tree which is jammed in between my and my neighbour’s houses, I can tell ya that much right now. It also doesn’t have such a big blanket of smooth, green, boring grass. Rather, it is bordered by fruit-producing trees and shrubs, as well as many drought-tolerant grasses and flowering perennials.
When I moved into this house in late September 2016, we made a start by digging up a bit of grass and filling the area with a Coppertina ninebark, some helenium, daylilies, grasses and a few other red-, yellow-, and orange-flowered perennials.
It will have an analogous colour scheme of red-orange, orange, and orange-yellow:
And here’s what this garden looks like right now:
but in 2 more years I want it to look much more like this, my old front garden in Calgary, with lots of shrubs and perennials filling it in and NO TURF GRASS:
I believe I have some work to do!!
I’m thrilled to have 2 apple trees in my new-to-me backyard. However, the big one was overgrown and the little one has a big pruning wound on it and needs some TLC. Although I know the basics of tree pruning, I thought it would be worthwhile to call in some professionals for this first year. Here’s the before and after (left and right), for the record, so that I can do it myself in some years (note to self to call in the professionals every 2 to 3 years). You’ll notice the big one is quite opened up compared to before, and they didn’t take much off the little one because it needs its leaves to try to recover:
OK it’s a little hard to see with my neighbour’s trees in the background! How about this:
Better? You can see more sky between branches in the ‘after’ pictures on the right, right?
Want to know more? Here’s a recent video on tree pruning.
A few tree pruning tips I’ve gleaned from it and other sources:
- it’s time to prune apple trees! (roses in a couple more weeks)
- prune spring-flowering trees and shrubs like lilacs and cherries after they flower
- get rid of branches that grow straight up and those that cross over each other -> aim for an open, vase-shaped tree that has space between branches
- prune from the bottom up with hand pruners or loppers, just outside the collar where the branch connects to the tree
- don’t use paint or pruning sealers at this time of year! Balsam is good.
- clean tools with a wire brush and rubbing alcohol
Here’s hoping for lots of apples in the fall!
It took me 12 years in my old house to convince my husband that it was okay to remove old trees that were planted way too close to the house or too close together. We’re both tree huggers, but I don’t feel guilty about fixing somebody else’s tree planting mistake. Especially when it comes to spruce trees. Thankfully he doesn’t either anymore – one of the first things he said when we moved in last fall was ‘well, that’s gotta go’!!
With all this warm weather I can’t help thinking about spring and the first thing I’m going to do is take this tree down. Stay tuned!!
I am getting antsy for spring and for taking down this huge spruce tree in front of my new-to-me house!
There was absolutely nothing else but this tree and rock mulch here when we moved in late September 2016. The rocks right in front of the window, below, were removed ASAP and I plunked a few plants in their temporary home, but this garden area will be totally redone once the tree is down and the rest of the rocks are removed this spring.
It took me a while to decide on a colour scheme for this area, as I really want to put my blue gentians in here – so that everyone who comes to the door can enjoy them!! But true blue is hard to work in to a garden colour scheme. And since the colour scheme also has to consider the orange brick and the (will-be-painted-in-spring) yellow front door, I decided on the tetradic colour scheme of blue, purple, yellow and orange (see more at this extremely informative garden blog by Sue, a garden designer in Calgary). I think it will be fantastic!!
This will also allow me to plant some catmint along the sidewalk – another favourite plant. I particularly love it beside a sidewalk because it spills over and softens the walk. It also is looks a little bit like lavender which I would grow if I could (it isn’t hardy enough to grow here reliably). Other plants which will go in the Courtyard Garden include: delphinium, veronica spicata, blue oat grass, heliopsis, siberian iris, flax, daylilies, and cherries:
Now back to dreaming of spring…
Somehow this patio garden at my new-to-me house is telling me it wants to be white. The patio, while not much to look at yet, could look very French and lovely if surrounded by terra cotta pots and white flowers. I also prefer to have scented flowers near a patio. These yellow flowers, which I inherited from the previous owner, will just have to go:
Don’t worry, the yellow daisies will find a new home in the front garden. And the clematis will stay because it’s just too healthy to move and I don’t have another good spot for it. In the meantime, I have already removed the rock mulch (ugh!) and plunked a few white-flowered plants from my old house into this area:
Above (the left side of the garage, left to right): white bell flower, (pale) pink meadow rue, 3 white bearded iris, candy tuft, russian sage (okay technically purple flowers but I’m counting the silvery leaves as white), and lamb’s ears.
Above (the right side of the garage, left to right): nepeta ‘White Cloud’, 3 David phlox, white cranesbill (which will hopefully eventually be bush enough to hide the ugly sprinkler system controls).
I also want to add a white-flowered potentilla on either side of the door.
It’s not much to look at yet but it will look much better in spring, I promise!
This garden, facing west inside my backyard fence, is filled with monkshood, peonies and roses thanks to the previous owner. I don’t know what colour any of them are (besides the pink rose on the left) because I first saw this house in August and moved here in late September when everything else had finished blooming. It will be a fun surprise in spring to see what colours I inherited! I am going to call this garden area ‘Sissinghurst’ because monkshood, roses, and peonies always make me think of English gardens, and Sissinghurst is my favourite (not that I’ve been to very many).
In the meantime, I also transplanted a few plants from my old house, sticking to those with red and purple flowers and particularly those which attract hummingbirds and butterflies:
Above: looking across the Potager to Sissinghurst.
Above: closer up view of “Sissinghurst”. Plants which attract hummingbirds include beardtongue, coralbells, daylily, lilies, and monkshood. Other plants are sedums, Joe Pye Weed , blue oat grass, and veronica spicata. I feel lucky to have my neighbour’s huge lilacs providing a backdrop above the fence, as well!!
I planted these in a rush in October, just wanting to get the plants I brought from my old house into the ground before winter. I’d like to do some re-arranging, sticking to purple and red flowers, with some yellow-green spirea such as ‘Gold Mound’ to jazz things up (a split-complementary colour scheme: see this useful blog for more on colour schemes).
The boring lawn in the middle of my backyard is going to radically change next year. The gnarly old lilacs, planted way too close to the garage, have already been chopped down, and 2 Evans Cherry trees will take their place. There are already 2 apple trees on the other side of the backyard (which can’t be seen in the above photo) – hence the name “Orchard Garden” for this area of the yard.
I really like my lawn to have a defined, intentional shape, rather than simply extend to the fence and pathways as if the designer just gave up and couldn’t think of anything else to do. In this yard we will cut the lawn and ornamental gardens into the shapes of overlapping circles. I chose to use this design theme in order to satisfy our need for trampoline space (it is “tucked away” as much as a 12 foot trampoline can be!) as well as to work with the existing apple trees, cedar tree and rose bush on the east side of the pie-shaped yard:
The north-south axis of the lawn will align with the axis of the vegetable garden at the back of the yard (shed and lilac stumps, below, to be removed in spring). It was beautiful out today so I did what any garden-obsessed person would do – go outside and shovel the design into the backyard snow in order to better visualize my future creation, of course!
That’s a totally normal thing to do on a beautiful December day…. right?
Here’s the long axis of my old backyard in Calgary: