Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Garden Spaces Big and Small

our garden, June 2011
For a small yard we manage to pack in a lot of plants, trees, and edible things. I've always felt somewhat loose with some of the rules of planting; wanting to utilize as much of the space that I have, not wasting any.


This morning I was lucky - exceptionally lucky to be able to visit a beautiful, mature garden in a yard on Farrand Street backing on to McVicar Creek. A huge, huge space with a rolling hill down toward the creek surrounded in tall city trees.
I was there to photograph the garden for the Walleye. As I entered the garden through the gate on the south side of the house I was greeted with pots and containers of nursery plants, some perennials and some annuals - all just waiting to be added somewhere to this oasis. Obviously a never ending work in progress. I was excited, and had to take a deep breath before continuing along the bricked path. There was a succulent garden near the patio, and three different ponds: two developed in barrels and one built of rocks under a mass of ferns, and other big leafed perennials I can't even name. The Solomon's Seal is the most mature plant I've ever seen outside books.
A brick and flagstone path along the south side of the garden lead me past clematis after clematis climbing trellises and trees, with a spread of blue, white, and pink forget-me-nots beneath. Garden beds on either side of the path were willed with cultivars of columbine and hardy geraniums, Lady's Mantle grew everywhere, spreading out between other plants: peonies, allium (in both deep and pale shades of purple), bleeding hearts, and even more clematis.
As I came near the end of the path I though the garden would be coming to an end, but as the hill rolled down toward the creek the garden beds continued, on either side of aged concrete steps built into the ground.
I could hear both the sound of the creek, and the subtle sound of traffic behind the trees; but with the wind this morning and the June leaves it sounded more like the middle of nowhere as I stood there somewhere so special. At the top of the steps, a landing and an old garden bench looking on to the garden beds to the east, and the hill to the creek to the southwest. Beside it was a Japanese Lilac bursting with budding blooms - only one or two looked like they were ready to open today, ...I'm sure by tomorrow or the day after the whole shrub will be a mass of pale purple flowers.
The brick path continued curving through garden beds and along the north side of the yard, surrounded with plants draping their foliage across it. More alliums, foam flowers, geraniums, and bleeding hearts bubbled over one another through a pergola into a grass lawn, within which was more rounded garden beds bursting with colour.
So much of the garden was naturalized, with wild Lady's Mantle and forget-me-nots every where. It was so beautiful, and such a treat to photograph. Red leafed shrubs broke up the shades of green and lime, with tall trees towering over garden specimens and cedars lining the yard.  

I met the master gardener behind the creation while I was halfway down the steps to the creek, photographing upward through a fern. She wore a t-shirt that said "PERENNIAL OPTIMIST" and was about my mother's age. We talked for a while about her journey to this space, and about it's development over the years, then I got back to my camera while she pulled out her wheel barrow and continued her work. It was an absolute pleasure to meet her, see what she's done, and learn.

I won't post the photographs here - not of the garden, though I may use some of the closer photos of plants for descriptive purposes from time to time. I'll save the photos of the garden for the gardener herself (and of course for the Walleye). It's just nice to know there are hidden special spaces like this in our own downtown backyards.

"Sometimes plants don't survive - which I see only as another opportunity." 
~ S. Master Gardener.

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