Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Gardens I Miss

August 9, 2010

Front porch of a Victorian house built in 1890, needing repairs, but still charming.
Front Porch Garden
While chatting recently with a new friend on a blog site I frequent I got to thinking about our old place, and all the gardens I had there. We had a narrow lot (only 45' wide), but it was very long (172'), with the house sitting at the front of the lot, almost on the sidewalk. That made for a lot of garden space in the backyard.

Along one side there was perhaps 140' of wide (about 3.5') border garden, and maybe 45' on the other. Behind the garage was a 12' X 12' garden with a pond, and another curved garden space in front of and beside the shed. At the edge of the flagstone patio, a narrow border containing rose bushes in various shades of pink, and bits of daylily.

A child smelling the chrysanthemums in a wildly overgrown victorian garden.
Front Garden in Fall
Along the side of the house another narrow border garden with a mix of tallish plants (shasta daisy, greecian foxglove, grandmother's bluebells, perennial baby's breath, sunflower, iris, hollyhock,) and at the edge of the front porch, trumpet vine, perennial sweetpea, morning glory vines, and a large pink spirea shrub. Below that, crocus and forget-me-nots, purple and white violas and columbines in multiple colours. The front garden ran from the edge of the porch to the sidewalk, and was perhaps 10' X 12'. The two mainstays there were some very old rose bushes that stood close to 6' tall and had small delicate old fashioned roses in dark pink, and light pink.

An unpainted wood shed with a border garden, and wild bushy natural garden.
Border and Shed Garden
Those were planted more than 60 years ago (possibly as long ago as 1900). On either side were two conical yews. In the front, a multitude of different annuals and many types of lower flowering ground covers that kept it looking nice all season - mother of thyme, some of  the succulent types and low growing seedums, pink lamium, creeping phlox, snow on the mountain, creeping charlie, and a number of others. Lower growing perennials like the thrifts and dianthus, and chives.

The front corners contained a large lavender plant, and a purple-flowering catmint. In the very middle of the garden between the two rose bushes, three gigantic oriental alliums in glorious purple, and spring saw bunches of smaller yellow allium growing with blue forget-me-nots and tulips. Some of my favourite annuals in that spot were low growing and colourful portulaca, dwarf varieties of snapdragon, and the tall varieties as well towards the back.

Narrow border garden with tulips and spring flowering plants.
Spring Border Garden
Cosmos was another favourite, and lavatera. The first time our family had ever laid eyes on lavatera was some years ago at my uncle's home...he had these growing down the front border garden, alternating plants of pink and white. He gave us a bag of seeds he'd collected, but he never knew the name of the flowers. He died not long after, so our family affectionately refers to these as "Uncle Jim's Flowers".

I also used to grow tall varieties of zinnia, and a dwarf variety with multiple branched arms and constantly blooming flowers of the most sizzling hot pink I've ever seen. The back garden carried a wide variety of plants, because there were areas exposed to blazing sun almost all day, and areas of dappled shade, and areas of deep shade.

A curving border garden with hosta, goutweed, and flowering plants.
Border with Hosta
A batch of yellow daylily with a bright lemony colour.
Lemon Daylily
Plants in the back yard ranged from woodsy plants like lily of the valley (invasive, but I loved it enough to spend the time pulling it out), more creeping charlie, snowdrops in early spring, variegated goutweed (invasive, but pretty and a good filler), creeping phlox, white, purple and yellow violas (except for the white which was cultivated, the others were wild), johnny-jump-ups, a variety of white and blue tall campanula, spiderwort, soapwart, joe pye weed (grows wild rather effortlessly and spreads to wet areas, but in more cultivated gardens, easy to keep under control).

A vine crawling along a chainlink fence with wide hear-shaped leaves, and small yellow blooms.
Dutchman's Pipe
Delicate and graceful, a spring blooming bleeding heart plant.
Bleeding Heart
There were varieties of daylily from yellow, to pink, to burgundy, and orange, and one peach one with ruffled double petals. A number of tall lily bulbs (hard to keep in that garden because of the squirrels). There were ferns, mixed with creeping verbena, viola and creeping sage. There were bright blue veronica spicata, red and blue lobelia (perennial variety, not the spindly annual type), hollyhock and delphinium in pink and blue and white, as well as large perennial poppies in vermillon red, and salmon pink, and the annual poppy in pink, with a ruffled flower that resembled a rose.

Red spring blooming tulips in a narrow border garden.
Spring Tulips
Wild roses were scattered throughout the borders, as were hosta plants, wherever they could get enough shade to prevent burns. In the shaded areas at the very back fence grew rhubarb, with leaves big enough to wrap a baby in, and chinese lantern, along with jack-in-the-pulpit and lady slipper, herb roberta, rue, solomon's seal, bleeding heart and the white dutchman's breeches; along the fence, yellow dutchman's pipe (vine).

The gigantic plume poppy whose leaves and height are enormous, with the blooms are delicate and fragile.
Plume Poppy
In the midst of the shaded border was a single spot the sun hit most of the afternoon, this held tall pink loosestrife (the cultivated variety), and pink butterfly bushes, and below these (less sun, more shade) goats beard shrubs with their feathery white plumes, and astilbe plants in salmon and pink, and covering the back of the garage, the gigantic plume poppy; four varieties of tall Iris, and a smaller dutch iris, along with shasta daisy, gas plant in pink and white, annual carnation and perennial dianthus, large white datura (the native variety), tall, tall mexican sunflower in bright orange (annual), some herbs like oregano, lemon balsam, three types of thyme, rosemary, chives (regular and garlic) and an enormous yucca plant.

Huge white blooms adorn this 12' tall Adam's Needle Yucca variety.
Yucca: Adam's Needle
The yucca plant must have been there for many years before we came. It's tough, sharp pointed leaves stood about 4 1/2 feet high, and perhaps larger than 8' in diameter, although this was in fact more than one, it was so closely interwoven it appeared to be only one, until the year after we moved there and it bloomed for the first time - at least, the first time since we came there. The bloom spike must have been close to 12' in height, and as big around as a youngster's arm. I'd never seen anything like it before, and that summer, I was enchanted by it. Almost every year after that, one of the rosettes in that clump shot forth a bloom shoot, but none of them ever rivaled that first one.

The tall blooming spikes of "veronica spicata".
Veronica Spicata
Even with that rather large list of plants, I know some are forgotten; the spring bulbs consisted of hundreds of tulip bulbs, snowdrops, hepatica, grape hyacinth and blue squill, crocus in all colours, hyacinth (large cultivated types), and wood hyacinth, and all of those were surrounded by forget-me-nots in blue, and pink and white. Oh I really do miss my gardens.

I loved nothing better than digging in the dirt and caring for the plants, but the hours it took left me little time for anything else.

Tulips in a dappled shade garden in early spring.
Shed Garden - Dark Corner
Weeding was an event that occurred everyday, and there were many days when I spent more than four hours straight in that garden. I don't regret the was peaceful in that back yard, even though we were right downtown, it wasn't noisy.

The backyard had a tall blue cedar, and a blue spruce, at the side where the front yard met the back was a gate, and beside it, an old pine, perhaps 25 to 30' tall. About halfway back, near the shed there was a marvelous white birch with it's lacy branches providing dappled shade for the garden at the shed.

A untamed garden of spring tulips and blue forget-me-nots, adorned with an old wooden child's table and chair.
Garden Decor
The garden decor consisted of stones collected from the yard while digging some of the newer garden spaces, and rocks collected from the edges of Lake Superior and up in the Timmins area, while on holiday, and a few from Georgia. Garden edging came from the many bricks we dug up in the yard. An old wooden child's table and chair sat in among the shrubs and flowers in another section, and small wooden birdhouses on hooks and poles; wooden and metal wind chimes my husband would collect for general, the garden had a wild, overgrown country feeling, but it was peaceful and beautiful.

An old pair of boots hidden in a garden corner, filled with ground cover.
Garden Boots
Because parts of the yard could be seen by passersby, we always had people at the door asking to see, or what this plant or that plant was. I can't even tell you how much I gave away from that garden - one thing I have discovered is that most gardeners are also sharers.

Now, it's all gone...the 60+ year old rosebushes, the gardens and trees...even the house, built in 1890.

A garden crawling down the front steps of a narrow city lot adds colour to a new brick home.
New House - Front Garden
In it's place stands a parking lot. Wow, do I miss that place. I love our new house, and the garden was one one of the first things we put in, but the lot is perhaps 30' wide, and not very deep. The house sits towards the back of the lot leaving almost no room for a garden (especially not after we got the deck in, and the shed - they take up the entire yard), so the garden has been relegated to the front yard.

It's pretty, but not enough. I enlarged the minuscule garden that was there when we moved in, and it covers most of the front lawn, and carved out a small bit of space on the side of the house which holds solomon's seal, hosta, coreopsis, german veronica and a large sweet woodruff - most of those came from the old gardens.

While I miss the old gardens, not all of the plants were lost.

Garden plants growing against an unpainted shed, complete with an old wooden bench, a clay coloured pot, and impatients growing in an old rusty hibachi.
Impatients in Hibachi
One of my friends (who owns a farm) and her sister came and dug out almost everything that could be moved - unfortunately the yucca and large rose plants in the front would not budge. She did manage to save my prized Japanese White Silk Lilac, but my Preston lilacs were lost.

The white silk lilac (this is a show tree in our neck of the woods) does not bloom until July, and it's beautiful. The Preston lilacs always bloomed nearly 2 weeks later than the native variety. This lot has no room for the lilacs anyways, but I love lilacs, and wish I did have the space for them. It's been a trip down memory lane today - it's made me a little sad and wistful, wishing for more than I have, which I don't normally do.

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