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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

See my work on Pinterest at Garden Guru Montreal

Entries in garden design (142)


My Garden Clients are Colorful Ladies

Last season, I had the pleasure of meeting several potential clients, all of whom shared  the same traits. All were interested in redesigning their gardens. They are inter-related by birth or marriage and, without exception, are extremely devoted to their extended families.These ladies not only carry themselves with grace and dignity but they also treat their tradespeople with warmth and respect.

What I found most interesting about them is their passion for color. One client asked for a vivid pink garden, another for a multicolor garden composed of hot, strong shades. One informed me that white is not a color and white flowers are banished from her garden, while another asked me to remove the Hostas I had planted because green is not a color.

I was certain that I had done my best to please these clients. Sometimes, before falling asleep, I would second-guess myself, and imagine, for just a nano-second, that I had not executed my color mandate to their exacting standards. The very next day, I would return to one of the gardens to fine tune the color story, just to be sure.

I was happy to meet and work with some of the members of this group because it gave me an opportunity to reaffirm my own values regarding dignity and respect. However, what I learned the most from these very gracious ladies is that the more color in our gardens, the more joy in our lives.


Web Photos I Like

Kilmalu Gardens is an official American Hemerocallis Society Display Garden, situated in Mill Bay, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island, Canada. Shown here is one perspective of the daylily garden at peak bloom in July.



Honorable Mention for a Talented Garden Designer

I live on the island of Montreal, where the winters are cold and long. Spring and autumn are short or non existent. As a result, early spring blooming bulbs and perennials don’t always make a successful showing and autumn blooming plants are rare. The net effect of this meteorological bad luck is that most of us living here have a heightened appreciation for flowers.

The city of Cote St Luc, the suburban municipality in which I live, is sensitive to our needs. Each season, the Parks Department goes to great lengths to plant flowers wherever possible, utilizing the most beautiful and most innovative combinations. Flowers decorate the park outside our City Hall, our green spaces and fill the concrete medians of our main roadways.

Planting inside the medians has yielded impressive results. The floral composition planted there runs at right angle to the driver’s line of vision. This is one of the most effective strategies a gardener can use because our brain sees all of the colors, textures and shapes at one glance. It’s the visual equivalent of all of the instruments of an orchestra playing at the same moment. It creates a wonderful sensory experience.

Every season, our city’s horticulture foreperson, Violette Sauriol, manages to find a plant or flower that is rare or unusual.The eye-catching originality with which she creates flower combinations is inspiring. Last spring, the little known annual, Verbena bonariensis, was used in the medians in combination with thirteen other annuals including the ornamental grass, Pennisetum sitaceum ”Rubrum” which is treated as an annual in our climate. Anyone driving alongside this composition might have thought they were inside a botanical garden.

The above photo shows the median as it appeared in August 2008.The composition is a masterpiece of color, texture and shape.Here Is the list of the annuals that were used:- Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' / Verbena bonariensis / Ageratum houstonianum 'Red Sea' / Salvia farinacea Evolution 'Deep Violet' / Sennecio 'Cirrhus' / Petunia Wave 'Blue' / Petunia Tidal Wave 'Silver' / Portulaca Margarita 'Rosita' / Pentas Kaleidoscope 'Carmine' / Gomphrena Qis 'Purple' / Pentas Kaleidoscope 'Lilac' / Zinnia Cristal 'White' / Aster heteropappus 'Blue Knoll' / Iresine herbii 'Purple Lady'.

Another view of this median garden, highlighting Verbena bonariensis, was posted to my blog entry of February 9, 2009.


Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening; Book Review for

Digging Deep: unearthing your creative roots through gardening  Fran Sorin, Braided Worlds.        

With a background in landscape design, psychology and communications, the author has built a successful career assisting clients to visualize their garden needs. On occasion, this has turned out to be a challenge because several of her clients thought themselves to be uncreative. Consequently, they would express helplessness in articulating a personal vision for their garden. The author disagrees. Believing that creativity is stored in all of us, she uses her understanding of human nature to help her clients and readers recognize their inner selves. Ultimately, the results produce gardens that meet both deep-seated needs and requirements for outdoor living.

The planning, execution and care of a garden all unfold in a seven step process, utilizing the concepts of Imagining, Envisioning, Planning, Planting, Tending, Enjoying and Completing. Each concept is explained and elaborated in detail and is reinforced with examples from the author’s experiences with her clients. In addition, she quotes liberally from accomplished professionals who not only understand their own creative processes but who are also sufficiently eloquent to share those experiences with us.

Ostensibly, a how-to book, the advice and instructions are amplified through numerous anecdotal narratives, which in turn are enriched with a wealth of side stories. Fundamental advice on the basics of gardening is also included so that when readers are prepared to convert their vision into a reality, the necessary tools and skills will be at hand.

There is a creative process that begins with a vague notion of a garden in our mind and ends with an actual one in our back yard. Everything we need to know about realizing that goal is woven seamlessly into this publication. With the help of the author, developing a garden is a satisfying journey to discover our own creative potential. Seasoned gardeners will easily recognize themselves in this book and will be delighted by the affirmation it brings them. Novice gardeners will be inspired.

Visit Fran Sorin's website.



Illuminating the Shade Garden

There must be over two thousand varieties of Hosta for us to choose from. I find it difficult to select newer varieties for my garden because I am overwhelmed by the choices; each seems to be a variation on another. However, a recent update that I received from Garden Gate eNotes, changed all that. Garden Gate draws our attention to a new mini Hosta called "Trifecta".The moment I saw it, I knew that, someday soon, I would be making room for it in my garden.

This miniature Hosta is clearly different. I am impressed with the distribution of its three colors. Each leaf has a clearly defined color zone.There is pure white in the center, dark green on the margins and a brush stroke of olive-chartreuse separating the two.

The plant grows only 6 inches in height and 12 inches in width, with soft lavender flowers in midsummer. Like most hostas, it is hardy from zones 3 to 9 and requires no attention. It is an easy-care perennial - just plant it and forget it. It’s a pity its so small, though. I hope the growers who developed it will now work on tweaking its DNA in order to produce a larger variety.

As you can see from the photo, this Hosta does make a difference. Because of Its unique coloration, it will illuminate a shady spot in a garden.And of course, the visual interest it creates is always welcome to the perennial gardener. At the moment, Hosta "Trifecta" is only available from Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery. Click here to access their site.