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

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

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Entries in gardens (9)


Garden with Fountain in an Underprivileged Neighborhood

Image used with permission of the photographer.In a low-income residential pocket of Montreal, an owner of low rent housing is making life slightly more bearable for his tenants and their neighbors. The property owner loves gardens and has found a way to share that passion with those less fortunate.

The landlords of most residential buildings located in working class neighborhoods have no interest in lawns or their beautification. The business model used by these entrepreneurs demands that they keep operating expenses low, because rent revenue for each apartment is modest. Therefore, it is normal to see their front lawns neglected or cared for with a minimum of effort. However, the situation changes when superintendents of these apartments take pride in the appearance of the buildings or when property owners themselves have a love for nature.

In the case of this landlord, not only does he appreciate beautiful flowers and plants but the superintendant of the building loves to garden. Consequently, I have a standing order that whenever, I find myself with a surplus of easy-care plants, i.e. when I propagate, or when I dig up plants that my clients do not need or want, I am to deliver them to the businessman's home, a convenient arrangement because he's my neighbor.

The benefits of plants growing in a low-income neighborhood cannot be overstated. It makes the tenants feel good when they step outdoors. Even neighbors, who walk by the front lawn of the building featured in the above photo, slow down to admire the garden. At first, they are unaware the fountain exists because it blends in with the building's brickwork. Then, as they continue walking, they hear the sound of gurgling water -  not something they expect to hear in their neighborhood. Their eyes follow their ears to locate the sound, and when they see the fountain, it makes them smile.

The boxwood shrubs in the foreground and privet hedge in the upper left come from a client's garden; hemerocallis around the fountain grew in mine, while the Hostas were propagated from the proprietor’s private collection. The superintendent constructed the formation in his spare time, with scattered rocks that he found in empty fields and with large stones that I sent him, found in the flower beds I refreshed this season. He also installed the fountain component which the landlord purchased at a big box store.

I asked the property owner if there were any human-interest anecdotes inspired by the gardens on the front lawns of his properties. He replied that the sight of blooming flowers is always a traffic stopper in a part of town where few people grow plants and even less have the disposable income to buy cut flowers.

Furthermore, he reported that during the recent very hot summer, tenants and passersby, most of whom live without air conditioning, removed their shoes and dipped their feet into the fountain to cool off. That wasn’t the intended function for this water feature and the proprietor considers it to be an unsanitary activity. Nevertheless, he understands that no matter how it is used, the fountain is fulfilling an important need for the residents of the neighborhood.


Farla's Flower Garden of Alphabet Verse

In winter, I look for indoor activities, away from home, that allow me to breathe in fresh air, as I transition from house to car to parking lot to building. One of my destinations is a community center where I joined a writers’ circle. Some members of this group are storytellers, others write poetry in free verse or iambic pentameter. One member, Margie Golick, is a talented, humorous, poet. She wrote the following as a birthday present for a friend. Astute gardeners, who might find exception to some of her botanical facts, should note that this writer’s expertise lies in rhyming couplets.

Flower Facts for Farla by Margie Golick 

Seeding, weeding, digging, hoeing; Like the Energizer Bunny, Farla keeps on growing.

In every single garden bed; Nature’s secrets A to Z.

AnemoneAloe, anemone, astilbe; We’re your friends and always will be.

BegoniaBluebells, buttercups, begonia; But you’re in your garden when we try to phone ya.

Campanula portenschlagianaCampanula, core-opsis; No time for a movie – Just read a synopsis.

Dahlia Mary's Jomanda Dandelion, daffodil, dahlia, daisy; No one would dare to call you lazy.

Echinacea Mama MiaEchinacea, edelweiss; A garden is a healthy vice.

FuchsiaFuchsia, foxglove, forget-me-not; (Unless they find you growing pot)

GerberaGerbera, gentian, and geranium; Guarantee a youthful cranium.

Fall HyancinthusHyacinth, heather, hollyhock; Hold you steady as a rock.

Iris versicolorImpatiens, ipomoea, iris; Impenetrable by any virus.

JasmineJack–in-the-pulpit, jonquil, jasmine; For sure you’ll never be a has-been.

KelpKeep your garden mulched with kelp; You’ll find this is a lot of help.

Mountain laurelNeed to patch a lover’s quarrel? Try lilac, lemon mint or laurel.

MimosaEverything will be hunky-dory; With mimosa, marigold, morning glory.

NasturtiumNarcissus, nasturtium, nightshade, nettle; Put a little in your kettle.

OleanderJust a whiff of oleander; Women flirt and men philander.

Shirley poppyRemember to think outside the box; With peony, poppy, petunia, phlox.

QuinceAnd always reserve a little space; For growing quince and Queen Anne’s lace.

Oso easy strawberry crush roseRosemary, rhododendron, rose; These will banish all your woes.                                                                                                            

Snapdragon frosty lavenderSalvia, snapdragon, sunflower, sedum; Got 'em, got ‘em, got ‘em, need ‘em.

TrilliumTiger lily, tulips, trilliums; Will bring you fortunes by the milliums.

Ulex europaeusYour beds will never be unruly; With ulex, ugni, and uhule.

VioletVenus fly trap, vio-let; Will also keep you out of debt.

Wisteria blutentraubenWeigela, wisteria, water lily; Keep you warm when the day is chilly.

XeranthemumXeranthemum if you want variety; Will bring you welcome notoriety.

YarrowWith yarrow, yucca, yam, and yew; You will never catch the flu.

Zinnia cherry double zaharaFrom Vancouver east to West Virginia; These facts hold true and I’ll be Zinnia.  


How to Enjoy Flowering Gardens During the Depths of Winter

A meadow planting of Snakehead Fritallaria, http://www.holbrookgarden.comWe have just passed a psychological milestone; autumn is over, winter has officially begun, and this passionate gardener can hardly wait for next spring to arrive. Since snow will blanket my garden until next April, I satisfy my need for flowers and plants by visiting the websites of my suppliers. There I study the new perennials they intend to introduce next spring and refresh my mind about those I neglected last season.

Tulipa humilis, http://www.holbrookgarden.comIn addition, I visit the websites of public gardens to admire photos of flower displays. For example, all the images posted here are from Holbrook Garden in Devon, England, U.K.  Of the many pictures displayed on that site, I have selected those that tug at my heart.

Kniphofia uvaria nobilis and Crocosmia Lucifer, http://www.holbrookgarden.comThese cyberspace activities are the next best thing to real gardening. How long will it take to begin that activity anew? I imagine it to be an eternity. Consider that my suppliers closed their premises at Christmas after selling trees and decorative branches for the holidays. Many of them recently left Canada for warmer weather in Florida, Arizona, Hawaii, South America, and the Caribbean.

Iris ensata and Primula florindae, http://www.holbrookgarden.comThey are not expected to return until the end of March and my plant deliveries do not begin before early May. Until then, online images from nurseries, growers, and public gardens will become my kind of virtual gardening. I hope these pictures will help warm your hearts, kindle the imagination, and offer you just as much pleasure as I receive from admiring them.


Chance Encounter with Anonymous Day Lilies

During the third week of July of every summer, my wife and I reunite with our children at a lake in Upstate New York.

The cottages we use are the summer residences of people who live elsewhere, and who are happy to rent out their homes, in order to offset the high cost of taxes on lakefront property.

Most buildings in the Adirondack Mountains tend to have modest exteriors, to avoid competing with the majesty of the surrounding vistas.

Occasionally, some homeowners will add a touch of color to their properties by planting day lilies that bloom at the height of the rental season. In the growing zone of the Adirondack Mountains, Hemerocallis are among the most reliable perennials one can plant.

The images posted here are of flowers discovered around our cottages, this past summer. With the owners off site, there was no opportunity to learn the names of these plant varieties. How fascinating that my eye was drawn to them, even though I avoided choosing such colors for my garden at home.

Warm and hot shades are difficult to integrate into my flowerbeds. Yet, they seem so attractive in this rustic setting. Next season I will risk breaking my color rules. Perhaps it’s time to experiment with a few similar varieties in my own garden, simply because they are beautiful.


Delicious Purpleicious 

A new variety of Veronica began to bloom in my garden during the third week of June. It started out as a one gallon potted perennial that I received in a shipment from my supplier last season. It was not on my original shopping list. However, the freight charges were so high for the inventory needed, that I decided to increase the size of my order to amortize delivery cost.

By paging through the supplier’s catalogue, I was able to identify plants that appeared to have potential in designing flower gardens. As usual, I looked for height, color saturation, or prolonged bloom period. Finding a perennial with all three attributes would have been a pleasant surprise.

That season, I had become sensitive to purple when I contracted to design a flower garden for a client who loves any shade or tone in that family. Veronica Purpleicious, a new introduction, piqued my interest for its color, a vivid purple-mauve, and its declared bloom period, June to August. Some sellers say it will bloom until September. I suppose that applies to those who garden in warmer climates. to most perennials delivered directly from growers and nurseries, Purpleicious had been pumped with plant food to ensure impressive flowering. I did not pay attention to that attribute. Experience had taught me that plant steroids, as I call them, enhance both the height and volume of a newly delivered flowering perennial to an extent that the gardener might be disappointed the following season, when the plant reverts to its genetically predetermined performance level.

That is why I am pleased that Purpleicious is as spectacular in year two as it was when it first arrived. The greatest surprise is not that it repeats last season’s stellar performance, but that it has already doubled in volume in a very dignified manner. Some perennials become problematic when they begin to sprawl or invade. However, regal color, neat mound, and disciplined upright posture of flowering spikes make this plant’s exponential growth welcome. supplier’s catalogue informed that this plant will spread to a width of only 18 inches. Now, that’s what I call a neat plant!  I suspect that mine has already reached that potential and I am pleased. In rounded volume of its clump and plush textural quality of floral spikes, this perennial adds substantial architectural presence to the flowerbed. The intenseness of its unique medium-light purple is also welcome as it enhances and complements the traditional colors that define English-inspired gardens.

Veronica Purpleicious may reach 2 feet in height depending on growing conditions. No matter!  What it lacks in stature it compensates for in saturation, texture, volume, and overall presence. The best news to garden designers is that growers declare it will bloom for most of the summer. However, that fact still requires corroboration. If it lives up to that promise, attractive flowerbeds couldn’t get better than that! Following that, if long-term sustainability in the garden can be determined, this plant will go from exciting to spectacular.