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

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Entries in stones (2)


Tales From the Garden: Father and Son

When they were first married, Barbara and John planted a garden, at a time of life when they were younger and stronger than they are now. Recently, their flowerbeds were destroyed when they contracted to re surface the front walkway and stairs. Since they could no longer repair the beds themselves, they contacted me to re landscape.

A few weeks after the job was completed, Barbara called to report that her gardener had shaved off the leaves of some newly planted hostas, when he ran the lawn mower too close to the garden beds. She inquired if I would come by to take a look. The next day, when I arrived, Barbara was out. I spoke with her son and gave him instructions for the gardener who would have to exercise diligence when mowing. For the parents, I left a message suggesting they place a row of rocks in front of the hostas to protect them from the mower. That advice would have enhanced the appearance of their garden because the textural and color contrast between hosta foliage and grey rock is dramatic.

Towards the end of the season, I returned to inspect my handiwork and met Barbara outdoors. I related to her how pleasant it was to have spoken with her son; he is a warm and friendly guy and I enjoyed my conversation with him. That is when she segwayed into this vignette:-

Her son had recently graduated from a local university with a degree in Engineering and found work with a high tech company. The office of the firm is situated 3 minutes away from the family home, as the birds fly, but it is a 10 minute drive by car. This being his first job, the son could not yet afford to buy a car. Public transportation in the neighborhood was circuitous and didn't make sense. Consequently, Barbara agreed to drive him to work each morning. One day, Barbara was unavailable and asked John to do the morning drive. That night, when he came home for dinner, John announced to Barbara that she was not to take their son to work anymore. He insisted on doing it himself.

Ever since their son was a teenager, he had led a private life inside his bedroom. Because he was an only child, this situation disappointed the parents, but they respected the needs of their adolescent son. Now that he was working, they would probably see him even less. John discovered that the ten minute drive in the morning allowed father and son to spend quality time together, even when they drove in silence. It meant so much to him, to have his young adult son ride next to him in the front seat of the car, that John decided he needed to have this experience every day.


Recycling Rocks in the Garden

When landscaping a garden, we sometimes harvest boulders, stones and rocks out of the earth. Discarding them may be overwhelming. Here’s how to re use them:

As architectural elements in the garden: Use small egg-sized rocks to separate ground level flower beds from gravel paths. Larger rocks may be used to separate a raised flower beds from the lawn. Boulder sized rocks can be placed into the centers of flowerbeds to be used as sculptural objects. Boulders offer a very effective contrast to perennials growing around them. Plant a variegated Iris pallida next to a large grey rock and notice how the grey green and cream on its leaf interacts with the color and texture of the stone. The beauty of each is improved by its proximity to the other.

As structural elements for a Mediterranean garden: A xeri-garden, or a Mediterranean garden, consists of a mound of earth made up of several of the following elements: gravel, rock rubble, pebbles, grit, sand and soil. Larger boulders are sometimes strategically placed on this mound for textural and visual interest or to add an air of Mediterranean authenticity.

One usually finds sun loving and drought tolerant plants growing on this mound. These plants fall into five categories. The first is that of Mediterranean herbs such as Lavender, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Sage and Thyme, especially Thymus pseudolanuginosus. The second includes ground covers such a Phlox subulata, Sedum reflexum, Sempervivum and Euphorbia myrsinites. The third category covers hairy and silver leaved plants such as Stachys lanata and Artemisia. In the fourth, we find upright succulents such as Sedum, and the fifth category includes drought tolerant grasses such as Festuca glauca. Choosing elements from all of these categories allows the creative gardener to juxtapose various leaf colors with different textures for maximum visual appeal.

The Mediterranean garden may also be enhanced with an assortment of small heat and drought tolerant flowering perennials that give this garden a bit of color and pizzazz. This list includes Nepata, Coreopsis, Gaillardia and small Echinacea. When complete, this rocky garden may be finished off with a layer of natural color cedar mulch or gravel.

While both of the above projects entail the expenditure of some physical energy, in the end, they are more satisfying than lugging the rocks to the city dump ourselves or paying a trucking firm to do it for us.