Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Blue Wonder

It is yet another blustery snowy day here and the only signs of spring are blooming sweetly on the dining roomy table. But I do know spring must be coming because my favourite little campanula has arrived in the grocery store again. 

Campanula Haylodgensis 'Blue Wonder'
'Blue Wonder' is smothered in dainty double blooms that I find irresistibly romantic. Though she is hardy to zone 3, I will have to admit defeat when I have transplanted this pretty girl outside to the garden in past years, perhaps I was a little too hasty in the acclimatization process. I am quite content to enjoy her presence indoors for the moment.

Sitting pretty in a pot purchased at Neil's Flowers.
These french inspired containers are waterproof
so I can use them for cut flowers as well.

And what would spring be without the heavy perfume of hyacinth. She looked lovely by the kitchen sink but the scent was overpowering and so she had to go - finally landing in the faraway corner of the dining room.

The garden is sleeping outside, ready to awake in all her spring glory.  Blue is such a relaxing and peaceful colour to include in the perennial garden, and I love the soothing contrast of blue and whites offset with the freshness of chartreuse and apple greens. Soon will be the tulips, muscari and iris leading up to the sky blues of phlox, centaurea, and baptisia. Just to be patient a little while longer.

Love your thoughts and feedback.

Have a lovely day!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Peace of Wild Things

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me 
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, 
and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. 

I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. 

For a time I rest in the grace of the world, 
and am free.

by Wendell Berry (1968)

Quite by accident, I stumbled across this poem this morning by Wendell Berry and I was completely drawn in by those few simple, perfectly ordered words. "...into the peace of wild things". 

Ask gardeners why they garden and you will hear many different and wonderful reasons, but I believe those reasons are all rooted to the same basic need. Beyond the beauty and the joys of creation lies a profound, inescapable connection to the earth; an ancient yearning that draws us in and commands us to stay away awhile. It is a seductive undertaking to conjure up and make real our own version of paradise. 

A garden offers escape, hope, healing, reassurance, a chance to breathe.

In the mornings I am lured by the perfumes of freshly turned soil, the scent of lavender, lemon balm and thyme, bird song and water trickling, the sparkle of dew and a serenity that comes from being witness to all of those things. 

Your version of a peaceful setting will be different than mine, this is a very personal thing. For me, woodland and Japanese (or zen) gardens are two gardening styles that perhaps best incorporate this bit of alluring wildness into the mix. I love trees and of course they are valuable for so many important reasons. They provide us with structure, rhythm and movement, an assortment of colour and interest, shade and protection, and bring a voice to the wind. They can be small and graceful, or large and stately and no matter the size of your space one can be found that will make your heart sing.

Here are a few of some of my favourite inspirational gardens - I think they all capture the essence of peace and serenity in the garden.

(Photo: The Honey Tree Nursery, PEI)

Grace in the garden with a planting of gorgeous Japanese snowbelles (styrax japonicas).

Hardy in zones 5-8, this smaller tree grows to height and spread of 25'...perfect for smaller yards. Dainty white blooms add beauty to the garden in late June. A touch of formality is offered up by the boxwoods. I love the curves of this rustic gravel pathway 
...leads the eye to the sculpture and fountain and what lies beyond.

Rick Darke's American Woodland Garden. The thoughtful design of this garden
created a truly spectacular and peaceful setting. Native plants were used extensively.
I would love to take a stroll beside the stream and meditate with nature for a while.

Image ⓒ Dency Kane from Barbara Pleasant’s Garden Stone

A small pond and fountain tucked away in the corner of the garden
brings pure pleasure to even the smallest yard or balcony. Natural stones smothered in moss anchor the dainty textures of ferns and grasses - a lovely, tranquil spot.

( Photo via

Chionanthus virginicus (White Fringe Tree):

I adore the wild and charming nature of this native tree which gifts white spring flower to the garden. Like the Japanese snowbell, this graceful beauty reaches heights of 12-20' and is hardy to zone 4. Last summer 

Utilities Kingston Water Conservation Garden: spring 2011
A little bit of peace in the midst of the city.

This is a project is very near and dear to my heart. 
My husband I designed and installed this section of the garden in 2009-2010. 
(Would you believe there is parking left just to the left of this photo.) 

Flagstone pathways lead to sitting stones overlooking the swale.
Sweet woodruff as ground cover, mingles through the hostas and tiarella - 

a contemplative space under the shade of silver maples 
for employees and the public to enjoy.

(Photo via

That wild and peaceful feeling can still be found within a more modern setting.
This lovely design by Samuel H. Williamson Associates incorporates simple lines
with a relaxed atmosphere created by a soothing palette. A water feature provides the soothing musical overtones to this alluring courtyard garden.

I would love to hear your thoughts 
and cherish your comments!

Have a beautiful day!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Simple Pleasures

Good morning! It is Family Day in Ontario which means on this sun-filled February morning my house is bustling with the comings and goings of my wonderful husband and four of my gorgeous children (and so far everyone is getting along and the decibel level is bearable). We often start feeling a little cramped this time of year, and we are aching to get out into the backyard where freedom reigns and there is plenty of room for everyone.

The spring and summer months are filled with so many delights, but I cherish the simple joys most of all...those that add a richness and wholeness to daily life, the tiny but powerful anchors that bring us back to earth and remind us of our humanity.

In the hammock under the maples, summer 2010

The garden is our summer house. The kids run through pathways, count frogs in the pond, pick mulberries and currants, and sit and swing. We bbq almost every day and wonder at the stars on bonfire nights, swatting mosquitoes and inhaling the fragrance of night-scented nicotiana.

We need a new hammock to hang between the only two perfectly spaced maples...I do believe I could fall in love with this one and wonder how much time I can find to hide away and read a book...

this one is lovely too, and perhaps a little more durable...
the view is breathtaking and reminds me that a summer vacation is long overdue...

A basket of cozy cushions on the patio would be nice....

but first to see the grape hyacinth...

and how I look forward to the scent of lilacs...

and the graceful spires of delphinium...

and tucking in pretty pots of begonia to the shady corners...

I would like to create a romantically wild refuge in the 
back corner where little girls can hide from their big brother....

and plant more cosmos this year between the grasses...

and incorporate more herbs into the mixed beds like anise... 

then end each day with a family dinner in a space like this...
Penelope Bianchi's garden

Thank you so much for stopping in today...wishing you all the best of life's simple pleasures. I would love to hear what inspires you and invite you to  leave all thoughts & comments below.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Deciphering your garden style

Show me your garden 
and I shall tell you 
what you are.

~ Alfred Austin

My Mom was the gentlest of souls. She was quiet but creative, shy but powerful, and her touch spoke volumes.  She was a passionate gardener, though a little careful in her decisions. In her front gardens (the bit the public could see) she allowed only geraniums, begonias, dusty miller and sweet alyssum. But in our back gardens she adored a profusion of peonies, roses, tiger lilies, asters... soft pinks, punches of colour and summer fragrance. A true romantic. Often shy, my Mom was able to express herself with greater clarity and confidence in the garden.

Gardens are a reflection of who we are. For the new gardener it can all be very confusing and the biggest challenge is just trying to figure out where to begin. 

To that I would say, you must begin at the beginning. Before a shovel so much as touches the earth you have to make some decisions...many actually, but we are going to take this one step at a time.

You have to decide what makes you content, fulfilled, at one with your own universe.

A good place to start is your wardrobe. How do you like to dress: is your closet filled with simple lines, muted tones, the perfect black dress, a touch of silver, everything refined and polished. Or do you love prancing around in prairie skirts, ruffles and flip flops. Does vintage make you swoon or are you a jeans and t-shirt sort of gal (or guy). Now head out of the closet and take a look at the interior of your home - what is your style, do you like modern, classic, shabby chic? What are your favourite colours, textures, patterns?

These are all good places to look for clues that will help you blend your garden harmoniously with your house and your lifestyle. And, dear friends, that is our illustrious end goal.

Lets explore this a bit more with some pretty visuals:

If you love modern sensibilities and nothing pleases you more than simple, clean lines and a distinct lack of clutter then you might just like the modern style of gardening. This is characterized by strong geometrical shapes and straight lines in pathways, patios and gardens. The use of hard materials is used extensively and plant material is carefully selected to give maximum effect with limited selection. The planting scheme is often monochromatic. 




or maybe.....

Or maybe you are a girly-girl at heart and pinks, peaches and other pastels make you happy. Your interiors could have a touch of vintage, classical or french charm - floral patterns, sumptuous pillows and sparkling crystal bring daily joy. A bit of ruffle, a touch of cashmere, a beautiful brooch... you are a romantic. 

Romantics often find a kindred spirit in cottage, english and french garden styles. These approaches include carefully orchestrated colour palettes and colourful borders bursting with perennials and annuals. The style can range from the flamboyant to the charmingly controlled with pleached hedges, boxwood topiary and gorgeous urns to add structure and interest.
English style/ Cottage style/Romantic

or maybe like this.....

If you're like me, then you feel most at home in an old pair of jeans. Your casual style might be reflected in the use of natural materials in your home...distressed oak floors mixed with leather furniture mixed with wrought iron fixtures. If you tend to have a relaxed personality, find total bliss in sunsets, hiking, and just watching the butterflies float by then the Prairie style might appeal to you. This style of gardening is very much in tune with the rhythms of nature and also goes by the names "New Perennial Movement" and "sustainable". 

Your garden would consist of the perfect blend of ornamental grasses, native species, and drought tolerant perennials. These gardens mature later in the season, looking their best from July through until early winter and careful attention has to be paid to adding some spring interest. Gardens are densely planted in large drifts...mulch is not wanted or needed here.



Natural prairie style

This has been fun for me...and I could go on like this all day. I know its not always easy trying to figure out what you like, but it is a journey you must take. Edit the stuff out of your life that you've put up with, or inherited, or bought on sale...all the things that drive you nuts for whatever reason when you look at them. 

To find harmony, we must have honesty and bravery.

There are many official styles of gardening. We will not all fit into a box, and I am no exception. I also thank goodness for that, life would be pretty boring. Work through your collection of inspiration photos and see what is floating to the top and taking dominance...then look at what you like next and so on. 

For example, I simply adore many of the french characteristics, the peace I receive from straight lines, the shelter of perfectly spaced trees, (not to mention the little chateau in the south of France)...  I also like the gentle sway and movement of ornamental grasses and the serenity offered by a more monochromatic planting scheme. Styles can be combined, and maybe we should just all call ourselves eclectic and be done with it. There are ways to unite everything you love into a cohesive whole.

That is a lesson for another day.

Thank you so much for reading, I wish you all a very beautiful day.

Scenes from my Shade Gardens

I thought I would share a few shots of my shade gardens with you today. I prefer shaded gardens to any other having never been much of a sun worshipper and possessing a terrible aversion to heat (I'm very fussy for a Canadian).

Under the canopy of trees and tangle of branches the shade garden provides another layer to the garden experience...the movement of shadow and sparkle of light as they play across the textures of hostas and hakone, the cool breezes that provide refuge and tranquillity, the contrast of colour and flower against a subdued backdrop.

A tremendous variety of plants thrive in shade or partial shade - there is plenty to delight here, much more than just hostas (which I love, but they do like lovelier with interesting friends about them).

These photos were taken late spring 2011...I hope you enjoy!

In partial shade at the side of the house I have this sunny combination
of hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' (Japanese forest grass)
and Origanum vulgare 'Aureum' (golden oregano)

This small triangular bed beneath two young maples is home to hosta "elegans"
and a new planting of hosta "fragrant bouquet"... love the apple green foliage and
the white flowers are deliciously fragrant as the name implies

This is one of those plants that I look forward to with great anticipation...
deutzia 'Chardonnay Pearls' looks fabulous in light, dappled shade. Sprays of white buds
last for weeks in late spring before they finally burst into full flower for another two-three weeks.
Dainty and elegant, the lime green foliage adds sparkle to the spring garden,
slowly ripening to a deeper tone by the end of the summer.

A Miss Kim lilac getting reading to bloom last spring. She is in the sun, the 
black chokeberries in partial shade have just started to bloom.

Hosta 'Sum and Substance' backed by a mixed planting of
Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'
 (variegated solomons seal),
geranium phaem 'mourning widow' and geranium macrorrhizum 'bevan's variety'...
one of the best behaved ground covers for dry shaded areas.


I love ferns...this is ostrich fern with a pretty maidenhair fern,
hosta and a touch of heuchera for a bit of contrast.

Another shot of the chardonnay pearls with spiderwort
and more of that lovely heuchera 'Plum Pudding'. A foxglove left some seedlings for
me and they are just starting to show themselves.

Geranium 'Espresso' (cranesbill)

A cheerful little perennial (makes a nice ground cover too):
Anemone sylvetris in the spring

I would have to add lady's mantle to my top ten list of plants...
adore the crinkled leaves, chartreuse flowers, and that once established is fairly
drought tolerant and easy to divide...
I borrowed this photo from Pinterest, having no idea where mine are at the moment.

I wish you all a beautiful day!

Friday, 10 February 2012

A touch of light

I've found some lovely ideas to bring a little lightness and a touch of sparkle into our lives. Our gardens deserve just a little bit more than those perfect plantings and rhythmic walkways...we need more layers. Adding lighting is one of those layers than can turn a beautiful space into a unique and stunning space.  Extravagant, modern, simple, choose the style that makes you feel like a diva, a romeo, or a child at heart with attention captured by the dreamy glow of candlelight and memories of fireflies, bon fires, and the man in the moon.

What could be more glamourous than hanging a chandelier from the rough and twisted limbs of a grand old tree.  The photos below really speak to my inner princess, this contrast of old and new is divine.

We deserve a little decadence
bring a touch of the indoors outside to create
this perfectly inspiring space
A rustic candelabra & fairy lights dancing in the trees
create a magical effect. I love the log stools but I do believe
I would leave those for the kids.

An overhead chandelier sparkles over this perfectly laid table.
I can't think of a nicer way to spend a summer afternoon. 

How fun is this!

Now for a little DIY. With a very small investment and some time devoted to creative play you can construct your own wonderful lighting fixtures. Here are some suitably charming ideas below, a few with links that will lead you to the diy instructions. Have fun coming up with your own project , then let us know how they turned out!

recycled light bulbs make charming hanging vases
instructions here

chicken wire and crystals -
how pretty would several of these be hanging
from the trees or the overhead beams of a pergola

pulleys & mason jars - charmingly industrial
instructions here @

a simple wire basket (a clam basket in this case)
serves as a very simple candle holder

and here's another cute little wire basket
with jam jars and crystals