Before and After

Last week Facebook kindly reminded me of pictures I posted that date nine years earlier. They were pics of my garden.


Various angles of my front yard–click on any for larger image

So I went out that day–fortunately a nice day for taking pictures, unlike every day since–and tried to capture the same angles. I’m not the greatest photographer in the world, and with 9 years of growth I couldn’t even get into all the same spots, but here’s what things look like now.

Looking east from my front porch

There’s a lot I love about my front yard, especially the pond. (Two surviving goldfish are now 5″ long . ♥.) But one of the best aspects of the old garden is that mass of Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan). I haven’t been able to foster such a lovely patch since, and I’m not sure why. Still trying.

Looking west from the street.

Why am I not growing dahlias anymore? Surely they’re among the best sources of colour in the late summer-autumn garden.

House next door was torn down and rebuilt. New fence gives a lot more sun to the garden under the cedar trees.

Of course one expects trees and shrubs to put on a foot or so per year in vertical growth, so here’s the little Cryptomeria japonica ‘Cristata’:

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Cristata’. 30″ when I planted it and now about 14′

The previous pics all seem to show a fairly open yard, both old and current, lots of empty spaces, aka “negative spaces”. One of the reasons a lawn can be a good thing is to provide that restful space that creates a foil for the busier, more colourful areas.

Below you’ll see however that the garden is anything but “empty”. In fact it’s far too busy, and I’m planning to remove the red rose (right side pic) and a lot of that croscosmia (light green grassy clump). As I’ve said before, the larger the plant–perennial, shrub or tree–the more value it has to provide. And that red rose (‘William Shakespeare 2000′–a David Austin rose) just doesn’t provide enough value. It sprawls, it’s subject to black spot, the flowers, while stunning on dry days, turns to mush in the rain. I’ll miss the fragrance tho’!


Couldn’t get the same viewpoint because the rose (circled) and the smoke bush were too high to see over.


So this fall I’ll be doing a renovation in the back yard, but come next spring it’ll be time to make some changes here. Seeing these old pics really makes me want to get back to some of the look of the old garden–the rudbeckia, the dahlias, more open space, fewer shrubs (can hardly believe that’s me saying “fewer shrubs”!)

I’ll keep you posted…



A Word about Lighting

If you scroll down to the pictures of exterior lighting you’ll assume that the reason any of us want lighting is to provide light–lots and lots of light. But as Richard V. Morse says in this article, light is a means to an end. You want to read, or you want to see the fish in the aquarium or you want to highlight the china in the cabinet, or you want to put on your makeup. And in each of those cases there’s good lighting and bad lighting.

For exterior lighting, the reasons are usually safety–so you don’t trip on your way from the car to the front door; security–so bad guys can’t hide in the shadows; enjoyment–you can use your outdoor spaces when it’s dark out; beauty–highlighting your garden features.

Since the following pictures have no landscape lighting at all, I’ll leave discussion of “beauty” to another post. (It’s hard to show up beautiful garden structure and features if this is what the garden is fighting.) For now let’s just see how the existing lighting meets any of the four purposes. These are all within walking distance of my home:

Looks like an architectural version of a skunk! Or a zebra? Or that little boy in Addams Family! Referred to here as the “spaceship effect”!

Actually, the only house of the collection that does have an element of landscape lighting–illuminating the house number on the boulder. There’s so much light that safety and security are adequately dealt with, but it’s so sharp, it wouldn’t invite lingering out in the garden.

This isn’t photo-shopped–it really is that bright!

Another property with such sharp light/dark contrast you’d seldom choose to take an evening stroll in the garden. The fence/wall in front hides the front yard, so one can’t tell what shadows exist there, but for sure there’s no other landscape lighting, and even if there were, it would be completely eclipsed by the house lighting. One of the (many) problems with this degree of brightness is that it leaves the shadows extra dark. So it doesn’t necessarily meet the security need as well as might be assumed. I’m not sure why soffit lighting has become so popular, but it does nothing to beautify the home (imho).

This wouldn’t be so bad if the house lights were the same degree of warmth as the carriage lanterns. But still too bright on the lower floor.

Soffit lights–again. Creating spots of light over the windows–for what purpose I wonder? They are doing nothing for any of the four lighting needs.

The following are just too egregious! I’m speechless!

I guess that’s “slow rain” falling in front of the lens. In this case it’s not too much light, but too harsh, not in the right places, and illuminating too much wall.

Here again, not so much the amount of light, or number if fixtures, but the quality of the light and where it’s placed. blue-grey light on very grey walls.

This is how stark it really looks.

I’ll try to find some really nice, effectively lit homes and gardens for a future post. If there are any in my neighbourhood!

Dull Day in Feb

It’s almost always a dull day in Feb, but unlike many “northern” places, and unlike last year, this dull Monday is mild, as has been the whole winter season.

Hence, spring-ish garden pics–same plants I show you most years!:

Sarcococca–spectacular fragrance at my front door.

You can imagine how adaptable Sarcococca is: it’s growing in never-amended soil, between concrete and asphalt, in a bed that is 12″ wide and about 9′ long.

one of the many newer upright hellebores–stlll can’t find a tag…

There’s really nothing like seeing big red or white or creamy green clumps of hellebores sprouting up through mounds of wood chip mulch!

Helleborus Spring Promise ‘Elly’. Spring Promise is a series from Helleborus Gold Collection. Most have a very upright flowering habit.

Another untagged hellebore. Can’t even find a google image that has the same colour and petal (actually sepal) shape.

Galanthus nivalis

Euphorbia x martinii


Iris reticulata ‘Clarette’

Now here’s a shrub/small tree that no one should be without–Hamamelis–Witch hazel.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

‘Diane’ isn’t very fragrant, but she makes up for that lack with outstanding colour. It would be even better if the background weren’t so dull. If you have snow on the ground, you’d appreciate those little spidery flowers much more. Two alternatives both for a climate like mine, and for fragrance, are ‘Arnold’s Promise’ and ‘Pallida’. Both have light-coloured (creamy white to yellow) flowers, so they show up better against the brown ground, and they are wonderfully fragrant. When I bought ‘Diane’ it was billed as ‘fragrant’, but it’s not at all. Maybe I should splurge and find room for ‘Pallida’.

Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’

Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’