Designing on Computer

I’m re-learning a landscape-based CAD program–Dynascape. I haven’t decided what to do about colour–whether to hand colour or invest in the colour plug-in. In the meantime, I’m enjoying learning…

Planting Plan--includes all the plant labels.

Planting Plan–includes all the plant labels.

Presentation Plan--this would be the simplified version for the clients so they're not overwhelmed with detail.

Presentation Plan–this would be the simplified version for the clients so they’re not overwhelmed with detail.

Ornamental Grass Wreaths

Ornamental Grass Wreaths

For all you crafty people out there who also have ornamental grasses in your garden, I suggest you craft some wreaths or swags with the flowers/seed heads of your grasses.

Do a Pinterest search for Wreaths Ornamental Grasses to get an idea of what to do with these:

Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Red Head'

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Red Head’


Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio'--or is it 'Yaku Jima'?

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’–or is it ‘Yaku Jima’?

Or any of your Carexes (sedges), such as The Buckeye Botanist’s seed heads here (I threw mine in the compost before I realized what a treasure they were):

Carex Seed Heads, courtesy of the Buckeye Botanist

Carex Seed Heads, courtesy of The Buckeye Botanist

Of course, that’s only if you’re planning to cut them down in the fall anyway, so you’ll get fresh new growth in the spring. If like me you want to keep the fading growth and seed heads for wildlife (cutting them late winter or early spring), then maybe just harvest a few here and there. It’s only one wreath after all.

Corkscrew rush--Juncus effusis var. spiralis. Slow to establish, it'll be years before I can harvest

Corkscrew rush–Juncus effusus var. spiralis. Slow to establish, it’ll be years before I can harvest blades.

And for something completely different, a pine needle tassel, courtesy of Deitlind Wolf.

Pine needle tassel, courtesy of Deitlind Wolf

Pine needle tassel, courtesy of Deitlind Wolf



This article about Wisteria in Gardenista reminded me of an assignment I did in Landscape Design. I can’t remember any details of the assignment except that the “client” wanted Wisteria growing up and over an arbour. One of the other students felt it was wrong plant wrong place and asked to just omit it, but the instructor insisted it was non-negotiable. I omitted it. (It’s just now occurred to me that maybe it was meant to be a trick question–as in, what would we have to do to the arbour in order to make it compatible with Wisteria…?)

I’m sure you’ve read the article (it’s short and pretty), so I’ll just quote its main point:

You invited them to stay for a few days, and now it has been weeks. Although you asked them to stow their bags on the luggage rack and place their coats and boots in the mudroom, their belongings are strewn helter-skelter all over the place. You check the fridge and notice the groceries you stocked this morning are almost gone. At your wits’ end, you wonder, what do I say to these inconsiderate guests?

That’s how Wisteria sinensis behaves, (described in Wikipedia as “beautiful but ruthless Chinese wisteria”) but because it’s a plant and not family, you can be a strict disciplinarian with it. (FYI, “American Wisteria” or Wisteria frutescens is a bit smaller, a bit less aggressive, with smaller and therefore less messy flowers. But it’s still Wisteria!)

  1. It grows quickly, so even if you’re really good at pruning two or three times a year, it’s still growing bigger underground, and its “stem”, aka “trunk”, is also growing. So it’s getting really heavy. Unlike my fictional client in the assignment, you can choose where to plant it, and if the best spot is over an arbour, strengthen that arbour, or replace it with something that’s really sturdy!
    This is NOT a suitable arbour for Wisteria!

    This is NOT a suitable arbour for Wisteria!


  2.  Even better, IMHO, is to train it to a tree form. (Check out that Youtube video–the tree in bloom at the end of the 3 minutes is amazing!)
    Tree form wisteria

    Tree form wisteria

    This above wouldn’t be my preferred wisteria tree, (I prefer the one in the Youtube video), but kudos to these homeowners for trying. Or the landscape designer for choosing it.

  3. I’m pretty sure I had a picture of wisteria trained along a chain link fence, but can’t find the pic. It was severely curtailed, but successfully covered the fence (only 40” high as is allowable for a front yard fence) without looking out-of-control.
  4. Bottom line is: prune, prune, prune!

The Goodness Ratio

I’ve stolen that expression from Darcy at egardengo and I hope he won’t sue me for copyright infringement. The principle goes like this: the more valuable space a plant occupies in your garden, the more it has to perform for you and the less you should tolerate its shortcomings.

For example: Here is the exquisite Rosemary Harkness rose:

Rosemary Harkness

Rosemary Harkness Rose

I’ve enjoyed her blooms for over 10 years. But at her very best she bloomed little, and at her worst she had gangly canes and was covered with black spot. Never an attractive shrub. And while I didn’t need the space she occupied, I put up with her deficiencies for the sake of the few but beautiful blooms.dscn2853

No more. I wanted to plant a ‘Bluebird’ Hibiscus syriacus (Hardy Hibiscus) that my neighbour was discarding, and the best place for it was right about where Rosemary was. So Rosemary is no more. Shovel pruned, as they say. There are lots of other, better performing apricot-shaded roses, so why have one that has never earned her keep.

So look around at your garden objectively to see if the plants are fulfilling their designated function. If not, and they don’t “put a smile on your face”, consider replacing them with better choices.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Blue Bird'

Hibiscus syriacus ‘Blue Bird’ –too low a “Goodness Ratio” for my neighbour, who wants the space for apple trees. 

Blue Bird

Blue Bird–Her loss is my gain!

Ex-Bearded Iris Garden


The year I moved into this house I got irises from various friends. I thought I loved Iris, especially Bearded Iris, with their spectacular colours and falls and beards.

Because they’re so hardy, and drought tolerant, and need virtually nothing in the way of care, I planted them–more like “placed” them, since they don’t really get buried–under the three cedar trees in the front garden.

Bearded Iris, "no name'. This is May 2010

Bearded Iris, “no name’. This is May 2010

Purple Bearded Iris, May 2010

Purple Bearded Iris, May 2010


Unfortunately, I don’t like the look of this area of the garden once the irises are finished flowering for the season. Of course I don’t have a picture of the area in its ugly phase, so there’s no evidence. And there never will be:

Many many MANY irises

Many, many, MANY irises

I’ve changed my garden so many times in the last 9 years, I can testify to the value of keeping those plants that you really love and/or give multi-season interest, and getting rid of whatever doesn’t make the grade. [Stay tuned for a post on “The Goodness Ratio”.] Irises just weren’t making the grade.

I’ve dug what I hope will have been ALL of them, to be replaced by something that will be beautifully back-lit by the morning sun. This is on the east side of the property, and there’s nothing in the way of that early light. (The fence in the second picture above is no longer there.)

Here are some of the options:

Solomon's Seal --Polygonatum odoratum

Solomon’s Seal –Polygonatum odoratum

Solomon’s Seal, looking lovely backlit with morning sun. It’s only in bloom for a few weeks, but the foliage is attractive most of the growing season. Definitely a possibility. Will it tolerate the drought? Will, I have to irrigate?

This might be my favourite spring bulb--Fritilaria mealagris

This might be my favourite spring bulb–Fritilaria mealagris

Fritilary, cute as a bug’s ear, but only for a month or less, and then the foliage dies away quickly. It’s also a flower that is best seen close up, as in this picture. That isn’t really the situation in my ex-iris bed.

Euphorbia amygldaloides

Euphorbia amygdaloides

Euphorbia amygdaloides, Wood Spurge. Yes, there’re lots of advantages to this, not least is that if you deadhead frequently, you’ll get a lot of flowering through the growing season. Pretty unusual for perennials. But I already have LOTS of Euphorbia, the above being a large patch right in front of the ex-iris bed. So, “No” to more Euphorbia.

Imperata cylindrica 'Red Baron'

Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’

Ahhh, Japanese Blood Grass. Hard to beat for showing off the early and late day sunlight. But again, I already have lots. Because I love all these plants that glow in early and late light.


Stipa tenuissima

OK, getting closer. Stipa tenuissima–Mexican Feather Grass. I have a few clumps of MFG, so I think my decision may be another ornamental grass, possibly Miscanthus sinensis or Panicum virgatum.

Panicum virgatum 'Prairie Fire

Panicum virgatum ‘Prairie Fire

Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio'--or is it 'Yaku Jima'?

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’–or is it ‘Yaku Jima’?

In the meantime, this is where this post started. Anyone interested in free irises? I recommend only local-to-Vancouver fans.