Problem: A south-facing hillside, terraced into four zones and over-run with ever-spreading junipers (an uninspired landscaper’s best friend), periwinkle, creeping jenny, donkey tail spurge, sedum, a collection of bearded and dwarf iris, spiraea, a rejected rose, several peonies and a motley collection of perennials.
Challenge: This front garden belongs to a plant lover who has little time but lots of appreciation for a varied, rich and shifting display. It is a garden that is in full view of the neighbourhood, on a busy street and well travelled by pedestrians. It should have a planting that is enjoyed not only by passersby but by the homeowners, every morning when they leave the house and every evening when they come home.
Solution: This location is hot, with soil that drains freely and gets sun most of the day so plants must thrive in this tough environment. The chosen plants should also have attractive foliage, interesting shapes, must be long blooming or have flowers that are striking while they bloom, and lastly, must be well mannered and easy to control.
Many of the plants here had to be sacrificed, many tamed and others re-claimed.
And another before, showing the extent to which the periwinkle and creeping jenny had taken over:
The peonies and lavender were rescued and now are basking in their new-found independence, sharing space with more well-mannered neighbours like lambs’ ears, various forms of upright and prostrate sedums. The donkey-tail spurge and creeping jenny have been heavily edited.
A casual flagstone path has also been added to allow access into the bed as well as visual interest.
The junipers had to go; there were at least four. They are an all-too-common quick fix to cover a space simply for the sake of covering that space and not as part of an overall conceptual design. But they almost always outgrow their designated area and dwarf everything else; like all plants (especially trees and shrubs), their mature size needs to be considered carefully before they are placed. And, worst of all, they can be physically difficult to remove since their roots are so expansive and insistent, and their prickly foliage can cause dermatitis.
All of the bearded iris were lifted and culled; many of them were infected with the iris borer, the juvenile form of a pest that feeds on the iris rhizome, making it mushy and slowly affecting it’s vigour. After a full season readjusting to their surgery and new freedom, they begin to bloom again.
The ubiquitous spireaea that lined the base of the front porch were moved alongside the driveway and the crowded dwarf lilac was given some breathing space. A PeeGee hydrangea cultivar (the unfortunately named ‘Pinky Winky’) was placed next to the stairs and the giant cedar was removed and replaced with a smaller evergreen (‘Witchita Blue’ pyramidal juniper).
Some ornamental onions echo the bloom colour of the dwarf lilac and the newly planted repeat blooming lilac (‘Boomerang’) is also joining in the display (top right).