A garden to enjoy — in every season

This was a backyard that I first met last autumn.   The homeowners, both busy professionals, were eager to make it into an all-season refuge but didn’t want to be a slave to the plantings.  The garden is small and we agreed that only a few plants were worth keeping:  a mock orange in the corner, one of several sentimental shrub roses and a cedar hedge.

The hedge had been well maintained but the grass was pretty well a losing proposition.

The large maple in the neighbour’s property ensured that this corner of the yard was going to be difficult, if not impossible to plant due to root competition.

The plants not worth keeping were primarily ostrich ferns (they are nubs here in the late fall) that thrived in the all-day shade alongside both sides of the house.

The homeowners wanted a patio, preferably in flagstone (although we did investigate whether interlock surfacing would be a) cheaper and b) an acceptable aesthetically-pleasing alternative).  There was an existing flagstone path into the garden but it petered out at the base of the stairs to the small, raised porch.

In the end it was decided that natural stone couldn’t be beat.  So a flagstone patio, a planting that would be easy to maintain and provide visual interest in every season and easy access into the garden as well as to and from the shed were what was needed to create their ideal garden. 

We were really lucky to get Jo Hodgson to construct the flagstone patio and paths.  Here she comes!

Jo Hodgson is the dynamo behind the flagstone work here in this garden.   Her primary love is dry stone walling but she can do anything with natural stone.

She uses traditional techniques, chiselling and manipulating stone rather than cutting with a blade.  In advance of this, she lays all the stones out and masterfully picks and chooses which stone goes into which space. 

The work is quite labour intensive but with it comes a love of the job and an intrinsic understanding of and respect for the natural material:  in this case, Wiarton limestone.

So, after Jo and her helper had done their work, this —

… began to look like this:

… and finally, after I and my “mulch specialist” had done our work, it looked like this:

Now, isn’t that better?  This is my favourite view — it really beckons the visitor into the garden.  This shady planting incorporates Geranium macrorrhizum and a pair of specimen hosta.

Plants like Cotoneaster, ‘Gro-Low’  fragrant sumac, ‘Brilliantissima’ chokeberry will all ensure striking fall colour and various evergreens (glaucous blue and green) will provide all season interest.  ‘Hallward’s Silver’ spirea and sweet woodruff will be awash in delicate white blooms in the spring and early summer.  And fragrant hostas as well as a dark-leafed snakeroot will provide perfume in the late summer. 

Even the dark corner with the shed is now a workable and attractive space! 

All that’s left to plant is a Boston ivy and climbing hydrangea to help integrate the fence into the garden.

And, I have to say, such a beautifully crafted patio deserves a lovely teak patio set.

Thank you Susan and Alan for being such wonderful clients. 

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