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Posts from the ‘landscaping’ Category

we have a grassy knoll

May 30, 2010

zora naki

progress on the front yard garden continues.

we started with two truckloads of topsoil.

after a lot of shoveling, we ended up with a nice flat tabletop.

i started planting things around the edges, but something wasn’t quite right. it was a bit meh. i called around and found a landscape designer who came over for two hours, looked at all the stuff i’d bought on clearance and gave me some advice re: shaping the yard, adding some dimension. i dug some more dirt.

and friday, i hauled a crapload of sod home.

we’re considering sinking a cup or two and using it as a pitch-n-putt.

winnie-the-pooh approved this message.

how many plants does it take to fill a front yard?

April 25, 2010

zora naki

Now that the giant pile of dirt is leveled, I have started to plant. Or at least, obsess about planting. I did have a landscape plan drawn up (hard to believe that was more than two years ago), but now I think that it isn’t what I want.

I want edible landscaping, along with some evergreen permanent plantings to help things along during the winter. I want it to look modern, but not rigid. I like chartreuse and lime green leaves, and red and white flowers and grasses. I also love palm trees and banana plants, but I have given up on them, because they require more babying to get through a winter than i am willing to dole out (I have kids – my TLC is being used up already).

The big question is how many plants and how (where) do you plant them? In straight lines? In groups? In patterns? I have no freaking idea, so I’m buying things and trying to figure it out as I go (lots of polls of passers-by, google searches, landscaping books from the library).

The basic rules:

  • buy multiples (odd numbers are best)
  • buy edibles where possible
  • arrange from lowest to highest
  • plan for the future (allow for growth)
  • buy plants that will survive with minimal care and attention

I hit up a liquidation sale at a grower and made some spur-of-the-moment decisions (60% off was a highly motivating factor, although plants were mostly unlabeled). I also bought some specific things I knew I wanted.

Here’s my plant list (with my guesses at final size in brackets):

5 euonymous – unlabeled but gold and green variegation, shrubby (size? but I’ve seen them grown into hedges)
4 rhododendron -vulcan red (5′ x 5′)
5 azalea -white (unlabeled – guessing 4′ x 4′)
1 magnolia grandiflora (unlabeled, but can grow quite large over time)
1 dwarf braeburn apple (on M27 dwarf stock, 6′-8′ adult height)
1 dwarf jonagold apple (on M27 dwarf stock, 6′-8′ adult height)
1 dwarf spartan apple (on M27 dwarf stock, 6′-8′ adult height) – the three apples can cross-pollinate each other.
8 euphorbia (various types)
12 carex (no idea, but they’re variegated and about 12″ high, i’ve seen them growing in sun and shade around here)
3 skimmia (existing – 4′ x 4′)
3 peony – white
6 choisya – 3 Sundance, 3 standard (can be as big as 8’x8′ but more like 3′ – 5′ height in our climate)
some miscellaneous grasses
a flat of creeping thyme to plant between the front path pavers

Still looking for a bunch of pachysandra to plant by the skimmia on the shady side garden (picture above) and some lavender to plant along the sides of the path.

the garden, she is planted

April 23, 2010

zora naki

Busy busy! I gave myself special dispensation to buy some bedding plants because I feel like I just don’t have TIME to grow things from seed, what with all the weeding and the shoveling and the reclaiming of land from the things that Ran Wild last year. Also, I am into instant gratification (a sad commentary on our times, but I am a product of society, so there you have it).

Dug out the beds, weeded, and topped up with about 4 inches of fresh soil.

I’ve planted 16 tomato plants and 5 peppers. There are raspberries, onions, garlic and potatoes from last year that are coming on strong. Oh, and I did plant SOME seeds (I’m not totally lame) – fava beans, yellow wax beans, purple beans (two varieties), beets (chioggia), carrots (purple haze), peas, and spring onions. Apparently I like colourful vegetables.

Squash, zucchini, and swiss chard (bright lights, natch). Still have some white cauliflower plants waiting to be tucked in somewhere. Still looking for purple cauliflower (graffiti) to add to the crop. Debating broccoli.

And the herb garden is zooming along. The perennial crop is going gangbusters: fennel, chives (regular and garlic), oregano (regular and greek), thyme (regular and lemon), sage, parsley, lemon balm, chamomile (roman and german), and the mints (peppermint, spearmint, orange mint).

I’ve added two small rosemary bushes to replace what died a few years back, and also potted a wee bay leaf tree in the terracotta pot you can see tucked in there. My nemesis – basil – is destined for some pots – maybe I can baby it to fruition this year with some vigilant gardening. This will be my new superhero name: The Vigilant Gardener. And I will wear green and carry a trowel and slay weeds and slugs with a single deadly blast from my unblinking eyeballs of organic wrath, powered solely by spring fever.

this is the outside now

April 22, 2010

zora naki

Okay, so i’ve been on hiatus for awhile now, what with the moving back in and getting settled and life in general, but i have some new photos.

The outside of our house (pre-reno):

The outside (post-reno, pre-paint, not a real door)

The outside (post-paint, and with 30 cubic yards of soil dumped on the front lawn):

We decided to level the front yard to match the height of the yard next door. The kids had a blast body-surfing down the giant pile of dirt – it was the ‘most fun EVER’, according to daughter. They begged me not to spread it out, but alas, i am hard-hearted, and also wanting to do some landscaping.

Thus, after five days of a LOT of shoveling (and some help from quite possibly the nicest neighbours in the history of neighbourhoods anywhere):

Now onto some planting! (picture me gleefully rubbing my hands together…)

front yard gardens

September 5, 2009

zora naki

we were on our way to the PNE yesterday afternoon and I ended up taking more pictures of the front yard gardens that we passed than i did of the kids on rides. Some gorgeous, mouth-watering displays of gardening ingenuity, in all its forms. First up, a lovely Craftsman with a picket fence. From the street, it looks pretty.

front yard gardens

When you peer over the fence (as i am wont to do), you spy a functional and attractive garden.

front yard gardenfront yard garden

so pretty. in the same neighbourhood, squash and melon vines sprawl vigorously.

front yard gardenfront yard garden

some are combined with raised beds holding other veggies.

front yard gardenfront yard garden

the scariest version was an entirely enclosed chain link cage.

front yard garden

ugly as heck, but effective – check out the crop (i’m guessing bitter melon, but i don’t really know)

front yard garden

when we finally made it to the fair, i did manage to get a shot of the smallest kid on a ride.
front yard garden

the rest was just a blur of lines and rides and animals and junk food galore. i really wanted to eat a deep-fried mars bar (just to say that i had) but we didn’t get to it this time around. maybe next year…

a japanese garden on mayne island

August 25, 2009

zora naki

we were on mayne island a few weeks ago and enjoyed the japanese garden that community volunteers have created. the garden was built to honour the island’s japanese settlers who were interned during WWII and dispossessed of their farms and land.

a japanese garden on mayne islanda japanese garden on mayne islanda japanese garden on mayne islanda japanese garden on mayne islanda japanese garden on mayne islanda japanese garden on mayne islanda japanese garden on mayne islanda japanese garden on mayne island

more wall gardens

December 15, 2008

zora naki

green wall

from design sponge – I like how the greenery contrasts against the building and also how (eventually) the two sets of plants will meet in the middle.


from osaka japan (courtesy of a poster on design sponge)

flip a strip

Flip-A-Strip design winner for “Urban Battery” – power station, vertical greenhouse and billboard rolled into one. The contest was held by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

green wall

Your misters are showing!  Harmonia 57 office building by Triptyque as covered by de zeen in an extensive article.


Dwell post on the garden walls of Oulu, a Brooklyn restaurant.

edible estates: descanso gardens

December 14, 2008

zora naki

i wrote about fritz haeg and his plans to turn front lawns into gardens before, but the latest project in Southern California’s Descanso Gardens is big step up in scale and design.

descanso gardens

The project planted two gardens earlier this year – one side is the typical grass lawn and the other is an edible garden replete with flowers, fruit, veggies and trees. The landscaping is a big improvement over some of the earlier projects, and uses more square-foot-gardening and trellises to good effect.


I think the project is a great way to get people thinking about the possibilities of front-yard gardens. It’s set up around a house structure so that people can walk through the physical space and relate their physical experience to their own lawns.

My only issue is that the project claims to measure and compare the energy and resource inputs/outputs for both gardens. Their stats are ridiculous.

It’s like comparing apples to oranges. The typical criticisms of a grass lawn rest on the use of chemical fertilizer, weed killer, the power usage of a mower, and the environmental drawbacks of a single water-intensive crop that must be artificially maintained in hostile environments (grass in the desert). This project negates a lot of these negatives by eliminating the chemicals and not using gas to mow the lawn. The grass side uses less labor (845 minutes for the grass vs. 3176 minutes for the garden) and water (3516 gallons vs. 8142 gallons) than the garden.

This doesn’t tell us very much. The garden takes more effort and the yield is 690 plants harvested (what does this mean?). It would have been great to see a site plan, a list of the numbers of plants put in and the specific items harvested. Something more along the lines of those wacky Path To Freedomers.


As a demonstration garden, the project is great. As a pseudo-scientific experiment, not so much. There is always the economics of measuring utility or satisfaction – playing on a grassy lawn vs. puttering in the planting beds, and this aspect is neglected entirely.

I think that all of us avid but not-so-informed gardeners who are willing and able to put in front-yard gardens would love to see a book of gardening plans laying out planting blueprints by zone, structured for full-season interest. Can someone please write one? Oh, and if you could establish a side business of renting out chickens for pest control (so that i don’t need to set up a coop in my backyard), I would greatly appreciate it.  Thanks!

pest control

this year’s garden: hits and misses part two

September 10, 2008

zora naki

dried beans: We conducted the ceremonial harvesting of the dried beans yesterday – above are speckled bays, below black turtle beans. These just dried right on the plant, and it seemed time to pick them before the moldy rains set in permanently. I had visions of making spicy chilis and steaming stews all winter long with the harvest. I probably had about 6 plants of each type. My total yield? 2/3 cup. Yup. Enough for one batch of soup.

Part of the problem was that i was under the false impression that these would be enormous, twining, pole-type vines, which is why I planted them at the base of trellises along the fence. They never did get any higher than about 12″.
Note to self: research first (it didn’t say anything about height on the seed package).
Next year: plant scads of them in the flower beds towards the front.

beans: I planted purple, yellow wax and green beans of varying types. I tried a “two sisters” approach, growing them among the miscellaneous squash vines along the fence. This worked well to start with, but the beans were thwarted by the giant squash leaves that formed in August. If I had just let the squash sprawl, all would have been well, but I was training it upwards in an effort to save some space and the beans got crowded out. Also, picking beans isn’t much fun when prickly squash stems are right in your face. Bean yield was okay, but I will try stand-alone teepees next year, away from the squashes. Or else let the squash spread out at ground level.

peas: I tried a variety of peas – the tall ones (Alderman) did the best – Oregon Trail and Karina did okay. I did two plantings in spring, but could have crammed in at least another round – maybe a fourth if it had been in a shady spot. Still not sure if it’s best to plant among the old plants or start a new round. Will add wood ash to the soil over the winter.

beets: Had some beets (enough to pickle a few jars), but find that a lot start flowering before they get to be of edible size. Must be doing something wrong here…

melons: Threw some seeds in when planting squash – nothing happened. Summer wasn’t very sunny and hot, but perhaps should have been more nurturing. Will start indoors next year.

artichokes: These are a two-year project, and the ones I planted this year came along very well – one plant even has two buds on it! The foliage is so pretty (saw-toothed leaves and all), that I would plant more of these in prominent flowerbeds (after the house is reno’ed). Then I need to figure out how to cook them…

lettuce, spinach, swiss chard: All of these went on like gangbusters – especially in the spring, when we were desperate for green things. Just got tired of picking and washing, and that was before the invasion of the (ugh) slugs. Must be more ruthless!

potatoes: Just starting to harvest these. Should have planted earlier. Russian Blue are incredibly purple! They look amazing.

fruit trees: planted three frankenfruit trees – none of them died (success!), and the plum flowered (success!), so we’re in wait and see mode. The pear tree formed a lot of strange-looking red bumps on the leaves, but nothing seemed to happen after that, so I’m not sure if it’s an infestation or a leaf disease. This tree will probably have to be transplanted over the winter due to construction.

and finally (drum roll please) – the big successes of the year!

strawberry patch: the 5’x10′ raised bed strawberry patch was filled with 80 plants and did smashingly well. Lots of berries, the kids loved it, low-maintenance. I will mulch well this fall and hope they all survive the winter.

cauliflower and broccoli: apart from the romanesco (which declined an invite), the graffiti cauliflower and the broccoli grew very well and were much appreciated. Will grow more and try to stagger plantings slightly next year.

herb garden: location is key! i relocated this to just outside of the back door (off the kitchen), and as a result used tons more fresh herbs in cooking than ever before. Apart from the aforementioned basil disaster, all of the transplants (lemon balm, chives, thyme, oregano) did very well, and the dill, sage, mints and chamomiles grew like gangbusters. The fennel showed up unannounced, but I really liked the gigantic nature of the plant, and the bees/wasps didn’t complain either. Next year: grow basil in pots, plant three times as much dill, add more rosemary and a bay leaf tree, and be more diligent about harvesting (especially the chamomile) while it’s in season instead of just admiring the pretty flowers.

I feel the need to start sketching out next year’s plot…

front yard gardening

August 21, 2008

zora naki

My own plans for a front yard garden haven’t panned out (this year), but i’ve been scoping out the neighbourhood for inspiration. I passed this glorious front yard garden on Tuesday – check it out.

glorious rows of chard and lettuce backed by teepees of beans.

The front path is edged by by tomatoes in pots and a lot of squash.

i have garden envy.

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