Our house was build 55 years ago. So was our large garden. A long time ago, someone planted lots of young trees - basswood, maples and ash - and allowed an established native tree - an ironbark - to remain. While those trees were small, sun-loving plants flourished - lilacs, old-fashioned peonies, and a deciduous hedge I haven't yet identified, or even seen, elsewhere in the city. Someone invested a great deal of expense laying a stone patio in the back and detailed brick paving in the front.
We purchased the house from a family who'd owned it for 20 years. They were not keen gardeners, commissioning a lawn service to keep things in check. Not being familiar with Canadian plants or growing conditions, we simply lived in the garden for the first few years, observing and learning. It took me a while to realize that many of the established shrubs in my garden were actually weeds that had migrated via squirrels and birds and flourished in the near wood-like conditions. So, I've learnt all about Canadian native plants; how to nurture to ones I like, and permanently remove the ones I don't.
I've come to accept that, by and large, I have a shade garden and that without removing several trees, the 25+ year old lilac and peonies are never going to look that good, no matter how much compost I throw at them. So out they came this spring.
We've also installed lots of new plants in the last few years. First a pagoda dogwood, which has doubled in size in three years and supports a tremendous diversity of insects that buzz around its flowers in early summer. Also other dogwoods, a red maple, serviceberry, bugbane, foamflower, trilliums, four varieties of bleeding heart, obedient plant, cranesbill, heurcheras, echinaceas, ferns, plus some non-natives - hostas, hydrangeas, sedums, viburnum and sweet woodruff.
Perhaps the biggest change we've made to the garden is to shred the enormous volume of leaves that fall each autumn and return the nutrients to the soil as mulch. In our six years, we've seen the worm and insect population explode, a sure sign of healthy soil necessary to support healthy plants. As I've become more courageous in my stewardship of our garden, the remaining older, unhappy plants will be replaced and the face of the garden will continue to change in the coming years.
View from the living room in October