Eco = beauty

Ontario Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Sean James

Proof that any gar­den can be beau­ti­ful, this Oakville oa­sis is pri­mar­ily com­posed of plants that are ed­i­ble, fer­mentable and medic­i­nal – an un­usual palette to say the least. Andy Stark and Julie Win­field have cre­ated a truly ‘green’ gar­den, fold­ing in ev­ery branch of ecoland­scap­ing in a most artis­tic way.

In this tiny gar­den – the back yard mea­sures only 35 ft. by 28 ft. – many sur­faces are home to raised planters and pots over­flow­ing with herbs and veg­eta­bles. Even in­doors, the kitchen is al­ways home to ger­mi­nat­ing seeds, greens and sprouts. Many of the peren­ni­als and shrubs are ed­i­ble in­clud­ing as­para­gus, rhubarb and less tra­di­tional plants such as Jerusalem ar­ti­choke and wa­ter plants such as ar­row­head, wa­ter cel­ery and wa­ter hy­acinth. Fruit trees and vines are still adapt­ing to the heavy clay, but they’ll start bear­ing soon. The clay has been a chal­lenge for tra­di­tional veg­gies, hence all the raised planters.

Fer­menta­bles in­clude grapes, ju­nipers and even a 'Golden Hops' vine. Each of th­ese serves triple duty, of­fer­ing screen­ing for pri­vacy and, nat­u­rally, of­fer­ing beauty.

Many of the most pop­u­lar ornamentals are also medic­i­nal. Laven­der, echi­nacea and herbs could be planted just for beauty’s sake. Our na­tive bee balm – Monarda fis­tu­losa – is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of a mul­ti­pur­pose plant. It’s used to fight yeast in­fec­tions and as a nerve tonic. It’s lovely and it’s great for pol­li­na­tor sup­port. Echi­nacea is one of the plants that many folks know the botan­i­cal name of, maybe even more read­ily than they know the com­mon name. This plant is won­der­ful not only for its medic­i­nal prop­er­ties, but it’s also great for but­ter­flies, bees and birds. Goldfinches love the seed in win­ter.

Grow­ing ed­i­bles makes one par­tic­u­larly aware of the pol­li­na­tor is­sue, so sup­port for bees was de­signed into the gar­den and it pos­i­tively hums with tiny wings! This gives the added ben­e­fit of beau­ti­ful but­ter­flies bob­bing their way from flower to flower. From early blooming fruit trees to late blooming blan­ket flower, pol­li­na­tors never want for food.

All paving sur­faces, from the drive­way to the back pa­tio, are built of Per­ma­con Subterra per­me­able pavers, en­sur­ing rain soaks into the ground in­stead of run­ning off into the storm sew­ers. Each of th­ese has an ex­tra deep (14 in.) base of clear gravel (no fine par­ti­cles) mean­ing that there’s a large hold­ing area for storm wa­ter. If ev­ery­one tried to keep a bit of wa­ter on their prop­erty, there would be fewer flood­ing is­sues, which is a big deal, since flood­ing now rep­re­sents the num­ber one in­sur­ance claim in Canada.

The prop­erty has no lawn and even the boule­vard is planted. Salt-tol­er­ant plants in­clude Mex­i­can hat ( Rat­i­bida), lit­tle bluestem and laven­der. It’s a riot of colour from early spring un­til the snow flies. Not

even win­ter is a bor­ing sea­son in this ed­i­ble haven since many of the plants – peren­ni­als, ev­er­greens and even vines – hold snow ar­tis­ti­cally. In a prov­ince where snow flies five (and some­times seven) months of the year, this is im­por­tant.

This gar­den isn’t just for Andy and Julie. It was de­signed to teach the pub­lic about the fact that ‘eco’ doesn’t have to sac­ri­fice beauty. If you know your plants, learn which ones are tol­er­ant of clay soils (it’s a sur­pris­ingly huge list!) and, most im­por­tantly, de­sign with tex­ture in mind be­fore flow­ers, any gar­den on any soil type can be just as, if not more beau­ti­ful than gar­dens where the soil is mod­i­fied to suit the plants…and it’s less work in the long run. Soil type never needs to limit beauty; wet or dry, sandy or clay, there’s a list of plants that suit the con­di­tions. It’s just a mat­ter of re­search.

Not all plants suc­ceeded on the site. Don’t feel bad when plants die. With plants, fail­ure is a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and a chance to try some­thing dif­fer­ent. We take gar­den­ing too se­ri­ously. It’s sup­posed to be fun. Re­lax! Look to na­ture for what plants suc­ceed in cer­tain ar­eas. Most peo­ple are look­ing for low­main­te­nance gar­den­ing. Well-main­tained gar­dens are low main­te­nance. Per­haps what we’re look­ing for is low-stress gar­dens? Part of that is sim­ply a mat­ter of chang­ing our per­cep­tions so that we re­turn to the days where gar­den­ing was fun.

Sean James is a grad­u­ate of the Ni­a­gara Parks School of Hor­ti­cul­ture and owner of Fern Ridge Land­scap­ing & Eco-con­sult­ing. He’s been speak­ing pub­licly and writ­ing about eco-gar­den­ing is­sues since the early 90’s. He’s also the Chair of Land­scape On­tario’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Stew­ard­ship Com­mit­tee and sev­eral other eco-com­mit­tees.

This home is proof pos­i­tive that eco-friendly can be beau­ti­ful too.

Flow­ers come and go but tex­ture will make or break your gar­den. Many gar­den greens such as let­tuce (pic­tured here), kale and Swiss chard have beau­ti­ful fo­liage that com­pli­ments flow­ers well.

‘Princess Diana’ clema­tis frames the en­trance to this small back yard per­fectly, wel­com­ing peo­ple in. The per­me­able pa­tio helps in­fil­trate wa­ter and keep our creeks clean.

Have fun with herbs! They can be used in in­ter­est­ing ways and add in­ter­est to the gar­den. To get the best flavour, use less wa­ter, pro­vided that you are still able to wa­ter enough to keep them healthy.

Cre­ate des­ti­na­tions in the gar­den where folks can

Planters of herbs and veg­eta­bles can add to the beauty of the gar­den in a prac­ti­cal way.

Many of the plants in this wa­ter gar­den are ed­i­ble, in­clud­ing wa­ter hy­acinth and ar­row­head. Wa­ter in the gar­den is soothing and great for wildlife, es­pe­cially birds, which help con­trol pests.

go to sit in peace and en­joy the artis­tic cre­ation.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.