A GARDEN FOR ALL SEASONS
We can dream, can’t we? Don’t be a prisoner of winter, just imagine a seasonal garden
When people were going loco over gardening in the 1990s — before smartphones turned us into beadyeye hunchbacks — we were dreaming of grand gardens.
A vast perennial border, with colour from April to November, didn’t seem impossible.
That idea was lifted from English garden books, where National Trust gardens benefited from a gentle climate and the servitude of talented paid gardeners.
It took a while, but gardeners got wise.
Lovely perennials were still coveted but incorporated into a more holistic design. The design of paths, fences and outbuildings gave the garden a presence in all seasons, even as perennials came and went in their capricious way.
Now anything goes and we’re richer for it.
A front yard full of vegetables, a lawn of lavender, espaliered fruit trees for a fence — it’s gardening unshackled.
In the last frosty days of autumn, I visited a compact garden in the Durand neighbourhood designed by Phyllis Tresidder.
I wrote about her own Frenchthemed garden last year — it’s featured in the current issue of Garden Making Magazine.
The garden she designed for clients has a specific focus: to look splendid in the fall. And why not highlight a favourite season? Maybe you love spring or fall, when the moderate temperatures make being in the garden a joy.
Plants selected for autumn interest are key but, just as important, Tresidder put them in a very attractive framework. Wood fencing is painted a perfect shade of greyblue, and makes any plant in its vicinity stand out. A big, lime green hosta has a vibrant intensity on an overcast fall day, and the luscious red-orange of burning bush could not find a better backdrop.
It’s easy to overlook outstanding but familiar plants like burning bush (Euonymus alatus), or label it too common, but its durability and fall colour are rock solid.
Cutleaf sumac was selected for fall colour too, but in winter shows off a welcome sculptural form.
The lazy and graceful Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa) added a spicy yellow and green to the mix, and draped itself over a path dissecting the garden.
The path was simple and elegant,
a combination of square cut flagstone nestled into a bed of pea gravel, and contained by linear stone edging. The path drains water efficiently, is easy to weed and repair should a stone heave from cold weather frost. Perennials were in short supply, yet the garden was animated by colour.
Japanese maples were shedding their burgundy leaves on underplantings of ground covers, and the spiky, maroon branches of barberry shrubs paired smartly with ornamental grasses.
Mixed in with the deciduous plantings were a variety of evergreens, including mugo pines, dwarf cypress and a large blue spruce.
Though the fall colour might have grabbed the attention of a visitor, it would not have been so arresting without the garden structure, layout and careful choice of plant combinations.
Because of those details, I imagine the garden is just as lovely with a layer of snow, or washed by winter rain.
If you’re cooped up by winter, dreaming about a seasonal garden is an escape from dreariness.
This garden designed by Phyllis Tresidder has a focus on fall colour. The paths, fencing and attention to plant shapes also make it successful in any season.
Japanese forest grass shows off tiny seed heads in the fall, but is attractive in all seasons.
A burning bush displays vivid fall colour but its winged bark is pretty in winter too.
The dark fence is a perfect contrast for the intense colours of this burning bush.
Small evergreens, Japanese maples and ornamental grasses provide layers of interest to the garden. The base of the escarpment is visible just beyond the fence.
The natural tone of the tool shed keeps it from dominating the garden design.