So many gardens and so little time
Catching up with a letter from the flower front
Pardon the chain letter, but it seems like the only way to catch up.
This summer has been so horticulturally dramatic that the landscape changes by the day.
I get calls and emails and even letters urging me to come right away and see something special in bloom. Or I carry, in a compartment somewhere in my brain, notes from the past to check out gardens at a specific time.
Last year I wrote about Fatima Custodio’s wonderful garden in the North End, and she urged me to come by in a year’s time and see the roses. I did and they are wonderful, filling a side yard with their renaissance beauty.
Then a friend told me about Thomas Munn’s rose garden in the Gibson neighbourhood. “You have to see it.”
So I did. They fill the whole front yard, roses planted over 18 years. They are like a big, frothy wave rolling up to the front porch. The time-tested roses include the climber Blaze, beautiful Carefree Wonder, the tough and repeat blooming Morden Ruby, and George Vancouver — an Explorer series rose bred in Canada.
“They get one pruning a year,” says Munn, a former art teacher. “No protection, no fertilizer, people drive by just to see them.”
And what a treat they get: gorgeous roses that really show how robust and durable this shrub can be.
Zipping around Hamilton, sometimes I feel like I should be driving a Canada Post truck, that’s how often I pull over.
Who wouldn’t stop to see an intriguing garden on James Street North? It starts on the little strip of land between the road and the sidewalk, a piece of property that usually sports struggling grass and a fragile tree hoping to survive. But at this location, the homeowner has taken to tending a lush little garden. Yellow day lilies bloom abundantly and yuccas have sent up towering spikes of white flowers. Yucca survives in sand, rocky slopes in silt or clay, so the harsh environment of a traffic island does not seem to dampen its vigour.
But the little median display doesn’t stop at plants, the homeowner has tucked among the foliage little tricycles painted in primary colours. In his own yard, a cast off barbecue is painted bright red and planted with petunias and coleus, a mailbox is filled with succulents, and close to the front door, a golf bag has been sacrificed for a better use as a planter.
You know how annoying it is to drive around the city and see that people have dumped their tires on out of the way streets? Well someone near Birch Avenue sees beauty in those retired rubber castoffs. They’ve painted old tires bright yellow, stacked them two and three high and turned them into planters for begonias and geraniums. In front of the tires, a raised bed garden has been created by using cinder blocks to contain the soil. The blocks get a facelift too, with a planting of succulents.
From the modest to the manicured, all gardens are benefitting from frequent rain. In our garden, flowers that usually look presentable are looking sensational, including hydrangeas, false goldenrod, day lilies and hosta. Perennials that are fine in drought, such as grey-headed coneflower, are growing taller with the moisture.
So get out and explore Hamilton. Everything looks so good, the streets are getting cleaned by the rain, and surprising gardens thrive in unlikely places.
And stay tuned for my next chain letter from the flower front.
Roses at Fatima Custodio’s garden bloom lushly in their southwest exposure.
Between the front yard and backyard, Thomas Munn grows more than 90 rose plants. Many are hardy varieties bred in Canada.
Trikes have been added for a splash of contrasting colour.
Grey-headed coneflower will grow in dry conditions but when it gets moisture, it grows taller and flowers more profusely.
Munn’s roses are selected for their beauty and ease of care. Many are resistant to disease and tolerant of very cold temperatures.
It’s been an excellent growing season for hosta. Some people prefer to cut the flowers off, but they do attract beneficial insects to the garden.
Can you think of a better use for an old barbecue?