Want to Create an Urban Oasis?
Then take a few tips from Beth Tweedie. She knows a thing or two about how to create a natural space in the heart of the city.
Yes, we’re in the depths of winter. There’s not much work to do in terms of actual gardening. But serious gardeners are busy with their planning for spring. We suggest you do the same. And while you’re at it, consider some tips from Toronto’s Beth Tweedie. In 2004, she started work on transforming her small urban property. Within two years, she had created a gorgeous space of lush greenery, vibrant blooms and myriad wild visitors that both enjoy the garden and add to its beauty.
Tweedie has learned many tricks along the way that have made planning her garden as much fun as creating it. You might want to try a few yourself when the warmer weather rolls around.
LAY OUT YOUR PLAN
After moving to her current house in September 2004, Tweedie jumped into gardening by creating two centre beds, which were later extended to curve around one another. She used a simple garden hose to help her decide on the right shape for the beds. She laid the hose on the ground and curved it to make the shape of beds she wanted.
BUILD IT UP
Instead of digging up the beds she had outlined with hoses, Tweedie placed a layer of cardboard on the ground to smother the grass and weeds. She then added about half a metre of soil on top of the cardboard. This saved many hours and much hard work. Tweedie also considered how members of her household would use the garden. As the owner of two friendly dogs at the time, she was aware they’d trample the perimeters of her space, rushing to greet neighbours through the fences. So, Tweedie opted to line these well-trodden areas with shrubs rather than more delicate perennials. She then placed potted plants among the shrubs to create colour accents.
PLANT FOR WILDLIFE
Wildlife is a feature of Tweedie’s garden. Some animals have taken up residence, while others stop by for rest, food and shelter on their long migratory journeys.
Nectar- and pollen-rich spring blooms, like pussy willow and Virginia bluebells, offer food to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Flowers, such as Joe-pye weed, bee balm, coneflowers, sunflowers and goldenrod, extend the floral display into the fall. These plants also help many wildlife species to build up fat reserves for their long trek south or hibernation. Many of Tweedie’s plants produce nourishing seeds, nuts and fruit for birds, such as orioles, finches, fox sparrows and northern flickers.
A diversity of plants in a garden provides shelter, too. Deciduous shrubs like hedge rose bushes, dogwoods and chokecherries provide summer shelter from hot weather and predators, as well as places to nest. Evergreen cedars offer that as well as protection from winter winds. Vines, such as bittersweet, roses, honeysuckle and clematis, make great use of space along the fences and add more habitat for animals.
KEEP IT WILD
Tweedie refrains from using herbicides or insecticides to ensure a healthy food supply of spiders and insects for bird species such as warblers, swallows and hummingbirds. She also lets rabbits, foxes and skunks enjoy her garden. These animals may cause small amounts of damage from time to time. But they haven’t hampered the appeal of Tweedie’s garden. Tweedie also says their antics are usually worth a chuckle — and sometimes a good laugh.