Category Archives: Garden Clean Up

Garden clean up is necessary for every season. Whether it is pruning and trimming or weeding, feeding or re-design. A garden requires attention all year long.

A small front yard clean up

The winter has been very long here and much work is needed in the gardens for spring clean up.  This small front yard took 6 hours from start to finish.  the yard was raked, the tree was trimmed and a new garden created along the house.  The clean up included putting wood chips around the plants and along the new garden bed.  The lilac bush was trimmed and the english ivy cut back also.

Front yard before

Front yard after

Cleaning a Vacant Lot

Island Garden Scapes was hired to clear this vacant lot for building.  The lot itself had shrubs, trees and oh noooo…blackberry vines along the perimeter of the property on three sides.  Most of the shrubs were overgrown rhododendrons intertwined with blackberry brambles.  Everything on the entire lot had to come down to make way for a 5 plex.  It was quite a job.  I estimated it would take 30 hours and it was close at 24.5.  Although I did not take down one tree and one shrub on the east side of the property.  This was left for the company coming in with a backhoe.  He said he could easily take them down.

Everything else was cut down, leaving enough of a stump for the backhoe to hook on and pull out the roots.   Now all that is left is the mess…all of the garden wasted will be loaded and taken away today by the backhoe operator.

Before and After

 

Building Garden Boxes

Last year in our community two derelict houses were being demolished so we approached the project manager on site and ask about the cedar fence.  It was red cedar and was still in excellent condition after years of standing.  It has weathered beautifully and I knew it would be perfect for garden projects.  He happily gave us the fence if we were willing to remove it, after the homes were demolished.

After removing it, one box was built and the rest of the wood stored for future projects.  The original plan was to build garden boxes and sell them.  Then after the move to the new home, I realized that I was not willing to part with it.  The wood is perfect for my garden plan.  Working out the amount of wood required for my Garden Labyrinth, I realized I had enough wood for 10 garden boxes, not including the one already built.

My biggest concern with my Labyrinth design was what wood to use in the garden.  I need something that will stand up to the elements of weather here on Vancouver Island.  The red cedar is perfect.  It has a life span of about 20 years.  The garden boxes will be built and put in place without a bottom.  In order for me to utilize the gray water in my yard, it is necessary to leave the bottom open so it can draw up the ground water.

The yard which is so overgrown is actually a blessing in disguise…a labour intensive blessing, but a blessing just the same.   As I prune each shrub and tree, I will chip the waste and put it in the bottom of each box.  It will draw up the moisture and it will slowly break down and enrich the soil, as well as keeping it aerated.  Keep in mind it does not have to be chipped, it could actually be cut in smaller pieces by hand and added to the bottom.  Wood chips will be added on top of the chipped garden waste as it will retain water and minimize the need for watering.  The garden boxes will be approximately 20 inches high so each box will require approximately 10 inches of waste and wood chips before the organic soil is added.  The soil will be 2 inches below the top of the box.

I have not measured the yard for exact measurements as it is still covered in snow.  So I know my garden plan will have to be tweaked after measuring.

My Garden Labyrinth

I have now lived in this location for 3 months.  I have spent countless hours researching, sketching and incorporating the numerous benefits in the yard. As I said in an earlier post, privacy is my biggest concern.

The back yard gets full sun throughout the year.  I know that the back lawn stays green most of the year from the gray water that feeds it daily.  It was important for me to incorporate a plan that would utilize this gray water in my  garden effectively and efficiently.  I am on town water so it is not an option to water my gardens all year with town water, not only the cost, but with the hot dry summers on Vancouver Island the watering bans start earlier every year.  Incidentally, I am a renter and my landlord has given me the green light to landscape the entire lot as I wish, so that is a bonus.

Each year I grow more of my own food and this garden should suffice in growing all of my own food.  So the plan had to address the privacy issues, create beauty,  utilize the gray water and produce enough food for six of us.  I am including my sons and grandchildren as it is of utmost importance to me for each of us to eat as much organic food as possible, while saving money!  Last year I grew about 60% of my food.  I canned and froze much of what we couldn’t eat fresh and have been eating it all year long.

Privacy Issues – The fence enclosing the yard will provide a backdrop for me to plant shrubs and bushes to allow the privacy I want, but will take time to grow and cover the fence.  The immediate concern was how to create a garden area throughout the back yard with fruits, vegetables and flowers that would be high enough to enclose the area for privacy.

I have always loved the idea of a labyrinth and decided this would meet all of the garden challenges.  Creating a labyrinth from raised garden beds would give me the height for privacy, allow the soil in the containers to draw the gray water from the ground and filter it before it hits the plant roots, create beauty in the garden, incorporate a patio area in the middle while creating a play space for my grandchildren as they love to be in the garden with me.

And so here is my Labyrinth garden plan!  I do know that is a preliminary plan.  The garden plan will evolve and change as it comes to life!

 

 

 

 

My Back Yard

Last year I posted pictures of my back yard with a design that I had in mind.  Due to unforeseen circumstances I had to move a couple of months ago and my yard design was not completed.

So now, I have a new yard…which is…well the pictures speak for themselves.  There is nothing that motivates me more then landscaping…I love to create beauty through design with alot of help from mother nature.  This yard is like a blank slate just waiting to be designed.

Here are the challenges: Privacy, Privacy & Privacy

Privacy    Our home is in town and has a walking path along the back (east) of the lot and up along the south side of the property.  Our neighbour is the local dog park so you can imagine the traffic around our house.  I love dogs and humans…don’t get me wrong…but I love my privacy more.

Weeds/Overgrown Lot

The entire lot is fenced in and has great potential but has not had any type of landscaping or gardening done in many years.  The only neighbours on the north side had a beautiful cedar fence installed some years ago and it has stood up to the test of time.  The fence does give us some privacy.  However, our yard runs on a gradual slope downhill so there is next to no privacy in the entire back yard.  We live downstairs in a suite and there is also a suite above us.  Thankfully, (for now) my son rents the upstairs suite so privacy is a non-issue.

Backyard swampafter moving in November, we discovered the back yard was like a swamp.  The ground was so waterlogged that we could not walk through most of it without getting soaking wet feet.  To our surprise we found out that the former owner had pumped all of the gray water from the house into the back yard via an underground hose that she had buried.  So all of the water from the laundry room and all of the water from the kitchen sink travels to the back yard.  It is also obvious that there is poor drainage in the back yard.   We already use all natural “green” products…phosphate free, so this is one less thing to worry about.

Cedar Hedge – Many years have passed since the previous owner planted a cedar hedge at the back of the lot.  They are slow growing cedars so they are small and there are holes in the hedge.  Not sure if some died or if there were not enough planted.  In any case, it is going to be one of the biggest challenges landscaping and I am so looking forward to it.

Rocks Rock & More Rocks  The entire yard has rocks everywhere.  The neighbour told me the previous owner brought in truck loads of rocks of all shapes and sizes.  Oh my, I have never ever seen so many rocks on such a small property.  So  I will incorporate what rocks I can  and the rest I am taking to two different clients who are in need of rocks….oh my goodness I hope they want lots!!!!  As you can see from the picture, I already pulled some rocks from around the tree in the picture below.  I planted strawberries under the tree in November when I moved in, so its a very small start. 

Oh, I almost forgot, we inherited a fish pond, in the forefront of the bottom left picture.   It is beautiful and has great potential as a focal point in the gardens.  So here we go with a new project!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Winter damage tree repair

In an earlier post I showed winter damage to a tree in my back yard.  Here is the update, after carefully cutting the branch off at the base, I will leave the tree to heal.  I will not treat it unless there is a problem with it healing.  In the weeks to come, I will check on it continually to ensure that it has become diseased or infested with insects.  Although the damage is considerable to the branch, it is actually a good time for it to heal, since there are few insects around at this time of year and the thaw has not happened so the sap has not started running.  I would be much more concerned if it was later in the season and the sap was running and the insects were out as it could easily draw insects to its wound.

And although this is quite a big wound, the tree will be none the worse for wear if I have to cut the entire branch off.  The most important thing to do is to keep checking the tree as it heals.  The branch actually has two other healthy branches forking off of it, so I really would like to give the branch a chance to heal.  The other branches that were broken were much smaller so it was just a matter of cutting them off.

Winter Damage to Tree

The last week of weather on Vancouver Island has been brutal.  First snowstorms and literally inches and inches of snow accumulating with freezing temperatures and wind.  The snow here is always very very heavy when we do get snow…which is seldom.  Then we were graced with warmer temperatures and rain.  During this week of stormy weather mother nature provided us with beautiful silhouettes in nature.  With the storms comes many many trees, shrubs and plants that now have winter damage.  This beautiful tree in my yard which was stunning when the snow came, had several branches break under the weight of snow and ice.

After the storm when I realized the tree was damaged, I played a waiting game with mother nature as the branches were frozen in the snow.  Now, today, I have cut the branches off with a landscape saw, giving them a clean cut at the trunk.

I will not be using wound paint or any other kind of sealant on the tree as I know it is a myth that it requires it to heal.  Trees are incredibly resilient and will heal themselves if left alone.  Wound paints and dressings claim to prevent rot and help trees heal from pruning wounds, but research suggests that they actually do more harm than good. When you cut off a tree limb, or the bark gets damaged, the tree never actually “heals.” Instead, it compartmentalizes the wounded area with a special type of calloused wood – like a scar – that keeps out bacteria and helps the rest of the tree recover.  Wound paint can actually interfere with the trees recovery by preventing it from creating the calloused wood to compartmentalize it and can weaken the tree.  Tree wounds heal from the inside out so dressing it with wound paint can actually seal in moisture causing tree rot and allowing fungus or bacteria to survive and possibly thrive.  The last thing I want to do is interfere with the trees natural recovery processes…after all trees have been on this planet longer then humans and have evolved to heal themselves most of the time.

Complimentary Landscaping for a Country Wedding

Last year an unfortunate accident took place that I am sure many of you have experienced.  I dropped my phone in water and had to have it replaced.  Lost were many garden photos…563 to be exact.  I replaced my phone the next day and left the old one sitting in rice.  After a few days I put it in my desk drawer and forgot about it.  Moving in the fall, the old phone stayed in a box until yesterday.  I charged it and like magic it took the charge and I accessed all of the 563 pictures.

Each year I volunteer landscaping hours…sometimes I advertise free landscaping for seniors and other times the job just seems to appear.  I believe it is important to give something back.  In my lifetime so many many people have helped me on my journey; I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without all of those helping hands and hearts that have reached out to me.  I believe one of the reasons we are on this earth is to help each other out along the way.  The intrinsic rewards are priceless for me.  For me no amount of money can replace the feeling of helping others.

A few years ago while gardening for one of my regular customers I was introduced to Les.  He was a very kind man as is his wife Lorraine.  He owned a small farm near Cedar BC where he grew garlic for the local health food store.  He offered me some work, helping him with his garlic crop.  Which I was happy to oblige, not only for the work, but the knowledge I would gain.

I was very blessed to meet him and his lovely wife Lorraine.  Wonderful people…so caring and so down to earth.  That first garden season after meeting them, they offered to let me grow a garden along side the garlic.  It was a God send to me as I was living in a suite with no garden area.  That season was so busy I had to rely on Les to let me know when my garden needed watering.  We watered my garden and the garlic regularly.  I grew many vegetables and herbs that year…eating and canning everything I could.  There is such a sense of accomplishment that comes with eating an entire meal from your own garden, which I did enjoy many times that summer!  Thank you Les & Lorraine 🙂

Tragedy struck 1 1/2 years ago when Les passed away from an unfortunate accident; leaving his wife and a daughter who was engaged to be married.  The bride, Heather had her heart set on a country wedding.

So we set to work.  The property is a beautiful farm over looking the Nanaimo River.  It is a place where time seems to stand still.  The farm is 10 acres,  complete with a large home, detached garage, detached shop and a barn overlooking a meadow.

I was so busy last summer that I did not even get to the farm to work until 3 weeks before the wedding so it was a stretch…one that I was not sure I could fulfill.  Lorraine had worked tirelessly year after year gardening and had beautiful gardens everywhere.  There were beautiful rhododendron gardens surrounding the house where she had incorporated peach trees, raspberries and other edibles into the garden space.  The gardens just needed some elbow grease to get things in order.

The driveway was a winding lane over a 1/4 mile long from the road to the house with fruit trees on one side and a fenced pasture lined with black berry brambles on the other.  Years previous had seen the addition of a rock garden along the driveway closer to the house.  It was beautiful but overgrown with weeds and grass.

The bride had her heart set on getting married on the lawn and then having her wedding photos taken near the barn and pasture.  There was a considerable amount of work to be done.  The area where the guests would park was overgrown with weeds and grass also.  And work we did.  There were dozens of volunteers that helped every step of the way.  The landscaping was my expertise and thankfully I met the challenge and finished two days before the wedding.

Driveway before

 

Driveway after

Lorraine seeded the lawn area where Heather wanted the ceremony and watered daily for the lawn to thrive.  I added my landscaping touches weeding and mulching everything in sight.

Even Sheeba, the family pet helped by chasing the rabbits away!

The pasture needed to be cut down around the barn and beyond for the wedding photos.  I used a weed eater to get it down to about 8 inches…cleaned the area of all rocks, trees and branches, then I took the lawnmower to it twice…the last time two days before the wedding.  I also trimmed and pruned all shrubs and trees giving each a hair cut to tidy things up.

The three weeks flew by…I cleared my calendar of other jobs to finish this one…at the exasperation of some of my customers…it wasn’t that their gardens weren’t important to me…it was that this was something I had to do…and the wedding turned out beautiful.  A gorgeous summer day for a beautiful bride & groom!  In total I put in 49.5 hours and am so very grateful that I could do something nice for this family!

Congratulations Heather & Ray!  Have a wonderful life!

 

 

 

 

A Country Garden Clean up

We have been working on this property for some time now.  Although the new snow fall has halted work, it will continue this week once the snow is gone.  It is a beautiful country property with stunning garden designs that really shine with effort and hard work. 

 

A Spring Garden clean up

Clean up in the gardens on Vancouver Island has begun.  The winter has been harsh here on the Island.  Snow, ice and frosty temperatures have kept the island in a deep freeze for more then two months.  Finally the snow and ice melted and the ground…frozen but dry has allowed clean up to start.

This is the first year that it has been this cold since I started my landscape business.  Normal weather patterns have always been rain and cool temperatures but never this cold.  After one day working in the garden I realized that I much prefer the ground frozen.  With the ground frozen, I stayed dry and the clean up was actually easier.  Raking the leaves, branches and twigs was a snap.  With the ground frozen I didn’t have to worry about taking the soil or the mulch with the garden waste.

This garden has been over grown for some years and needed a sprucing up…pruning, trimming and cleaning the Rhododendrons,  Hydrangeas and Azaleas was first in order.

Pruning & Trimming Rhododendrons

I always start from the base of the plant and work my way up.  I take off all the suckers that are growing straight up…cutting them right at the trunk (or collar) where it attaches to the plant.  I dead head any flowers from last year.   I also take out any branches that grow inward and of course any dead branches.  Thinning the perennials this way helps to keep the plant healthy, allowing air flow through the plant, and allows the buds that have set to flower.  The only branches I trim that have buds on them are the ones that are long and leggy sticking out much farther then the rest of the plant.  I like to give it a nice balanced look and am very careful not to trim too much off.  It is best to trim them right after they flower as they  set next years flowers on the prior years wood.  So pruning out of season, I always start from the bottom and work my way up.

Pruning & Trimming Hydrangea

The Hydrangea in this garden are mopheads.  They flower in summer and should be trimmed and pruned right after flowering as next years flowers set on old wood.  However, because they were so over grown and had much dead wood, they had to be trimmed.  I started at the base and took out all the dead, damaged and diseased wood.  I then took out the unhealthy and spindly growth as they will not produce healthy flowers.  I trimmed the dead flowers off being careful to make angle cuts above the new growth.  Trimming and pruning out of season will probably affect the flowers this season but there wasn’t another choice.  In order for the plants to be healthy they needed to be trimmed and pruned.  It will stimulate growth this season and what flowers will be there this summer will be more robust then if I had not trimmed.  The plants themselves are healthy and will recover but might take till next year to have the showy display they are capable of.

If you have fall flowering Hydrangea then they should be trimmed now, during the winter months while their roots are in hybernation.

Pruning & Trimming Azaleas

There were five Azaleas in this garden.  Two of them had to be taken out as they were so unhealthy they would not have recovered.  There were several branches on top that had growth but none at the base of the plant.  The bottom two thirds of the plant was dead with no growth at all.  Think of a bouquet of flowers how long it will live in water.  The top branches are similar to that.  They get just enough nutrients to stay alive longer then the rest.  However, they too will die just as the rest of the shrub has.  It is uncertain why they died…every plant has a life span just like humans, they could have been damaged in the winter cold, they could have gotten an insect infection or a disease or fungus.  Both of the Azaleas that died were the same kind and I suspect they were both planted at the same time, years before.  I was careful to get all of the root out in case it was diseased or infested with insects.  Ideally Azaleas should be trimmed right after flowering in early summer as the plant sets its new buds right after flowering.  However, I was left no choice as the plant required a heavy pruning to get it healthy again.  Although the heavy pruning might affect the flowering this season, it will recover and be more robust and have its showy flowers return by next year.  These Azaleas are a type of  Satsuki Hybrids such as ‘Gumpo’ grow only about 3 feet tall, while Southern Indica Hybrids such as ‘George Lindley Taber’ and ‘Mrs. G.G. Gerbing’ can grow 10 feet tall.

The final step in this garden after the clean up was to add fresh mulch.  This keeps the weeds down, helps to maintain moisture, adds nutrients as it slowly breaks down and of course for its aesthetic value is priceless to the eye.