Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Sep 07, 2006 10:18 am
Location: London, Ontario Canada

New Gardens, New Gardener...

A big warm hello to all! I've absolutely enjoyed reading through the forums, and have gathered much information that can help so far... but I have to admit a certain amount of ignorance when it comes to this plant-y kind of stuff.

So, here goes nothing! I have lived in a small townhouse for a few years now, and we have saved enough to invest in a house. We now are looking at selling the townhouse, and I am the first to admit the outside is UGLY!

The front is 11 feet by 15 feet, full sun all day except late afternoon, it's compacted clay soil and the geniuses that built the building left an overtaxed downspout about six inches away from the front wall. Any hint of rain makes a puddle that takes days to drain.

The back is 16 feet by 16 feet, afternoon sun on one rectangular patch against the back fence and no direct sunlight anywhere else in the yard. That soil is even more compacted, clay and covered in thirty year old economy patio stones.

So- what do I do with that downspout? I'd like to have the water drained throughout the front yard garden for irrigation, somehow.

My next question is not so much 'what to plant' in as much as how to design the front for appeal- do I go lots of colour and stand out, or subdued and subtle and try to 'sink in' to the background? (The front wall is flush with the rest of the townhouses in this row, and the aluminum siding is creamy beige for originality. :wink:)

The back yard clearly needs a shade garden, fine and done- but it's also our main entrance into the house (our back yard faces the parking lot and is equipped with a gate), and the only place I can send my rugmonkeys out to play where they are confined and safe. Again, I don't know how to design the space so it'll be functional but also beautiful and can be renovated on the cheaper side.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated- as is just getting to the bottom of this long post. I'll try and keep it much, much shorter next time

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 4659
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 5:58 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

You know, the best book on gardening and garden design that I have ever read (and others think this as well) is called: Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway.

I would suggest reading this, it is at my local library so, I would assume that it is at yours. Also, try local books stores and you can also find it through the Magazine: Permaculture.

Janet W
Full Member
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 10:17 am
Location: Ottawa Carleton Region Canada

First thing that needs to be addressed is your clay soil, I know clay soil all too well. I see you are a fellow Canadian in London Ont., I am in Ottawa.
Improving your clay soil with organic matter goes along way to solving the many problems that come with clay soil. Aged manuer and compost are readily available and cheap to buy, they promote a lighter, more crumbly and loamy texture to the soil. Incorporate some course sand (builders sand) or stone dust (not too much). Playground or sandbox sand is too fine, don't use this. I also add some peat moss into the mixture. A good ratio would be 1 part sand/stone dust, 1 part peat moss and 3 parts compost/manuer. Next issue is the color of your house-beige, I am a Horticulture Tech and I too have a beige house. I love reds and yellows with beige. I don't think going busy would be of interest to you if you are selling your house, not everyone likes busy (although you can get away with it with a white house. I suggest some evergreen plantings, maybe yews or soft junipers, try to frame a large window if you have one by planting one side with something larger than the other. I did this with two types of upright junipers, looks great. This may be enough evergreen for your small space. Try A Purple leaf Sandcherry (Prunus x cistena) purple foliage and a variegated Dogwood (Cornus sericea 'flaviramia"). For red color that lasts long you can use zonal geranium (repeat the plantings though out the space in groups of three look nice). Yellow lilies and pansies are nice also. You can see what's available at your garden centre if it is perenials you are looking for. :D I hope this info will be helpful to you. Happy gardening at your new home also, Janet

Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Sep 07, 2006 10:18 am
Location: London, Ontario Canada

Thank you so much for both replies- I went out and bought the book, which was more helpful than I ever imagined. :D

I also took the advice regarding the soil amendments- the dirt is better now than ever before- I wish I'd done it earlier, now that we're moving! The backyard looks great- I left my morning glories growing on the fence and built up the bed a bit with new wood edging, then planted some bulbs. The new juniper looks good under the window, and will be beautiful when it grows in a bit- which from me is great praise- I have a bias against junipers as I don't just get a rash from them but actually break out in hives.

Of course, the new house has lots of junipers, all overgrown, and in desperate need of removal (they look like they've been the long time feast of various farm bugs). Murphy 's Gardening Law strikes again!! :D

Return to “Landscaping”