Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gardening the Retro Way

Garden design changes a lot over time. In centuries past, a highly manicured hedged garden was de rigueur or else a totally wild garden like the kind you might picture at an English cottage. In the 50's, gardening took on a new shape of its own. Lawn care became super intensive, and lines and shading were very important.
Being the owner of a mid 50s home, I wanted to create a garden that is in line with my home's tradition. A year or two before we bought our place, the weeping tiles were replaced and new gardens at the front were put in. What was there before, I couldn't tell you. As it stands, our garden has a plain red paving stone foundation, not too far out from the house, and deep enough that it helps even out the slope of the yard without being too shallow.

west side of front garden
Last year, Pam at Retro Renovation was discussing mid century garden design (which you can read here) and it got me thinking about how I wanted to start building up my front beds. The only things that were in it initially were two hostas on each side, and some globe cedars that had seen better days (and were subsequently put to the curb to have a new day elsewhere). greg and I made a deal last summer that I had control of the front yard and he had the back so I have free reign up here! YES!! I should mention that this is the year Greg tried his Wild Yard Experiment, letting the grass grow until it seeded and finding neat plants inside it. It wasn't as horrible as I had pictured.. but man grass gets tall when you don't cut it for 3 months!

In any case, using the advice in this incredibly informative post I went to the fancy garden store and looked at the roses. I HAD A REALLY HARD TIME PICKING ONE. It is terrifically hard to pick a rose out when you are dealing with paper tags, whose pictures may or may not be accurate. What style rose did I want? One that had tonnes of smaller roses, or one that had fewer but bigger ones? What colour should I go with? It would have to go with the red brick, and will also dictate any future permanent flower colour choices. 
I went with "Americana" which is very similar to the "Tropicana" which was the essential rose of the 50's. It is a pinky coral, big bloomed, high climbing rose machine. In it's first year, it went from 3 spindly stems to about 20 and held roses so big that when it rained the roses ended up being pulled down to the ground.

my little rose's first bloom!!

very pretty and fragrant too.
This year Greg cut back the rose and it is already getting big and bushy. His dad made us a nice trellis out of cedar which we painted black (much to his chagrin) but it goes well with the front of the house. Now to see where it will grow this year!
the red means recent growth. this thing is going to get out of control very quickly.

Last year I also bought a nice Rhododendron from Home Depot. It was on sale as the flowers had bloomed already. I got a nice bushy white one and this year it has exceeded my expectations. It had 5 flower clusters I guess you'd say, each cluster has about 20 or so actual flowers on it. Anyways, it is real pretty, and seems to really like it's spot in the garden which is the north east side on my front steps. It doesn't get a whole lot of light, which is good, and the soil stays moist longer there, as rhododendrons do badly very fast if they are too dry.

pretty, sticky flowers

happy in its home
bye bye til next year, flowers!

I also planted some reddish purple Coral Bells with the hostas, which I think are going to go to the curb like their old friends the globe cedars. They just aren't working for me. The coral bells are, though. The purplish hue really goes nice with the red of the bricks, and they fill out a nice space. The creeping thyme I had planted the first summer has spread magnificently and is alternated with white and pink as you go down the beds.
pretty pretty creeping thyme. i love this stuff to death
Whether or not my front gardens look mid century is up for debate. I do not have box hedges though I am thinking of getting some to replace the hostas. I am trying to just make it look nice, which is all any of us can do, right?

I do have some garden influence in the back yard, and here are some pictures of it. Last year we put in a rock garden, rocks free from Kijiji if you could take them (it took a Ford 350 to do it and there were concerns about it's shocks) and planted some creeping plants. They are all doing well. We had found random columbines beside our garage so we gathered seeds and planted them last year. Holy moly did they ever grow. Now we have 5 large patches of nice dark purple columbines, and one random one that was white for a few years but has decided to turn pink.  I got some geraniums from FullCircles (freecycling) that were worse for wear but have done marvy along with periwinkles also from freecycle. I have some iris, also for freecycle, but they haven't bloomed yet this year so I don't have pictures.
Here it all is:
my ranunculus which i love though the flowers are way smaller than i thought they were

geraniums.. not the usual planter ones, but the shade loving low growing purple ones

formerly white columbine now in a nice shade of pink

one bunch of purple columbine

rock garden before we did more work to it. the speedwell is a carpet of purple and feels very soft too.
*disclaimer- I got an iPhone and really like taking pictures with it, using the Hipsamatic app. Sorry if you don't like that sort of thing but I do. So suck it up.