The Lower Garden

It’s garden visit time at Glen Villa. Last week a group from Quebec City visited the garden; this week it’s a group from Ontario and the following week it’s another group from Quebec. Then, on August 4, comes the big Open Garden Day when we could realistically have 500 people or more.

I think all gardeners would agree — it’s satisfying when your garden looks good, or at least when it looks good enough to bring you that frisson of pleasure that tells you your work has paid off.  But when visitors are coming, it is doubly important — and doubly satisfying — to know that the work was well done.

Right now, I’m satisfied, at least as much as I can ever be. The Lower Garden looks good. It isn’t perfect, and already I can see where improvements are possible, but I’m happy. I’m satisfied, even (dare I say it?) ready to pat myself on the back.

On the rocky hillside the lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) is in fine fettle, brightening the darkness under and around Ligularia ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’ (Ligularia dentata). The catmint (Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’) was just beginning to add its silver-blue tones to the mix when I took this photo a few days ago. Now it is in full bloom and offers a nice counter-balance to the lady mantle’s citrus froth and the almost-black underside of the ligularia’s leaves.

 

I don't like the orange blooms of the Ligularia so I cut them off. They haven't yet bloomed this year.
I don’t like the orange blooms of the Ligularia so I cut them off. That flash of silver at the top of the photo is my sculpture Tree Rings, honouring an old maple tree that died two years ago.

 

Nearby, Astilbe ‘Fanal’ (Astilbe arendsii ‘Fanal’) is blooming heartily. Last year I planted more of this wonderfully-toned astilbe in a shadier section of the Lower Garden. With less sun, it has yet to bloom. That’s a good thing. It means the colour it adds will continue for several more weeks.

 

The spikes of Astilbe 'Fanal' stand out sharply against the yellow-gold Aralia 'Sun King.'
The spikes of Astilbe ‘Fanal’ stand out sharply against the yellow-gold Aralia ‘Sun King.’

 

Another photo of this section of the Lower Garden shows the Astilbe and Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ in relation to one of several sculptures in the garden made by our friends, the Quebec artists Louise Doucet and Satoshi Saito. They are internationally renown sculptors and happen to live quite close to us, in the little village of Way’s Mills, Quebec.

 

The sculpture by Louise Doucet and Satoshi Saito is called Au Bord du Printemps, which loosely translates as On the Verge of Spring.
The sculpture by Louise Doucet and Satoshi Saito is called Au Bord du Printemps, which loosely translates as On the Verge of Spring. It always makes me think of a bird about to take flight.

 

Not everything in the Lower Garden contrasts as sharply as the citrus and red/maroon colours do in the photo above. Depending on your point of view, the garden can appear to be a white garden, à la Vita Sackville-West.

 

Vita Sackville-West's White Garden at Sissinghurst has been copied by many people, in many countries. I didn't set out to copy her, it happened accidentally.
Vita Sackville-West’s White Garden at Sissinghurst has been copied by many people, in many countries. I didn’t set out to copy her, it happened accidentally, and only in this tiny vignette.

 

The white theme is leavened by yellow at The Dragon Gate, the architectural feature we added several years ago to mark the division between the tended garden and the wild garden that follows.

 

White blooms continue at the Dragon Gate. This architectural feature marks the division between the tended garden and the wild garden that follows.
The tall white flower growing beside the Dragon Gate is Filipendula kamtschatica. At its feet is yellow loosestrife, Lysimachia punctata. Behind the Dragon Gate to the right are the tall blooms of giant fleeceflower, Persicaria polymorpha.

 

Still, at this time of year, citrus tones characteristic of lady’s mantle predominate. It’s a wonderfully generous plant in climates like mine… so generous that every year I pull out huge clumps. It doesn’t object, in fact, it seems to thrive on the treatment.

 

The S-shaped stairs lead down the hill into the Lower Garden.
Delphiniums provide a touch of blue at the top of the S-shaped stairs that lead from the house and garage down the hill to the Lower Garden.

 

I’ve kept lady’s mantle out of the trial beds at the far end of the Lower Garden, but it seems that the citrus tones persist nonetheless. I use this small bed to try out different plants, to see how they grow and whether I like them. The fuzzy shrub is Spirea thunbergii ‘Ogon.’ I like it so much I bought a few, and they are growing bigger annually. Next year I’ll transplant one or more, allowing them to bring their own light to a darker section of the garden.

 

Spirea 'Ogon' is growing nicely here. I'll move it soon to a different location and trial something else in its place.
Until I collected these photos of the Lower Garden, I hadn’t realized how often the citrus tones appeared. A good reason to take photos — they can show you things you otherwise might miss.

 

My aim in the Lower Garden is for plants to grow so thickly that weeding and mulch are unnecessary. This isn’t possible in the trial garden. I grow a plant there for a year or two, to determine how it grows and whether I like it enough to move it to a better spot. But in most other sections, the ground is well and truly covered. I’m quite fond of this ground cover combination in the shade of a magnolia tree: Lysimachia nummularia ‘aurea,’ Ajuga reptans ‘Caitlin’s Giant,’ Athryium nipponicum, or Japanese painted fern, and wild Canadian ginger (Asarum canadensis).

 

The ground peeps out near the grass but should be covered in another month or two.
The ground peeps out near the grass but should be covered in another month or two — ajuga spreads vigorously so don’t plant it unless you want that to happen.

 

Higher off the ground, things aren’t growing as well.  A bud forms one day and is gone the next. Why? Because of cuties like this guy.

 

A fawn's big eyes and big spots are appealing. Its big mouth is not.
A fawn’s big eyes and big spots are appealing. Its big mouth is not.

 

I like sharing my garden with friends and family. I only wish the deer knew they weren’t part of that group.

 



Don’t forget the Open Garden Day at Glen Villa. I hope you can come!

 

Glen Villa Open House handout french 18 July for email

 

Glen Villa Open House invitation for email