Garden Photo of the Day

Maria’s lawn-be-gone front yard in Ontario

August 11, 2013 -- Red cabbages for the food bank. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Maria Fleming

Today’s photos are from Maria Fleming. We know Maria–she’s Quiltingmamma, and she’s shared a couple of her gardening travels with us, taking us on a photo tour of both Versailles (HERE) and Monet’s garden (HERE). She has more gardens from her travels to share, I just haven’t posted them yet–stay tuned. But today we get to see HER garden! 

April 25, 2013. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Maria Fleming

Maria says, “I live in Ottawa, Ontario, USDA Hardiness Zone 3, I think. I work full time, so my garden needs can feel overwhelming at key seasons and cut into the fun part of gardening, so my ‘theory’ in my garden labors is to make it easier on myself in future years. This year had several projects, the main one being the removal of grass in the front yard, replacing it with mulch and an assortment of herbs and native plants.

April 30, 2013 — Lots of utilities to avoid. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Maria Fleming

“I have been an organic gardener from the get-go and as the City has banned pesticides and dangerous chemicals, the maintenance of a Kentucky Blue lawn is a labor intensive battle. Up until now I have been satisfied with a green lawn despite it having a blend of grasses and broadleaf weeds. Last August, however, killed off all the grasses and left me with a really ugly mess. Rather than start a new lawn from scratch, I decided to eliminate it and create something I actually love rather than something I resent.

May 9, 2013 — Path and rock installed. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Maria Fleming

“The existing garden beds were left in place, a gravel path was laid, and a signature rock was added for interest. I get a LOT of comments on that boulder. Thankfully positive, as it is not something easily removed. The intent was to leave the violets to spread to give a lower lawn illusion, but they have grown taller than anticipated. Time will tell whether thew will be left, or replaced by other ground covers. I have introduced thymes and a native pussy toes to start as low ground cover. An extension of the street bed holds local native plants that the pollinators love. These all add up to a low maintenance, drought tolerant, environmentally friendly front yard.

June 1, 2013 — Newspaper method of lawn suppression and helpful son taking hard-earned break. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Maria Fleming

“There are some areas for improvement, and I would love some suggestions on how to finish the mulch edging that the garbage men pull into the street; taking into account snow plows, utility lines, and high street salt use.”

June 9, 2013 — Final work. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Maria Fleming

Wow, what a transformation, Maria! I’m so glad you took photos along the way so that we can see how much work went into this gem of a bed. Yay for less mowing!

June 9, 2013. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Maria Fleming
June 9, 2013 — Overhead view. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Maria Fleming
August 11, 2013 — Violets filling in. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Maria Fleming
August 11, 2013. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Maria Fleming
August 11, 2013. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Maria Fleming
August 11, 2013. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Maria Fleming
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  1. user-1020932 08/27/2013

    Maria, it all looks great and much more interesting than "just grass".. . my favorite photo thought,,,,,,,,,the cabbages. like big edible hostas

  2. deeinde 08/27/2013

    Maria I think it looks great! I can see the mulch along the edge could be a problem. How about some kind of carex or liriope? I have seen that used for edging, and it would hold the mulch in. I don't know about the zones, though.

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 08/27/2013

    What a wonderful transformation and, yowza, those violets look like they are on steroids! Good thing you're not in the U.S. or our Major League Baseball Commissioner might suspect you of supplying them with an illegal substance since they are over-achievers! When it comes to a suggestion...whenever there is a path through a garden, I like to see a seating doesn't have to be overly formal but just subtly tucked along the side. Of course, sometimes, there's a reluctance to put anything of value too close to a public street. At least you know that no one will be driving off with your impressive signature rock.
    Stunning picture of the hibiscus and small statue.

  4. Quiltingmamma 08/27/2013

    Thanks for the positive comments. meaner1, The hibiscus are at least 8 inches across this summer and 6 feet tall, so dwarfs the small statue which is about 3 feet tall. All about perspective. I am hoping the violets aren't so big next year, or I will be systematically replacing them. Not quite the height or look I was going for. I think the addition of rich soil, and the cooler, wetter summer really set things ahead. My newly planted native plants are way beyond their size ranges, so I'll be shifting some this fall. Seating could be an interesting addition. I rarely sit in my front yard, and the dilemma of a bench is what direction to aim it for the best view? We have a pretty safe neighbourhood for thefts, but could start with a thrift store find. So perhaps next year, a chair instead of the bird bath..thanks.
    yardmom, I think both of these plants are a little too fragile for my area, even blue fescue doesn't last more than a season or two. I am thinking to move one 'pussytoes' and one tyme down to the street edge to see how they fare over the winter with the salt, snow, road clearing. Though it currently blends in and doesn't show, I did put in a dozen sedums from an end of season sale; with the hopes that they will do some erosion protection. I think this will be a problem with several trials and errors.
    tnt, I like the cabbages too. Easy way to add veggies to the garden.

  5. wGardens 08/27/2013

    The gardens look great... especially like the first photo!

    For edging, perhaps a row or 2 of bricks to echo your brick home?

  6. GrannyMay 08/27/2013

    Maria, good for you! I too love the cabbages, such a fun thing to plant there. If you have enough sun, I think varieties of creeping thyme would make a tough but pretty edging. Lily of the Valley might be a useful addition if the violets have to go.

  7. Wife_Mother_Gardener 08/27/2013

    Brilliant! Good for you! We use low-growing Sedum 'Acre' in our curb areas. It puts up with a lot of abuse, grows very quickly, blooms in June, and leave nice rosettes during the winter months that look nice with small crocuses in the spring time. It really holds our edges nicely, also smothering the weeds once it gets a good foothold.

  8. Quiltingmamma 08/27/2013

    Thanks for the suggestions for edging. Unfortunately, brick can't be tucked in close to the asphalt, as it was poured on a slope into the soil (that is so hard to describe) so in order to set in the brick, there is still a significant width of dirt between the brick and asphalt.
    I do have tymes and native pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta) and several kinds of tymes. So, once the damage can be seen in the Spring, I can move them closer to the edges, then. Nice to know the sedum trials might have some success. The intent was for pretty solid ground cover for weed smothering, so thanks. I love Lily of the Valley, but very invasive. If I end up clearly edging and defining the planting beds, then maybe I can go back to that favourite.

  9. Aarchman07030 08/27/2013

    Kudos to you on your beautiful front yard! As an urban gardener, I have no lawn issues--other than a perimeter bed full of Hostas, ferns, Lamium and Galium, everything is in containers. I dream, however, of a cottage surrounded by lawn that I can rip out and plant just as you have done. Thanks for sharing!

  10. tractor1 08/27/2013

    I wouldn't get rid of the bird bath, I'd move it alongside that boulder, it's kind of hidden it its present spot. I see those seedlings so I'm wondering what kind of trees are planted, I hope they don't outgrow that small yard. As to protecting the roadside plantings from trash collectors and snow plows I'd erect a low retaining wall of RR ties and back fill to create a raised bed... there are many plants that can soften the lumber. I'd also plant dwarf conifers for winter interest. I'm not sure what the purpose is of that path right out in the open, I think the boulder is focal point enough. The front yard is coming along nicely, thank you, Maria.

  11. Quiltingmamma 08/27/2013

    tractor1, interesting points. Thanks. unfortunately, can't do a raised bed at the front, as theoretically, it is road allowance and they need access to all those utility lines. Path, well at this point it isn't going anywhere - true. less ground cover might have been the initial plan and the sound of gravel underfoot. A bench is sounding better all the time:-) True, I have not evergreens, or winter interest, but that yard is often 3 feet deep in show from Jan - Mar/April. I am not sure what seedlings you mean. Only 2 trees/shrubs of hardwood. A purple flowering Pea shrub(or similar) by the door that is currently in bloom and gets judicious weeding out. The tree in the middle is a Japanese Lilac tree (Syringa reticulata) that replaced a flowering crab apple. It will be a similar size without the mess of the tiny apples and blooms (on a good year) for a month. Depending on the density, it might mean a reversion to hostas under the tree, and maybe its canopy will keep the violets at bay too, but they are somewhat slow growing and contained in Ottawa. Only other seedlings are the maples that sprout from all the trees in the neighbourhood, but those are weeded out routinely.
    Lots of good comments and constructive suggestions. Thanks, I appreciate it. Clearly the garden has limitations with what is allowed, but I am willing to develop it and remove and restart as necessary.

  12. user-1020932 08/27/2013

    Maria, you NEED that bench for Beergaritas! :)
    3 ft of snow, i can't imagine if we get 3 inches everything shuts down here and that doesn't happen that often

  13. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 08/27/2013

    Late to the party today. Beautiful transformation. Love the path. Dying to have that boulder. I'd get rid of plants to have it! I'm disappointed that brick is not an option because I think that would be a great tie-in. Flagstone, although I think sometimes too costly, could work because it comes in varying thicknesses. I have some next to my neighbors driveway, set in gravel, and it withstands tire traffic and forms a nice boundary to the garden because I have it set angled down from the garden to meet evenly at the driveway, if that makes sense. And I vote for more antennaria! Love it. Thanks for sharing!

  14. user-7006902 08/27/2013

    BIG round of applause! How much more beautiful than dried up grass. I love Ottawa - and now even more because they have banned pesticides and harmful chemicals! More applause It is exactly two hours driving time from me in Clayton NY. I let violets go in my garden and find they really take over (sun or shade) so I have to dig them up now and then but they are a host plant for Fritillary butterflies! And Pussytoes is an alternative host plant for the American Lady. So much more than grass. I'm not sure how to solve the edging problem.I have stacked rocks where my garden meets the sidewalk and that seems to keep things in place. Really tough, walkable plants? Love that boulder, too! Very inspiring!

  15. Quiltingmamma 08/27/2013

    Well, if I get enough established ground cover by the edges, then mulch won't be necessary. My Pussytoes didn't bloom this year, but they are at least 8 times bigger than the little 2 inch pot size I planted in June, so if they are also butterfly attractors, then I guess I am on the right track. I think the violets will be replaced with lower ground cover and ones that will take some trodding on for the folks sitting on the bench with a beergarita.
    tnt, the snow is deeper thanks to the snow blown from 2 yards onto the narrow lot. Good insulation for plants (I try to convince myself). Due to the dry air and winds, normal snow cover is less than 2 feet on open areas and snowfall is rarely more than 8 inches at a time.I grew up on the moderate West Coast where the blooming season is 10 - 11 months of the year. Trust me, even after 20 years here, winter is stilla bummer.
    It is not uncommon on a warm early April day, to see folks soaking up the first heat of the sun on lawn chairs on the driveways, with a 'beverage' shaking off the hibernation tendencies and becoming reacquainted with the neighbours. Perhaps a batch of beergaritas and a resting bench will do the trick, though the rock is a nice sitting height and has definitely been the talk of the area.

  16. user-1020932 08/27/2013

    keep your eye on that boulder, if Vojt can spirit it to Ohio, it's gonna disappear :) i'm spoiled to a 6b/7a garden zone. can't take it much colder and can't deal with much more heat. if i could "figger" out how to deal with the oppressive humidity it would be perfect. keep us posted on the development/growing in of your front yard

  17. Quiltingmamma 08/27/2013

    Haha, that boulder is 3/4 of a ton. That would be a mighty slow tractor ride to Ohio.
    Oh, thevioletfern, Clayton is lovely. I love the Thousand Islands area and N NYstate.
    Yep, I will send some spring photos when the red tulips I planted come up, and later with the peonies.

  18. user-1020932 08/27/2013

    it might be heavy but i'm thinking he might be very sly when it comes to boulders :) just razzing you Vojt. make it a great evening, out the door to dentist and to look at some "dawgs"

  19. Sabrinasel 08/27/2013

    Great job Maria! I have given a presentation on getting rid of lawns (Retire your Lawn Mower) for a couple years now in and around the Toronto area so I fully appreciate your effort and outcome.
    One suggestion is to continue the aggregate curve on the other side of the boulder but with a river rock (larger stone) and sway it such that your garbage cans sit on this. This will continue and add to your design with some functionality.
    Hopefully that makes sense (?).

  20. tractor1 08/27/2013

    I'm a bit confused about there being two driveways bordering the front yard, if one driveway belongs to a neighbor how does one know where the property line lies and where the right to landscape begins and ends, I can't imagine a paved driveway is right up to the line, doesn't zoning require setbacks... anyway I'm not sure where that front yard begins and ends. That said I can't imagine the municipality would have an issue with setting a piece of lumber at the front border and having to dig down through an extra few inches of soil... digging through a load of river rock would create a big mess... ther rock would first need to be removed and civil servants are not very careful with excavating. A landscape tie can be easily lifted, moved aside, and placed back afterwards. I used quite a few RR ties here, and to keep them from shifting through freezes and thaws I drilled a couple of 1/2" holes through and drove in a 20" length of rebar, standard procedure here where winter temps often hover around -20 degs. I'd lay in 8" cedar posts, they age a beautiful silver gray, are not very expensive, and last more than 20 years. I laid in cedar posts all around my foundation planting beds, made it easy to attach deer fencing.

  21. cwheat000 08/28/2013

    Great use of a small front yard. I like the violets. I don't think they are too large. The hibiscus is lovely. You wouldn't think by looking at it that it would be hardy in Ottawa. I checked your hardiness zone. According to several US charts you are a zone 4b. If that is true, some low growing perennials for your zone include: that ajuga I was talking about yesterday 'burgangy glow', basket of gold alyssum, arabis, sweet woodruff, astilbe liliput, dwarf goatsbeard, bergenia, brunnera, dwarf bellflowers, snow in summer (although you may not wasn't anything that reminds you of snow in the summer), coreopsis American dream, dianthus greystone, blanketflowers, asst. perennial geraniums, asst. heuchera heucherella tiarella, hellebores, dwarf hostas, creeping phlox ( that would make meander1 happy), dwarf catmint, pulmonaria, Irish moss, creeping veronica, dwarf junipers, my Monet weigela, spilled wine weigela, dwarf mugo pine, Russian cypress. Beautiful job, I would love to see more pictures as it matures.

  22. delancey 08/28/2013

    Very nice, Maria! I love the definition the curved path adds to the small yard.
    WMG: Next spring, I think I'll try some Sedum Acre in the area of my yard that revives plough damage. Thanks for the suggestion.
    Tman: I know railway ties can be moved for the winter, but I have this mental picture of a pile of broken wood left on the front lawn after the snow melts! I'm in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, so salt and snow are gardening concerns for me as well.

  23. Quiltingmamma 08/28/2013

    I spent several sleepless hours this morning thinking about all the comments and advise. I don't know all the ins and outs of the zoning laws, catchments,etc but as I know there are some out there, I wanted to try and keep things to softscape. If they ever decide to put in a sidewalk on our side (which I doubt), then they will need to move the big rock, but for the other digs, I think it is safe. Tractor, you are right that in a perfect world, building up that front slopey bit with RR ties, would work, but as our New Brunswick friend notes, plows don't care and I am not going to be moving and storing more than necessary.
    A friend is coming over the help with visualizing the bench placement. Violets are going to be reduced. cwheat000, yes, all those do work here, but the objective was to try and do more native plants. The house and SE facing creates a little microclimate that allows these hibiscus to survive here. There will be more ground covers, and when we think about it, that is most likely the best answer in the long run - eventually no need for mulch at all, and then also no soil erosion. Trying to still visualize a new place for the bird bath. Lots of great winter design projects, I see.
    Thanks again for all the positive comments and suggestions. Very helpful.

  24. user-1020932 08/28/2013

    maria, promise me that you won't muck up that nice area you have developed with RR ties

  25. bee1nine 08/29/2013

    Hi Maria, I should have piped in sooner regarding placement
    of the bird bath, how 'bout near the Japanese Lilac tree?!

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