My Great Outdoors: Deborah's Urban Garden

My Great Outdoors: Deborah's Urban Garden

Janel Laban
Jun 23, 2009

Name: DeborahMCP
Location: Ottawa, Ontario
Type of space: Garden

Tell us about your outdoor project and how you enjoy it: Small in size, but rich in detail. Our urban garden is long and narrow, but we're relatively lucky in the range of micro-environments we inherited or were able to create using the brick patio and the outdoor room defined by the garage, cedar grove and the fenceline. It offers a great range of environmental zones, through sunny and dry, to shady and moist.

I enjoy puttering about in it, moving plants relative to one another to try to achieve the most evocative plant combinations. We have plans to build a small deck which will face the rising sun, but be shaded by noon.

How did you create it?:
Plan and structures:
Picked up 7 or 8 tons of free waste rock from a construction site that we thought would be ideal as landscape material and then pondered a good long while. I wanted a tranquil zen feel to the only private outdoor space we have, so the stone patio under the cedar canopy seemed a natural design detail. The garden contains raised beds, a low wall to define the edge of the gravel drive, maintenance paths, and strong shapes to maximize winter appeal.

Since we enjoy roughly 4 months of winter here in Ottawa, we made sure to push the plant interest to the edge of winter and a little beyond. One detail we definitely wanted was a filigree of tall plantings close to the house (but not too close. See deck plans.) It's true that we violated the "structures first" rule by planting the beds before building the deck, since DIY hubby is too busy. But this way we get to enjoy the garden views in the meantime, which will probably run to a few years. No worries. It's amazing how readily plants will accept being moved around if they are well watered-in.

Recommended store, site, product or resource?
I'd recommend joining your local horticultural or gardening society for one of the most effective paths to inspiration, as this usually provides access to plant shows, private gardens, photo competitions, seminars and keen, knowledgeable individuals. Props to my own local society, the Ottawa Horticultural Society, which I joined soon after becoming interested in this project.

Finally, if you plan to do as we did and collect large quantities of landscaping stone yourself, we'd recommend splurging on the rental of a heavy-duty truck with… key point… a hydraulic liftgate.

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