Garden needs a reno? Power-wash your birches

Metal garden sculpture

A visit to the Toronto Botanical Garden can be full of surprises like this cobweb-festooned sculpture.

Yesterday, I sat in on a lecture at the Toronto Botanical Garden by plantswoman extraordinaire Marion Jarvie of Thornhill, Ontario. The topic was renewing and renovating your garden–starting now. This dynamo gardener had eyes popping over photos of her handiwork and eyebrows raised over some of her suggestions for sprucing up our own gardens this spring. Here are some of the best of her many tips.

Power wash your birches: Talk about making your whites white! You don’t want to do this to a tree with peeling bark that’s part of its attraction. But for birches with bark that doesn’t peel, giving them a hard spray will make them gleam in spring.

Make a new garden bed on top of your old lawn: Don’t bother digging up your turf before laying down new soil. When you want to make a new flower bed, just dump the soil on the lawn where you want it. Mound the soil to about a foot and a half. Tamp it down and start digging the holes where you want them for your new plants. Once you’ve got the look the way you want it, tidy up your bed by digging an edge around it. The lawn will break down and you’ll have saved time and an aching back.

•  When you can’t garden–groom: No matter how basic or sophisticated your garden, if you simply groom the area, it’ll look so much better. It’s like the person who’s wearing a very humble outfit. If that person is nicely groomed (clean clothes, combed hair, etc.), that person can still look like a million bucks. Same goes for your garden.

And to those who’ve ever been frustrated over losing a plant–so basically everyone who’s ever tried to garden–this is my favourite quote from her:

“As soon as you kill a plant, you know it better.”

Marion will be speaking next at the Peterborough Garden Show on Sunday, April 13th. Her talk is on “Successful Summer Gardens”.

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