Common Ground Landscape Design
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Garden Journal

Podcamp Boston

Hi everyone

I am at this very moment sitting in the truck (as a passenger) in the state of New York, as we travel east on HWY 90 to Podcamp Boston, and I am so excited. This is my first vacation in 7 months and I am so due for some R&R. So we, Gary my PDA and I are off to Boston for the weekend, to Martha's Vineyard for All Hallows Eve and then to the Big Apple for some Urban exploration of intense popultion density and
supremely awesome cultural phenomenon. Damn I like the way that sounded!

Can you tell I am excited? We have so may fun activities planned, including a visit with a friend in New York who I haven't seen in close to a decade! He is taking Gary and I
for a bike ride around the Island of Manhatten.The Fall colours of New York State

I have to interrupt myself to tell you how beautiful the
Adirondack Mountains are right now. Rocks are
jutting out from the side of the highway, which Gary identified as ancient river bottom. The deciduous trees are at their peak, in amazing shades of red yellow and orange. The sun is shining, and it is officailly a good day to be above ground. We just drove around a corner and noticed that the next range of mountains are twice the size of the ones that we are presently
driving through, and are mysteriously covered in fog. Yes folks I am in The United States of America, and will be reporting my adventures as I travel along. I Hope that you are having fun too, what ever you are up to. Hey, I heard that we had our first killing frost of the season in Toronto. The gardening season is almost over!

Be well



PS please use your imagination liberally as I can't figure out how to down load these amazing photographs on my new lap top.

Curb Appeal

A few weeks ago we were working in a garden in North York, when I got a call from one of my customers in Vaughn/Thornhill. She told me excitedly that when she came home the other day there was a sign in her garden. It seems that the City of Vaugh thought her garden had curb appeal! How nice is that? and, I really like this garden that we created. There were some trees already here (the upright Beech tree and the Globe Blue Spruce Standard) when we came on the scene to spice things up, and I think that we definitely enlivened this front garden.

The neighbours across the street told me happily, that they really think that the garden was made for them, because it's what they see everyday when they come and go.

Compliments are so very lovely aren't they? sigh. All of this acknowledgement just totally made my day!

curb appeal award

curb appeal award

 The happy home owner

the front garden

In the midst of a clean up 

nice garden!

the side view


Today would be a great day to tell someone you appreciate, how much their hard work matters to you.

Go on.


Signing off.




Animals With a Sense of Humour

At some point in our gardening lives, we all have a story to tell about problems with animals. Even if it is just one incident, like a raccoon using your fence as a ladder to get to another backyard and rips your beloved Clematis off of the fence and half way out of the ground. Or they just lie down on your Lobelia and flatten it with no chance for it to repair for the rest of the season leaving a big strange looking hole.

Well for one of my customers in Toronto, Karen was having some unsanitary problems with Raccoons using her back yard as the place that they (ahem) go. So, after reading about the different possibilities on the net, she decided to put cayenne and chili pepper all over the back yard.

With 2 young girls to look after she accidentally left the package of chili pepper on the step and went to attend to other things. The next day she came outside to complete her task and found this.


Raccoon poo


She is convinced they are sending her a message, loud and clear! But even with all of the laughter that has unsued, she is still not so sure what to do. Clearly this method is just not striking fear into the minds and olfactory glands of the Racoons!


Shades of red

green beef steak tomatoes
I love tomatoes. I don't think I said that with enough conviction. I REALLY REALLY LOVE TOMATOES! In my garden I have 12 different varieties, 3 of which I grew from seed, and I am very proud of them. Beefstake, Red Current and Red Pear.

There is nothing like the feeling of eating a tomato that you started from seed. The sensual feeling of holding it in my hand to see if it is near ripening.The feeling of the vine rubbing up against my arm and the unique smell of Tomato foliage wafting up to my nose. Watching them daily
to see how they are reddening up and getting ready to be plucked. The sound that I make when I gently twist the tomato to separate it from the vine. Or the shearing sound of scissors as I cut through the stem to free the fruit. cherry tomatoes

This week I made the most delicious salad, and besides the blue cheese and the aged Balsamic vinegar, it was all from the garden and highly orgasmic.

3 huge beef steak tomatoes

1/2 of a small vidalia onion

a handful of Basil leaves chopped finely and thrown in

2-3 table spoons of Aged Balsamic vinegar. oddly enough the older balsamic vinegar gets, the sweeter it becomes. Pusateri's in Toronto has such a great selection that is almost fairly priced.

And finally as much blue cheese as you can handle in one sitting. I prefer the Danish Blue, it's much milder than other blue cheeses. This salad is also divine with goat cheese.

a pinch of sea salt and fresh pepper to taste.

blankets protecting garden from frost
The other night the temperature dipped down to 4 degrees and I had to cover the entire garden with what ever I could find to cover the garden with. Sheets, blankets, raincoats, tarps and towels. It looked pretty hilarious. Be forwarned about any temperature that hovers around 4-5 degrees. I find that it's better to be safe than sorry, and I would have been devastated if by some fluke the temperatures dipped to freezing. Already my garden is hurting from a distinct lack of sunshine. Now that the sun is lower in the sky it hides behind all of the huge Maples around my property. The one benefit is that everything is ripening more slowly. I can pick a tomato every other day and not be unindated with tomatoes coming ripe all at the same time. I also have greeen and yellow bush beans, red and vidalia onions, a variety of garlic called Music, Zuccini,veggies from my garden cucumbers, butternut acorn and kombucha squash, Tomatillos, basil, rosemary, parsley, red and green peppers, hot peppers, watermelon that made lovely foliage, but no fruit, potatoes and nasturiums.

Today I had such a delicious sandwich. It was on homemade bread, with Renees Greek salad dressing, Black Krim tomatoes and turkey bacon. hhhhmmm.

What are you eating from your garden?

squash flower















ripe tomatoes on the window sill

Missing Mycological Magic

About 2 years ago when I moved into my little spot of Heaven, it was around this time of year. I had been working so much that I hadn't really had the time to walk about and get to know the forest around me. I was out for all of 3 minutes when I came across a gold mine of Puffball mush rooms. It looked like little moons on the surface of Earth. I went wild with excitement, and with no exaggeration there were about 20 of them. The biggest one was bigger than a basket ball. Check out the photo below.

Natalie with a huge puffball


A fter about 2 weeks of eating puffballs I had severe mycological overload and started to give them away to friends and family. Most people had never heard of Puffball mushrooms before and their reactions were priceless. By the time we found her royal highness up above I gave it to Natalie to cook for the folks at her co-op. She is an alchemist in the kitchen and created A stuffed mushroom. She hollowed it out and made stuffing with the insides and filled the cavity with the stuffing and baked it. I'll see if I can get the recipe from her.

The way to gather Puffballs is to cut them from the ground with a knife and leave the root in the ground. I went out the other day to see if there were any around and with the lack of rain I am guessing that there just isn't enough moisture for them to "puff" out.

This really has been one of the dryest summers I have ever experienced, and I am feeling for all of those trees downtown who have to fight lack of water, pollution, and the heat of concrete mass all around them.

This Saturday night I am going to a solstice gathering and I know that in our drumming circle we are going to be asking for the Fall rains to come. We need it.

On a final note last year I was hiking near Singhampton, Ontario when I came across these two varieties of mushrooms. Does any one know which varieties they are? and if they are edible?

unknown mushroom variety












unknown mushroom variety




Seasons of My Gardens

 Most of my customers have no idea that I regard their gardens as my gardens. Their gardens become like my children. Are they ill? Are they get enough sun light? Have the Aphids dissappeared? After 9 years, I have many children. I create them from nothing, and I believe that being a woman comes with a feeling of creation as part of my calling. You have no idea how lucky I feel that I have figured out and actively live my dreams. When you find your calling and have that big huge question of "what am I going to be when I grow up?" all tucked away, it makes everything else secondary. Boyfriends can come and go and the world changes around me, but the one thing that reamains true is my love for gardening. That never fails. I will never stop feeling completely mesmerized by the deepest center of any flower, or swinging in my hammock listening to forest sounds with my eyes closed. On this very deep and philosophical note I am going to leave you with some of my favorite photographs of the summer of 2007.

Bear pointing

Bear pointing

Marilee in the dumpster

Marilee hanging out in the dumpster

The crew building a waterfall

The construction crew building a waterfall

Bear Excavating

Bringing in some huge rocks

Me struggling with a grapevine

Things were getting a little over grown back here

natalie planting

Natalie planting in a tiny front garden

cercis canadensis

A lovely specimen of Cersis Canadensis

bunny in the potato vine

Those adorable bunnies in North York

monarch on a liatris blossom

Monarch on a Liatris blossom near the Distillery district

Emma and Alex

Emma and Alex posing in the tall grasses

magenta daylillies and monarda

Just a random magenta exploding garden in Orillia

richard in his garden

Richard in his garden.

the guys in the fountain drinking beer

The fountain almost completed, beer in hand

the front garden

Boxwoods, Gold Standard hostas, Chelone, Golden Mock orange

a weeping purple fountain Beech, and Virginia creeper creeping over the fence


There are 4,000 other photos that I could include, but that is just a taste of what we have been up to.

What have you been up to in your garden?









The Smallest Garden

the plunging pool
What sort of garden do you design when you have a space of 5x5? That was our challenge in this tiny little pocket garden in downtown Toronto. The house is built in an alley way allotment and the entire back yard is 20X5. The largest challenge was bringing all of the materials, soil, pea stone plants and rocks through the house to the backyard with out dropping anything, or making an enormous mess.










the little garden

In that limited but packed space there is a sleeping "pad" which is behind me, from where I am taking the photo. A small gas fire place which is next to me from where I am taking the photo. A dunking pool, which you can see in front of me in this photo. And just beyond, is a very tiny little garden. The house is so beautifully and logically designed. Because the house is so rectalinear,








through the window

we decided to make the garden more Zen like, sort of foresty and a bit wild, and I think that we were all very pleased with the results. The customer says he loves to sit in his tub (the one on the inside) and look out onto his garden. I really wanted to see his vantage point. So, the other day, when I was there planting in the front garden. I got into the tub and sat down, and you know what? it really was very so  lovely and soothing. 





Scented Hostas

As I run out the door, I wanted to take 8 1/2 quick minutes to show off this gorgeous Hosta I saw the other day. What is so amazing about it? The blossoms are scented and they smell so *&%$#ing great, I can't get enough flowering hostaof the fragrance. So go and see/smell them. If you happen to be down town in the Annex, the Hostas in the photograph are on Howland Ave. just north of Bloor and south of Barton, between Bathurst and Spadina. For those of you not in the area (or continent) and happen to notice this Hosta, which is either Honey Bells or Royal Standard.

Dive in!

Have a great Labour Day weekend and drive safe.

For those of you heading back to school GOOD LUCK THIS YEAR!



hosta blossom












Me smelling the Hosta

It's Volunteer Time!

Well it's that time of year, where I cannot deny the sun is setting earlier in the sky. ....sigh...Already a few evenings this month have been down right chilly.

Link to more Lunar Eclipse Photos

Two nights ago I got up in the middle of the night to see aNot so close up of Eclipse lunar eclipse. It was amazing, mysterious and down right cold. But with the sun appearing behind me over the corn fields, and the moon dissapearing in shades of red in front of me, It kept me pretty warm with the feelings of nature all around me. It was pretty spectacular.


Sunrise, not quite!


This time of year also marks another milestone in the season, where the Common Ground Crew helps some one out, by creating for them a landscaping job at the cost price. Labour and materials are all that would be paid. We do this once a year out of gratitude and for a great season of creativity and abundance. So, if you know of any one in need of some garden love in the Toronto area, please have them contact me through this site.the crew working Maybe it's someone you know who is elderly, or has other physical challenges. Or perhaps a bunch of renters, whose landlord is too thrifty to do anything with the jungle in the back yard and there is no common area for being able to just sit out side. Please have them contact me by October 10th 2007.

Speaking of challenging gardens. I don't know if any of you are following the story of Gayla Trail and her little urban plot? It seems to be, not only the garbage can of her neighbourhood, but the toilet as well. It would be hilarious if it wasn't so tragic. Check it out.


I am not sure if I want to sign off with: enjoy the slow changes in the season at this time of year, or enjoy the summer for as long as you can, Yahoo!

I like both. Take care.



Good Bye Dillon!

For a few weeks this summer I had the Dillon at the nurserypleasure of working with a young man named Dillon Thring. He is full of life, terribly handsome and can swing in a tree like no body's business. Today was his last day with Common Ground, so, we had an outing (and an obscene amount of Pizza). For all of his tough exterior, he fell in love with those bunnies even more than I did. (Check out my last Blog) (I can't be certain, but I think he even said that they were precious!) So, in honour of the sweet and sensitive male that lurks within, today I took the whole planting crew to the Humber Nurseries butterfly conservatory in Brampton.


Here we all are at the entrance, about to be "entranced" by these amazing butterflies, and the enormous selection of flora.


The Crew at Humber Nurseries















We carefully stepped inside, and it was like visiting a hot tropical free floating paradise. Butterflies were everywhere. Monarch Butterfly on an Echinacea flower











We were all filled with delight as we picked our favorites and hoped they would land on us. For a few seconds a huge moth landed on my left and yellow butterfly














I was quite taken with the moth's wing patterns. It was difficult to photograph them in flight, but when they flew, the inside of theirmoth wing patterns wings was the lovliest shade of electric blue.













It felt as if the Monarchs were dripping off of every flower.

Monarch on Asclepia blossom

















After the Buttlerfly conservatory we wondered around the rest of the Nursery and loved every minute of it (although not the heat)Emma with Calla lily blossom












This is Emma displaying my favorite flower of the day. The Calla Lily or Arum Lily is so damn exotic. There is such a purity in all of the folds of whiteness in this fleshy flower, that I cannot get enough of. In the tropical house Mathew was a little taken with the flesh eating plants and ended up buying a Venus fly trap, but not before having a little taste of this Pitcher plant.Mathew kissing a Pitcher Plant











In the pond section we found a variety of perennial Rose of Sharon that likes to be submerged in water. As you can see they are huge, thanks to the up close and personal shot of Alex snorking the flower. Alex smelling a rose of sharon blossom












Walter was feeling frisky today, and being very funny, I think he is pretending to be a wild lion in the African savannas. Very convincing.

walter the lion


















Later that day we were all going to install some Hens and Chicks or Semperivivum. The selection is definitely the best at Humber.Hens and chicks










It was pretty amazing field trip. beth alex and emma










But eventually we had to go back to work. Back to work

Thanks for a great day guys. Good Luck Dillon!