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Spring Forward Garden Makeover with my GardenSketch App

Spring Forward Garden Makeover with my GardenSketch App

Posted by on Apr 30, 2016 in Front Yard, Garden Design, Garden Sketch, Gardening Apps, Gardens, Inspiration |

I’ve wanted to the redo the garden bed right in front of the house for a while. When we originally designed it, I was trying to preserve some grass for the kids to play on, but as they are now into their teens, the space is now mine! The original bed was just not big enough for three tiers of plants, tall, medium and short and the plants there, were completely taking over. It was definitely time for a spring forward garden makeover with my GardenSketch App. I was also curious to see if the App was also good for this small scale project.

Our Sad Front Garden Before the Makeover

Our Sad Front Garden Before the Makeover

We rented a sod cutter to roll up the existing grass and repositioned the existing rock wall four feet forward. We filled it in with  a trailer of top soil from our local nursery and  I moved all my border plants to the new wall. These included my early spring favourites: Snowdrops, Crocuses, Grape Hyacinths. Our big patch of Irises was getting unwieldy and there weren’t very many buds for this year. We made the decision to split the existing patch into three to anchor points of early summer colour. We kept the stepping stones through the garden that provide access to the side of the house.

Spacious New Garden

With our skeleton in place, it was time to think about some plant selections. The house faces south and with our black front door we trap a lot of heat and create a highly localized micro-climate. It is definitely Full Sun. I’ve already had to move many plants to our much cooler backyard. My garden sensibility is ‘Country Cottage’ and I was really inspired by the recent Colour Issue of my Canadian Gardening  magazine and I decided to focus on working with plants of purple-blues, whites and yellow.

Inspiration Country Cottage in Shade of Yellow, White and Purple-Blue

Inspiration Country Cottage in Shade of Yellow, White and Purple-Blue

I placed an order with Botanus in Langley for a few perennials. A great local company, they operate an online mail order gardening business. You place your order for plants and bulbs and they ship things in time to plant. Botanus had a blue Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’) and I added a few Blue Sea Holly (Eryngium planum ‘Blue Hobbit’). My goal was also to  move around a few plants that I already had in my garden. Some of you may know that my Shasta Daisies are always amazing. I also had some under-appreciated Lilies of the Nile that I bought last year. I also decided to add in some Yellow Day Lilies by splitting a couple of existing plants—so there was lots of recycling going on.

Who Wouldn't Want Loads of Shasta Daisies in the Garden

Who Wouldn’t Want Loads of Shasta Daisies in the Garden?

Before I headed to the Nursery to pick up some the other plants I knew I would need (White Swan Echinacea, Foxgloves and Delphiniums), I wanted to plan the layout to estimate how many of each I would need.

This is where Garden Sketch came in handy. Rather than working with the whole yard space, I decided to just add a blank “Plan” and design just the one Garden. After you open Garden Sketch, if you’ve added a house shape before (or not!) You can slide to the ‘Plans’ tab at the top of the screen. If you tap the ‘+’ sign on the bottom, you will get a blank plan showing any house structure you’ve added. If you want to add to an existing plan, tap that plan select the ‘Copy’ Function. You can save the original and modify the new one.

It's easy to create new 'Plans' in Garden Sketch

It’s easy to create new ‘Plans’ in Garden Sketch

I measured the garden at various points and then worked to recreate the shape in the Garden Sketch App. By moving to the ‘Design’ tab at the top, I could used the little ‘Plant’ icons to layout the shape. Each square measured one foot.

Use the 'Plant' Icon to Trace a Shape

Use the ‘Plant’ Icon to Trace a Shape

I’ve found that using straight lines does not work really well for adding garden boundaries. If you want to move the garden you have to move each line. So instead of connecting my dots with straight lines, I use the ‘Area’ function in drawing section and connected the dots with a single line. You can pre-select the colour so this is also ideal for drawing ponds and water features.

Under 'Drawing' Select the 'Area' Shape Drawing Function

Under ‘Drawing’ Select the ‘Area’ Shape Drawing Function

Once your shape is complete, so you can move it out of the way and ‘Delete’ your place holder icons and move your garden bed wherever you want it.

Then Move Your Garden Shape out of the Way

Then Move Your Garden Shape out of the Way

With my garden shape in place I added the Irises that I had split and used to anchor the corners of the garden, using the smallest “Plant” icon in a lovely shade of purple.

Then with all the data I researched about each of my plant selections, I was able to approximate how much room they would need and come up with this layout. The goal was to have many layers of height, and add in some elements that would make the garden beautiful throughout the growing season.

Design with Plant Names

The good news is that going to the Nursery there really wasn’t much to buy: 7 delphiniums, 3 yellow daisies, 3 White Swan Echinaceas and 4 Yellow Foxgloves. Because it is still so early in the season I was able to buy the Blue Delphiniums but not the White. Nor did I find any Yellow Foxgloves. They will have to wait a few more weeks until temperatures warm up a bit.

Then I set out to dig up the various tranplants. I am not good role model for this kind of work. I believe if I dig something up, move it and it dies, it was just not meant to be. I know that there are optimal times of the year to do these things, but I’m not usually digging then. I just take my chances.

Root Ball of Transplanted Lily of the Nile

Root Ball of Transplanted Lily of the Nile

This is when all those pots you never recycle come in handy. I use them for all my transplanting and then to estimate how close together things can be planted.

Staging the Transplants and New Plants

Staging the Transplants and New Plants

With everything so well laid out and organized, DH and I were able to get things planted into the ground really quickly.

Everything well planted

Everything well planted

All in all, everything went smoothly. There were a lot of upside to having a plan. I was able to be efficient with my time and money. I did some plant purchasing online, allowing me some unusual choices which were delivered right to my door. I was able to work out what could be recycled from other parts of the garden and I prevented the impulse buys at the Nursery—“Oh, isn’t that pretty! I don’t know where I’ll put it but….” and only bought one plant not on my list: three Sapphire Corydalis. With the plants laid out, once we started to dig, we were really efficient and the whole job was done in an afternoon.

We often don’t think we have time to plan, but the opposite is true. We don’t have time not to plan and Garden Sketch was a big help.

What are your upcoming garden plans this year? Are you planning any makeovers?

Made with Garden Sketch


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Mapping your Yard to Plan Your Garden

Posted by on Jan 28, 2016 in Uncategorized |

After the work to grind stumps, level the yard, build the garden beds and lay the sod.  The yard looked very green and beautiful, but had actually reached its most intimidating state: the equivalent of a writer’s blank page or the painter facing the empty canvas.  What next?  What could I possibly fill this yard with?  It needed  an epic vision and I wasn’t sure if I was up for the job.

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Grape Updates

Posted by on Jul 14, 2015 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Gardens, Inspiration, West Coast |

Last year I launched a project to redesign our backyard.  We built a pergola and afterwards, I planted grapes on the corner posts as I documented in this blog post.  About fourteen months later I think it’s time for some grape updates.

Here’s how things looked when we last left you:

Baby Grape Pic

And here’s where we are today:

Grape Updates II


Grape Update


No grapes to date, but maybe next year!

We’ve moved the currants from the back fence and used them as a shield from the walk by traffic.  Ian cut out the sod and laid some beautiful stones, to which we’ve added some creeping thyme.  We’ve also added three smallish trees that provide wonderful perches for our resident bird populations.  We’ve had a very dry summer here, so our hanging baskets have suffered a bit.

So how about you?  Any summer backyard projects?

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Spring: Celebrate Life in the Garden

Spring: Celebrate Life in the Garden

Posted by on Apr 2, 2015 in Backyard, Flowers, Gardens, Inspiration, Spring, West Coast |

Spring has sprung. While much of the rest of Canada still digs out and thaws from its deep winter freeze, west coast gardens have busted through. We’ve sprinted through the early spring blooms with colourful rapidity, leaving cherry blossom petals as the only white stuff on the ground here. Our Crocuses were drawn from the early February mud by days of unusual sunshine that has also lured us outside to enjoy them. Tall Daffodils created their own helioclimes of warm yellow. Now Tulips and Bleeding Hearts paint away the brown of winter landscaping. It’s no surprise that many of these harbingers of spring grow from bulbs, planted long before. It’s the best time to celebrate life in the garden.

Cherry Blossoms

But when we planted those bulbs in the autumn, it was hard to know how things would turn out. Should we plant in blocks or patterns? Will they bloom this time? We dig and dream. The energy stored within these little bulbs provides the biological drive: a life force that defies our long dark winters and often bitter cold. We tidy up the stems a bit after they bloom, but the floppy leaves do most of the work to return nutrients to the bulbs for next year.


And they come back. Even though the winter garden appears razed to the ground, first a little leaf unfurls and before long a whole plant bursts into bloom; each according to its own rhythm, a symphony of colour played slowly over the spring and summer months.

Bleeding Hearts

So it is in spring that I am struck by the faith and wonder of gardening. It’s a faith in nature and the universe that after getting progressively darker every day for six months, everything turns and slowly and gradually, we see more light. To reward our faith, we are trothed the gift of colour.

Planter Colour

We also have the stick of a Rhododendron newly planted in our yard. Its parent lives on the Sumas prairie: a giant bush whose branches became so heavy, this one dropped to kiss the ground. Uncle Neil selected a few most likely to succeed for us. His plant in turn had come from the family property in New Westminster where they were all born and grew up in the teens and twenties of the last century. They lost the house in the Crash, but transplanted their home by way of Rhododendrons, Snowdrops and rhubarb when they moved. In our turn, we’ve also drawn from them, to help us make our homes. They have been part of our shared hope to make things better–but we also don’t forget how tough it can be.

Transplanted Rhododendron

Uncle Neil died in February.

We’ve lost his loving presence, his curiosity and deep knowledge of the people and world around him. But we’re grateful that he’ll live on in our gardens.


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