Natural Garden News from Grounded – May 25

Inside this edition of Natural Garden News

  • That awkward age
  • Do native plant gardens have to be messy?
  • Getting started with native plant gardening in Haliburton
  • Where to meet Rufus (and Simon, if you must)
  • Today’s recommended reading
  • Today’s VIP (Very Important Plant)
  • Notes from the garden at Lucas House
  • From the socials

I hope you enjoy the newsletter! If you have any questions or feedback, please reply to this email.

Simon Payn


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That awkward age

Our garden at Lucas House, as you’ll see at the bottom of this newsletter, is in its teenage years. As it enters its second year, it doesn’t have the cheek-squeezing cuteness of a baby and it’s not yet a strapping adult.

You’ve likely heard this phrase: sleep, creep, leap. In the first year, it looks like plants are sleeping (while in reality they’re putting down roots), in the second year they start to get going above ground, and in the third they grow into their full potential.

This is a rough guide, and if you want me to go on and on…and on… about the difference between ruderal plants and other types of plants, come see me at the Home Show next weekend. I like to talk about it. But in short: while sleep, creep, leap is good shorthand, the reality depends on the nature of the plant.

Lucas House has some species that flourish early (they’re the ruderals). Black-eyed Susan is one of them. They grow quickly, produce flowers and set seed. Then they die, usually in a couple of years. That’s why you saw so much yellow there last year (and why most new gardens I make have a lot of yellow at the start.)

Some of the Susans are back, but the garden is now turning its attention to the longer-lived species. For example, the Swamp Milkweeds are five times the height they were this time last year.

But nothing yet is at its full potential. The ground isn’t quite filled in – there will still likely be gaps where you see soil and mulch (and a target for weeds).

We’re taught that gardens are an instant thing (thanks, HGTV) but the reality is, nature isn’t instant. It’s dynamic. The garden last year isn’t the garden this year and it won’t be the garden next year either.

The question is: can we live with that? Can we enjoy that? Can we get pleasure from working with nature, allowing nature to fulfill its potential, in its own time and in its own way?

Or are we going to try and force nature into a human-made box?


P.S. I will have native plants for sale at the Haliburton Home & Cottage Show next weekend. Visit this link for show opening times.

Do native plant gardens have to be messy?

Native plant gardens are messy. That’s the number one claim that people such as myself face. But are natural landscapes really an unruly tangle? Read more.

Getting started with native plant gardening in Haliburton

In case you missed it, here’s the advertorial about Grounded inside The Highlander newspaper. Read more.

Where to meet Rufus (and Simon, if you must)

Gallery celebration at Lucas House

Our friends at Corner Galley in Lucas House are having a season opening celebration on Saturday (err, that’s today) from 2-4. I’ll be there, and happy to talk art…or plants…or art…or plants. Read more about the gallery here.

Grounded at the Home and Cottage Show

We’ll be at this show, on May 31-June 2, selling native plants and talking natural gardens. Read more about the show here.

Today’s recommended reading

No to No Mow May: There’s a growing understanding that while No Mow May works in Europe, it’s not so great an idea in Canada. Read this article to find out why and what you can do instead. (Spoiler alert: grow native plants.) Read more.

Green thumbs up from the WWF: The nature organization has got with the program, realizing that native plants are good for biodiversity, especially on our nature-impoverished cities. Read more.

Plants, plants, plants: Want some pictorial inspiration? Here’s the garden of Dr. Jared Barnes right now. Don’t feel bad if yours isn’t as blossoming as his – he’s in Texas. Read more.

How lawns are getting smaller: Our friends south of the border are replacing (mostly) lawns with plants suitable for all sorts of climate. Nice pictures to gaze at here! Read more.

Get the free guide

I’ve updated my guide to natural gardens in Haliburton County and surrounding areas.

Now booking garden and shoreline installs

If you’d like me to come and look at your garden or shoreline, please fill out the inquiry form.

Today’s VIP (Very Important Plant)

If you’re following Grounded on Facebook or Instagram (if not, click on the links to follow!), you’ll have seen I’ve been posting information about native plants. I’ve spent a bunch of time putting together these information “cards”, which you can also see on my website here.

Today let’s look at Canada Plum

  • Common Name: Canada Plum
  • Scientific Name: Prunus nigra
  • Layer: Groundcover, Vignette, Structure
  • Light Conditions: Sun, Part-sun, Shade
  • Soil Conditions: Dry, Moist-drained, Moist
  • Bloom Colour: White
  • Season of Interest: Spring
  • Suitable for: Lawn replacement, Shoreline

Notes from the garden at Lucas House

The garden celebrated its first birthday last week. A year ago, I had 1,200 plants delivered. In the ground they went, with the help of a couple of friends. The rest of the garden, for a total of 2,000 plants, was installed in the fall.

Here’s an update of where it’s at. And where I’m at in relation to it.

  • The garden is clearly in “creep” phase. A lot of the plants are bigger at this time of year compared to May 2023, but they’re still not huge.
  • Some plants are doing very well. The Swamp Milkweed at the south side of the building, near the downspout, seem to be growing an inch a day. When I planted them they were the tiniest shoots.
  • The Pearly Everlasting, which I planted in fall, is doing well. As is the Slender Mountain Mint, which came as just seedlings this time last year and could not be planted until the summer.
  • Most of the Black-Eyed Susans are coming back. This plant is usually considered a biennial. The Joe Pye Weeds are coming back, slowly. The Heart-leaved Asters are doing well.
  • I’m delighted to say the Little Bluestem, which a critical part of the groundcover layer, is coming back very well. Already greening up and getting big. When I got these plants this time last year, they were barely above ground. (As are the ones I am selling in the Chicken Run. Have faith!)
  • The Wild Columbine is maybe struggling, but I also know from my experience at home it’s slow to establish.
  • The Lance-leaf Coreopsis, to my surprise, did not survive the winter for the most part. I wondered why this tough plant didn’t do well, then a friend pointed out it was near the sidewalk and probably got poisoned by salt over winter. I think she’s right – a lesson learned when it comes to siting plants.
  • The shadier, north side of the garden is looking good: the Nodding Onion, Pearly Everlasting and Prairie Smoke are doing well, as are some of the grasses, especially the cool-season species. I’m not sure about the Sideoats Gramma, however. I will give that few more weeks as it’s a warm-season grass.
  • Overall, I am pleased. But I’m also frustrated. I’m trying to fight my desire to have the garden looking wonderfully complete. This teenage stage is an awkward place to be. I know it will look great when it matures, but it’s not there yet. Another month – and then this time next year – it will look different.
  • To help it along, I am going to do something with the curved path on the north side – either add woodchips or gravel. It will make the garden look more finished – paths such as this are “cues to care” which help everything look intentional.
  • I’ve also decided this will be last year I use woodchip. It’s forest mulch in the garden’s first year for me from now on. It looks better and is probably better for the garden too. I only use mulch in the first year, and only when weed pressure is likely to be significant.

So that’s the update! The next month will be telling, so I will check back soon.


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From the socials

We were in New Zealand last time. Now we’re in Australia. (Don’t say I never take you places.)

What I like about this picture is that it’s taken from inside the house. The garden looks like an artwork, framed by the windows.

But it’s also kind of natural. Yes, it’s a planted garden, but it looks like nature putting on its best face.

(And yes, it’s coming up to winter Downunder, hence the bronzed grasses.)

Rufus says please don’t bother me right now I have important work to do

Soil testing requires concentration.

Thank you for reading!