My garden year in review

2021 was a consolidating year in my garden with many new projects

1. The peony borders

More is better 

I am beginning my review the same way I did last year: My love for peonies grew much more again this Summer!

I started the Spring by enlarging (twice) 2 of the 3 existing peony borders located on the north of the entrance gardens. This was prompted by many new acquisitions of peony varieties bought at local Pivoinerie Martinus in late April and May and by the addition of 8 potted mature Itohs (intersectional hybrids) bought from a private collector as a Mother’s Day gift.

This was followed by a new large border in front of the dappled willows, in the continuity of the border previously called “the secret garden”. In all these projects, I used my own 2-4 year old compost, probably 150+ wheelbarrow loads of it. 

The peony flowering season was exceptional, although slightly shortened by the warm Spring. The tree peonies planted 2 years ago produced a few ahhmazing flowers. The first peony border, designed in 2018, was in full bloom and allowed me to craft many outstanding arrangements, although I was more tempted to admire the blooms in the garden instead. I even realized a short video about my peony garden for the YouTube channel of gardening friend Linda Vater.

Joining a local society

I joined the Société québécoise de la pivoine and attended their annual show at Parc Marie-Victorin in Kingsey Falls (2 hours East of Montréal), which was a fantastic way to get up close to hundreds of varieties and hybrids, learn their name and get to know the trends. Definitely a must for any peony lover but dangerous for the wanna be obsessed collector. I look forward to attend many more activities in the future! 

Visiting nurseries & ordering peonies 

In the late Summer, I dragged hubby to two specialty nurseries, Les Vivaces du Merle Bleu (1 hour west of Québec City) and Les Jardins Osiris where I was again enticed to buy a few more varieties. Came early Fall, I received the bare roots I had ordered online many months before, from my hometown friend Kate-Lynn at En Fleurs. All these were easy to plant in the border already prepared, where annuals and dahlias had happily filled the space during the Summer. 

Adding lilies and irises as peony companions

Do you know Orienpet lilies? These hybrids are crosses between Oriental and trumpet lilies. I included a few from Ferme Les Champs Fleuris for the peony borders … and I fell in love with their big blooms and strong fragrance like this Orienpet ‘Tabledance’ … a promise for bigger flowers in 2022. I also added a few more Siberian irises and 2 outstanding new Japanese irises, all of which I’m hoping for successful blooms to come. 

Down a tree, for a good cause! 

Finally,  I had to take down a large dead fir tree at the edge of the property, behind the peony borders _ another opportunity to use my chainsaw! This suddenly opened some new “garden real estate”, close to the shrub border and next to the lilacs, where my daughter and I had planted hundreds of sunflowers for the last few years. All this space was then converted into a long and large peony border, just in time for the last bare roots from En Fleurs and Pivoinerie Martinus.

Looking ahead to a peony collection

My peony collection now consists of 125 cultivars, plus many unnamed “heirloom” from years past. I cross my fingers that all plants will survive through the very cold winter we’re experiencing. 

I cannot wait for Spring to see how many of the peonies will start blooming, as it takes up to 2 years for a newly planted peony to produce flowers. I dream about other fabulous arrangements to come. And I’m already looking at peony catalogs to decide which of these will be part of my growing collection, although this will imply opening at least one new border … or maybe two!!! 


2. The secret garden of annuals

For a few years, a “secret border” behind the dapple willows has provided cut flowers for my daily arrangements: zinnias, cosmos, asters and amaranths, all started outdoor from seeds in early May. After a necessary pruning job on the willows, the border was enlarged deep around them and is now adjoining the peony borders. Not as secret anymore! But still providing plenty of blooms for arrangements!

3. The dahlia borders

After a much successful storing of the 2020 tubers in vermiculite,  350 dahlias found their way into the garden in 2021, mostly in the two large borders dedicated to these mid to late Summer lovelies. Consequently I bought only 4 new varieties, even if some cherished ones did not come back. Their extraordinary flowering season during this very hot Summer was extended to late October, providing tons of blooms for many arrangements, shared again on Instagram

My constant battle with Japanese beetles invading the dahlias (and some perennials and bonsai trees) is a non-ending one but I tried spraying the lawn with nematodes in the Spring and decided not to use the pheromone traps. The success to control the beetles at the grub stage was mitigated.

3. The woody borders

The rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas planted a few years ago finally matured enough to bloom. Combined with the hostas, astilbes and foxgloves, they now provide a nice transition to the forested patch in the background.

4. The shade garden

The shade garden under the mature maple trees on the south side of the entrance garden was unfortunately neglected last year.

A very tall spruce had unfortunately fell over the garden last Fall, which prompted me to a few weeks of clearing branches and logs in early Spring. A glimpse of this garden in June was included in the YouTube Tour.

One 100 year-old cankered maple was also taken down in June because it was becoming treacherous more and more to be under it.

As a result, these borders are getting more sun than before and the garden will have to evolve differently next Summer.

Big project in perspective!

This winter is one of the coldest. Fortunately there is enough snow on the ground to protect the plants.

I cannot wait for the Spring to resume my gardening activities!

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