Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

The results of the Rewilding garden session

Early Saturday morning, I got up early to make it up to Pepinière Jasmin– where you can always find some native/indigenous plants, even at the end of the planting season. One of the native plant suppliers was Aiglon Indigo.

I got the following plants for the garden and the walls of my house:

Pulmonaria saccharata “Mrs. Moon”common name: Bethlehem Sage. I had one of these in a planter; it needs to be in the ground or else the freeze will kill it.

Trichophorum alpinum – Alpine bulrush, a sedge grass, for a small cement planter for the bright and sometimes-dry front of the house. It will never grow to this height in the planter as the roots are too shallow. However, I’m starting it in the planter anyway, and then finding a place for it.

Tiarella cordifolia – Foam Flower takes full shade and does not grow too high, and will spread 1-2 feet. I got two to fill a corner in my back yard, where precious else will grow, as tree roots interfere.

Aralia racemosa – American Spikenard. I got this is for a lark, as the plant is teeny tiny right now, and in dormancy. But it could end up towering 5 feet, and if it likes my backyard, it will also spread five feet. If it thrives, I have a second location to transplant it to.

Mitchella repens – Partridge berry. I have such high hopes for this tiny little vine. I bought 8 of them, and as they like acid soil, they’ve been planted behind my pond under the cedar, where almost everything goes to die. I’ve amended the soil with a bag of forest compost and a bag of earth; I also planted an additional two ferns there (two existing ferns struggle, but survive).

Parthenocissus tricuspidata “Veitchii” – Boston ivy – not native, and not from Boston! Its leaves spreads row upon row, filling out a wall nicely, and I have some already growing on the back wall adjacent to the climbing hydrangea. I bought it because I want to replace the Virginia Creeper, which grows in ropes that tend to detach from walls, on the part of the garage that faces the sun. There’s ample room – like 10m2 – for it to spread. But I can’t plant it yet because I would have to tear down the Virginia Creeper just before it gets to the best part: the brilliant crimson it makes in fall.

The Virginia creeper adorning my home has been here for 6 years. It’s ropey all the way to the top of the eavestrough. I trimmed it a lot the past year to stop its spread across the house and the soffits, but spread is what Virginia creeper does. This makes it great to start out a green wall, especially if you are willing to “tutor” it across a large expanse of wall. But if you don’t, when it gets heavy, it will detach and hang. It also sends out shoots, and will grow all over anything it can reach. I’m going to have a hard time digging it out this fall (updated to add: not so bad)! So I decided to replace it with…

Hydrangea anom. petiolaris – Climbing hydrangea. Not native. This flowering vine grows upward more so than outward, and it looks like it will create boughs that support birds as well as its own flowers. It’s a slower grower than Virginia Creeper and Boston Ivy, and it clings well. It should nicely fill in the rough brickwork of the front of my home, without any overgrowth effects.

Someone I met at a plant swap gave me given sixMatteaucia struthiopteris, known as ostrich fern, fiddlehead fern, or shuttlecock fern. I had two of these, not-dying, as mentioned above, and now there are four. The other four are along my fence in a mostly-shady spot now.

We removed an impressive amount of biomass to plant the above natives in the backyard, in the form of the highly invasive Impatiens glandulifera – Policeman’s Bonnet (Himalayan Balsam). The Policeman’s Bonnet is a gorgeous flower, and it hurt a tiny bit to take it away, because the bumblebees loved it so much. I could often see up to 5 bees at a time visiting the flowers. However, exactly like a bunch of volunteer squash plants had done the year before, it crowded out all the native plants I had planted. Bloodroot, Robertson’s Geranium, and several others I had planted: all gone. At least the Creeping Jenny and the hostas and a little apple tree survived the onslaught.

The backyard is back to looking bare again, but with a lot of watering and top-dressing, it should have another 3 – 4 weeks of growth before going dormant for the winter. I bought a seeping hose (a good, but tardy idea) to connect to my water barrel so that the perimeter of my garden should have water whenever I open the spigot. Doing so during a rain shower will send more water to the garden when the barrel would otherwise overflow to the drain.

Then we (my guest and I) had a backyard barbecue, listening to the choir sing in the Oliver Jones tribute taking place at that time on the neighbouring Workman Street. It had been a six-hour day of work for me, so I followed that with a much-needed nap.

Also published on Medium.


  1. Great Post. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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