Creating beautiful green (Originally Published in New Dreamhomes and Condominiums Magazine)

Helen Mills, vice-president of Green Gardeners, says that when you are inside at night and you hear a rustling outside, you may think it is the leaves in the wind. It is not the leaves, actually it is an earthworm and they are helping to decompose the leaves to help create the garden of your dreams.

“The ideal thing for leaves would be to let them decompose if you have a lawn,” Mills says. “This turns them into a beautiful mulch that is good for the lawn. You know your garden is trying to get there. If you copy nature as much as possible then you would have a much easier garden to get there.”

Mills helps homeowners create their gardens. Many times she will go into a home and see what is going on with their garden space. She believes in following nature and got this idea from the Natural Garden Book.

She advises that homeowners do nothing with their gardens during the first year they live there. That way they can discover where is the shade to sit in for warmer weather. They can also find out where the sun beams for cooler weather.

“I work with the client to find out what are their needs, their dreams their lifestyle,” says Mills. “Then you work with the space, so if there is a place with water, then use that place for water.”

Mills also recommends the use of plants in a garden that are native to the area.

“In Toronto there are some native plants that are almost extinct like the Oak Savannah ecosystem and it is in High Park and the Beaches. If you live in those areas you can grow a beautiful native garden.”

She says you can preserve biodiversity not just by growing native plants, but heritage plants too. You can save yourself some food miles as well. Even a little container saves in culture crops. There is more information on growing from seeds at Green Gardeners shares information about what they do with their clients.

“We do a lot of education as well,” says Mills. “We also go in for a quick visit and work up a little action plan. We do a lot of work. We actually put the garden together as well. We grew out of a north Toronto visit. It was a real barrier that some people did not have a lot of help and we started Green Gardeners out of that need.”

A big recommendation Mills has for homeowners who want to start or improve their garden is to use mulch.

“It’s a great way to control weeds. Smothering the lawn with newspaper and then covering it with mulch saves tons of water and backbreaking work. The mulch breaks down and goes into the soil. This helps to replenish the nutrients in the soil.”

Claire Suo-Cockerton, director of Aesthetic Earthworks agrees with using mulch to start or improve your garden too. As an organic garden care company, Suo-Cockerton says they try to produce sustainable products.

“We recommend using ground cover and natural stone covers with sustainable cover techniques. Mulching with shredded pine is an excellent way of protecting the microorganisms in the soil. It deters weeds and pests. A great garden starts with good soil amendment. Not contaminated or chemicals or foreign substances. Bringing in rich soil. We would recommend, getting rid of your grass. It is one of the hardest aspects of landscape to maintain and tends to need mowing, fertilizing and weeding. It is the cause of so many herbicides and pesticides that run into our lake.”

Suo-Cockerton also recommends using local providers that preferably grow organically. There are many native plant sources available at all sorts of major nurseries.

“You need to consider how it will look like in the winter time, the summer and the fall. It is good to have your vertical growing, and wispy shapes in grasses. I think a good garden reflects the spirit of the house and the functionality of the space. Under planting should be complimentary and not compete and be able to survive among the magnificent root systems of these trees.”

Aesthetic EarthWorks began as a one-woman show. They are about 16 people now. They do landscaping and stonemasons and organic garden care.

“We maintain gardens people build,” says Suo-Cockerton. “We do above-ground gardening for urns and plant urns and this is important in urban environments where people do not have access to soil. We have an exhibit at Canada Blooms, ‘Literally Green’ an example of a balcony gardening.”

Aesthetic EarthWorks will also be at the Green Living Show, Fall Home Show and The Sustainable Building Show. Suo-Cockerton also says they are an affordable company.

“We work with a variety of budgets and we’re not a 50-grand plus type of budget. We welcome all sorts of budgetary challenges. We do not limit to a specific income bracket.”


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