Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Return Visit to Grange Hollow Nursery

Missed Grange Hollow Nursery Part 1? Go back and read it here.

It's late summer at Grange Hollow Nursery just south of Owen Sound, Ontario. Nursery owner Katherine Taylor sets the scene for us:

"As autumn approaches, the perennial gardens are shifting to fall colours. Seeds are beginning to ripen - for collection by both the birds (for food) and by us (to grow next season’s stock). The grass garden is reaching its full glory - hundreds of towering spikes topped with feather blooms wavering in the breeze." 

"The vegetable garden is bountiful and we’re struggling to keep up with canning and freezing, while savouring the last of the fresh produce. The final waves of migrating butterflies are passing through and wee first-year frogs have dispersed from their ponds seeking refuge for the winter."

"It’s a different hustle and bustle from the springtime, but not less active. Business is winding down at the greenhouse, but fall cleaning, potting, and planning are ramping up until the first blanketing of snow when we can take a breath and relax."

At the heart of the Grange Hollow is the old brick farmhouse. Adjacent to the house, the is a long vegetable garden and a butterfly garden that we are about to see. In this post we'll also visit the shade garden, with its rustic arbor and pond, that sits in the shadow of the smaller of two barns.

An overhead view of the property.

The layout of the nursery in closeup.

The vegetable garden.

Katherine describes her vegetable and butterfly gardens:

"The vegetable garden was the first garden we built using this farm’s most prolific crop - limestone. We filled it with composted manure from our cattle and chickens (Note: we no longer have livestock)." 

"The butterfly garden and vegetable garden blend together in late summer as the tall perennials mature, obscuring the rock walls built by my husband in the exuberance of youth. The self-seeding Heliopsis, Echinacea and Malva contribute to the profuse wild look."

Malva on the rock wall that Katherine's husband built.

A mix of flowers and vegetables.

"This is an amaranthus variety named "Velvet Curtains." It has darker blooms and leaves, and a more upright habit than Love-lies-bleeding. It is a great filler in cut-flower bouquets, but really we grow it because Mom likes it, " says Katherine's daughter, Sarah, who works alongside her mother at the nursery.

Butterfly weed

Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa  has clusters of orange and gold flowers mid-summer. This is a native North American wildflower and is the principal source of food for the both the adult and juvenile Monarch Butterfly. Butterfly weed likes dry conditions and well-drained, sandy soil. Full sun. Height:60-90 cm (23-35 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm(18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

A Zinnia flower in full glory.

The vegetable garden.

"In the vegetable garden, we grow just about everything: asparagus, rhubarb, lettuce, chard, radishes, kale, beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, cabbage, peppers, beans (bush and runner), sugar-snap peas, cucumbers, cantaloupe, squash of all kinds, garlic (which we sell) and of course lots of heirloom tomatoes," says Katherine.

"We also like to try something different every year, like sweet potatoes, popcorn, edamame or okra - not always with success! This year’s experiment: cucamelons. I like to have flowers among my vegetable plants to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects, and also because it looks pretty! "

Another of the Zinnia flowers.

Sarah Taylor says, "This plant is an artichoke relative named Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus). Its stalks are an edible delicacy if you are inclined (we are not). It is borderline hardy here, but has overwintered for close to 10 years now. Great for pollinators and just generally cool-looking."

Borage, a prolific self-seeder, had taken over the far end of the vegetable garden by late summer. Bees adore this herb. The big swath of sky-blue flowers hummed like a hive (as it happens, borage flowers add a delicious flavour to honey).

Borage has limited culinary uses, but the flowers are edible and taste a little like cucumber. They look beautiful as a flourish in iced tea and can be also make a nice garnish in summer salads. Here's a link to 15 borage recipes.

In late August, the area behind the seed starting greenhouse had a terrific display of pink, purple and white phlox. 

Sarah says, "This Phlox could be "Bright Eyes" or one of its seeded progeny."

Phlox paniculata 'Bright Eyes' has fragrant flowers that are pink with a contrasting magenta eye. This is a mid-sized phlox that likes average to moist conditions and average garden soil. Full sun or part-shade. Height:60-75 cm (23-29 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm(18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

Another late summer perennial:

Variegated Sea Holly, Eryngium planum 'Jade Frost' has grey-green leaves edged in cream and clusters of violet-blue umbels. This perennial likes hot, dry sites and soil that is high in salts. Pick stems just as the flower clusters begin to open and hang them to dry for fall arrangements. Full sun. Height:50-60 cm (20-23inches), Spread: 30-60 cm(12-23 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

Our final stop on this visit will be the shade garden next to the smaller of the two barns.

"This garden bed faces south and used to be hot and dry. It was home to many daylily cultivars. As the trees and shrubs have matured (especially the oak), it has become shady. Over the last few years I have been swapping out sun-lovers for more shade-tolerant plants," says Katherine. 

"The flagstone walk was formerly the path to the barnyard, whose split-rail fence has been re-incarnated as a rustic arbor (a Mother's Day gift from my sons). Generous annual applications of mulch have greatly improved the soil (standard practice for all of our gardens) and reduced time spent weeding. 

1. Japanese Fern, Athyrium niponicum 2. Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa 3. Lungwort, Pulmonaria 4. Hellebore "Golden Sunrise" 5. Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora 6. Hosta probably "Janet" 7. Lamium 'White Nancy' 8. Bugbane, Actaea (formerly Cimicifuga) "Pink Spike"  9. Canadian Ginger, Asarum canadense

A closer view of a few of the plants in the previous image. Hellebore "Golden Sunrise"(top left), Hosta probably "Janet"(top right), Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora (chartreuse fern in the middle) and Canadian Ginger, Asarum canadense (foreground).

"The globe thistle surprised me - it doesn't seem to mind the shade!"says Katherine.

Phlox and Turtlehead flowers.

Turtlehead, Chelone lyonii has pink hooded flowers from August into September. Turtlehead prefers moist soil, but does pretty well with average soil moisture. This is a long-lived perennial that can easily be divided in the spring. Full sun or part-shade. Height:60-90 cm (18-23 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm. USDA Zones: 3-9.
Note: There is also white flowering native Chelone glabra.

"Nestled next to a forty-year-old Alberta spruce, our small pond is home to various amphibians, and neighbouring garter snakes. We plan to add large submerged containers of native wetland plants and resurrect the waterfall in 2018."

"We had some pots of Cyperus "King Tut" and "Prince Tut" left over in the greenhouse, and after endlessly watering, I thought I would try growing them as pond plants (works really well!) and has given me some ideas for next year... Looking lush and prehistoric in the background are ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris)," says Katherine.

And this ends our little tour of Grange Hollow Nursery.

Missed Grange Hollow Nursery Part 1? Go back and read it here.

All our plants are grown using pollinator-friendly practices. We will help you pick the perfect plants for your growing conditions. Try something new from our extensive selection of heirloom tomato and vegetable transplants, herbs, annual flowers, native and exotic perennials. Find inspiration or relaxation in our sprawling, cottage-style display gardens, teeming with bird, insect and animal activity. We welcome you to take a scenic drive to discover our unique gardens and plant nursery in picturesque rural Grey County! 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Baptisia: How to Grow It + Newly Introduced Cultivars

One task I am not particularly looking forward to this spring is uprooting and moving a mature False Indigo, Baptisia australis. It's been in the same spot for at least a decade. It's not going to be easy to unearth its deep roots, but sadly it has to be done.

A garden like mine could easily be a full time job, but the reality is that I have an average of just two to four hours a day to spend in it. When I added a new flowerbed to the backyard last summer, I did it knowing that something else would have to be give. There was no way I could manage more garden in the same amount of time.

With a heavy heart, I decided to reduce the size of the front garden in favour of the more private backyard space. So last fall I moved just about everything, but ran out of time before I could tackle the biggest job– the Baptisia you see in the picture above.

Spring is a terrible time to move it (it blooms in spring, so the fall would have been a little better), but it's a task that has to be finished.

Baptisia australis is a magnificent plant that demands very little. Fingers crossed I don't kill it!

Native Baptisia australis was used to produce a blue dye by Native Americans.

Baptisia australis is a native plant that can be found in woods, tickets and along stream banks in an area that stretches from southern Pennsylvania to North Carolina and Tennessee. It has purply-blue flower spikes and bluish-green leaves that make me think of peas or clover (it is a member of the pea family). Spent flowers become long, rounded seedpods that age to become a deep charcoal.

As well as Baptisia australis, there is native Baptisia alba, which has white flowers and Baptisia tinctoria, which has yellow blooms. Baptisia minor is a smaller plant.

How to Grow Baptisia:

False Indigo, Baptisia australis can be grown in average to quite poor, well-drained soil. It can handle a little bit of light shade, but it would be much happier if you planted it in full sun. When it first emerges in the spring the fresh shoots of Baptisia australis are quite upright. The plant opens up slowly through it's blooming phase and becomes more of a vase shape.

This is a large, long-lived perennial. Think small shrub when you try to place it in the garden (Note: there are a few new cultivars that are more compact in size).

Baptisia requires patience. It grows quite slowly and may take a few years to get really established. As it grows it developes deep and extensive roots that make moving it very difficult, so choose a spot carefully and stick with it.

The good news is Baptisia is very undemanding and virtually pest-free. I chop mine to the ground in the fall and that's just about all I do.

The reward is a spring showstopper that will be well worth the wait. As it has done in my garden,
Baptisia australis continues to grow and bloom in the same spot for decades.


Baptisia can be grown from seed, but you're in for a long wait. It may take as long as three years to see even a few flowers. I'd recommend investing in a decent sized nursery plant instead.

Once your Baptisia is established you can propagate new plants from stem cuttings in early spring.  I've tried it and it is fairly easy to do. Each cutting needs one set of leaf buds.

Plant type: Perennial

Height & Spread: Depending on the cultivar: 3-5 ft high x 5-6 ft wide

Flower: A range of colors including indigo-blue, yellow, white, pink, purple, lavender, maroon & bi-colors

Bloom period: Early spring

Leaf color:
 Fresh green to grey-green

Light: Full sun

Growing Conditions: Average to poor well-drained soil

Water requirements: Fairly drought tolerant once established

Companion Plants: Blue Star, Salvia, Gas Plant, Peony, Iris

Divide: This is a long-lived perennial that likes to stay put, but it can be divided every 4-5 years.

Notes: Deer resistant & pretty much pest-free.

USDA Zones: 4-9

Baptisia 'Vanilla Cream'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

Modern Cultivars

If you've haven't heard of Baptisia yet, there's a reason. They mature slowly, so I doubt they are a quick cash crop for growers. 

They're also a bit gangly and awkward in a nursery pot. The flowers on a young potted plant are small and don't exactly scream "buy me!" 

But the popularity this plant is growing and breeders have responded with new and exciting color choices. Here's a quick look at some of the many cultivars now available:

'Purple Smoke' 

'Purple Smoke'  makes a perfect backdrop for this Salvia. The Toronto Botanical Garden in spring.

False Indigo, Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' is a recent introduction from the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Smoky-blue flowers are carried on dark green stems and foliage. Height: 100-135 cm ( 39-53 inches), Spread: 75-90 cm (29-35 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

Cultivars with Similar Colors:

Baptisia 'Lunar Eclipse' (not shown) is initially creamy-lemon and ages into a medium to dark violet producing a pretty two-toned effect.
Baptisia 'Startlight Prairieblues' has lavender flowers.

Baptisia 'Pink Truffles'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® Deluxe 'Pink Truffles' has soft pink flowers that appear atop a compact clump of deep blue-green foliage. The flowers lighten to lavender with age. This is a smaller sized cultivar. Height: 107-122 cm (42-48 inches), Spread: 152-183 (60-72 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

'Pink Lemonade'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® Deluxe 'Pink Lemonade' has soft yellow flowers that age to dusty raspberry-purple showing both colors at the same time. Height: 106-121 cm (42-48 inches), Spread: 116-121 cm (46-48 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Cultivars with Similar Colors:

Baptisia 'Solar Flare' has two-toned yellow and rusty-orange flowers.

Baptisia 'Vanilla Cream'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® Deluxe 'Vanilla Cream' has pastel yellow buds that open into vanilla flowers. The compact foliage emerges bronze in spring and becomes grey-greenThis cultivar was selected for its petite size and unique flowersHeight: 76-90 cm (30-36 inches), Spread: 90-106 cm (36 - 42 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Baptisia 'Dutch Chocolate' . Photo courtesy of Proven Winners®  

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® Deluxe 'Dutch Chocolate' has velvety chocolate-purple flowers above a compact, relatively short mound of deep blue-green foliage. This vigorous cultivar is well-suited to smaller urban gardens. Height: 76-90 cm (30-36 inches), Spread: 90-106 cm (36 - 42 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Cultivars with Similar Colors:

Baptisia 'Brownie Points' has two-toned yellow and carmel-brown flowers.
Baptisia 'Cherries Jubilee' has two-toned yellow and maroon flowers.
Baptisia 'Twilight Prairieblues' has smoky purple flowers.

'Sparkling Sapphires'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners®  

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® 'Sparkling Sapphires' has deep violet-colored flowers on a compact plant with deep blue-green foliage. Height: 76-90 cm (30-36 inches), Spread: 76-90 cm (30-36 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Cultivars with Similar Colors:

Baptisia 'Blue Towers' has periwinkle-blue flowers.
Baptisia 'Blueberry Sundae' has deep indigo-blue flowers.
Baptisia 'Indigo Spires' has deep reddish-purple flowers.
Baptisia 'Midnight Praireblues' has deep purple flowers.

Baptisia 'Lemon Meringue'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners® 

False Indigo, Baptisia Decadence® Deluxe 'Lemon Meringue' is a vigorous cultivar that has lemon-yellow flowers on a compact, upright mound of blue-green foliage. Height: 76-90 cm (30-36 inches), Spread: 76-90 cm (30-36 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

 Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight' and a Salvia at its feet. Private garden, Fergus Ontario.

Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight'  Private garden, Toronto, Ontario.

Yellow False Indigo, Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight' has blue-green foliage with canary-yellow flowers. Height: 120-135 cm (47-53 inches), Spread: 80-90 cm (31-35 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

Note:You can find more information on the Proven Winners® cultivars at

Ideas for Companion Planting:

Plant Baptisia in the company of other spring bloomers including: Gas Plant, Dictamnus albus Blue Star, Amsonia, Bearded Iris, Peony, Catmint, Nepeta and Salvia.

 Yellow and blue Baptisia with pink flowering Phlomis tuberosa 'Amazone' . The Toronto Botanical Garden in spring.

Baptisia and Blue Star, Amsonia in my garden.

Baptisia and pale yellow Bearded Iris. Private garden, Toronto, Ontario.

Yellow Baptisia in the background with Catmint, Salvia and Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa 'Lemony Lace'. Private garden, Toronto, Ontario.

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

A Pretty Cottage Garden

Not far from the lakeshore in Mississauga, there is a old neighbourhood where the streets are lined with majestic trees. Though Lorne Park is not far from the busy city centre, it still manages to feel quiet, remote and lushly green. 

Properties in this area have become so valuable that many of the neighbourhood's original homes have been torn down and replaced by million dollar mansions. You can spot the new builds in an instant. Their grand scale dominates the private lots. They lack both charm and character. 

Thankfully, a few of the neighbourhood's older homes remain. 

Sweet Rocket

Keith and Mary Ellen's Lorne Park home was built in 1914 by John Birch Canavan, a wealthy fur and woollen trader. At the time that the house was constructed, the area was still largely farmland, but it had already begun to be popular as a summer retreat for wealthy Torontonians, the Muskoka of its times.  

"Like most of the other summer homes in the area, Canavan’s house was built in the bungalow style" says Keith,"It has a steeply pitched roof and a wrap around glass-paned porch on two sides. Originally the house would have been situated on a large lot (now much diminished) with an abundance of trees that would have complemented its cottage demeanour."

"Despite the fact that the house has only changed hands a few times over the past hundred years, it still retains many of its original Edwardian features. In 2002, the City of Mississauga gave the house heritage designation to recognize its unique architectural character." 

While the different home owners managed to maintain the character of the house over the years, it seems that their interests didn’t extend to the surrounding land. 

"When we bought the house in 1992," says Keith,"the gardens consisted of scruffy lawns, untended areas of ground cover (mostly Lily of the Valley) and an overgrown cedar hedge that had seen better days. The house called out for the grace and charm of a traditional, informal cottage garden."

One area that need to be addressed was the damp area near the road.

"The road in front of our house still has the feel of a country lane," says Mary Ellen,"Without a sidewalk, the only thing separating the garden from the road is a shallow drainage ditch. When we bought the house, the area was shabby and neglected. The ditch was full of weeds, the old cedar hedge along the front of the property was leggy and spare, and the lawn was thin and sparse. The only redeeming feature was the line of black locust trees along the ditch and a large stately black walnut tree, a little bit closer to the house."

Spring flowers in the "ditch" garden include Bleeding Heart, spring bulbs and Sweet Rocket (seen in the centre).

Once the area was cleaned up, Mary Ellen was able to begin to plant. 
"After we took out the hedge, we needed to give the front some definition so we settled on day lilies, which provide much needed colour and grow well in the wild in similar conditions. In fact, our first plants were given to us by some of our relatives who live in the country in south-western Ontario." 

"While the shade from the trees doesn’t seem to bother the day lilies, it certainly had an adverse affect on the lawn, so over time I dug out around the trees and started introducing hostas, flowering shrubs, Shasta Daisies and red Monarda. Fortunately, even though the ground is sandy, the trees provide some much needed natural compost so the soil never needs amending. The plants have all self-sowed quite happily, so much so in fact, I have taken out some of the day lilies and replaced them with peonies, irises, tulips, sedum and a few judiciously placed flowering shrubs."  
"The garden can get quite moist, but there is still lots of sun and the soil drains well. Over time the beds have gradually expanded displacing more and more of the lawn which gives it the look that I was after. It does make keeping things under control quite a chore, so now that I am getting older, it’s time to downsize the flowers and put in more shrubs." 

The planting along the front walkway and along the front porch makes extensive use of hosta.

Hostas are the backbone of any garden and they seem to do particularly well in our area," says Mary Ellen, "I now have about two hundred mature hostas– almost all of which came from the few hostas that were here when we bought the house. We bought a few specimens over the years, but the vast majority have come from dividing the plants as they mature. "

"Because the house is raised, the lawn originally came up a small embankment about two metres high to meet the ground floor, which made it very difficult to mow and didn’t look particularly attractive so I decided to put in terraces instead using stone found in the garden to build a dry stack retaining wall." 

Yellow Fumitory, Corydalis lutea has wonderful bright green, ferny foliage. The plant's tiny flowers appear in late spring and blooms for months without any deadheading. Yellow Fumitory likes well-drained soil and cool, part-shade. This perennial is a ready self-seeder, but unwanted seedlings are easy to remove. Height: 20-40 cm (8-16 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

"Someone gave me a piece of yellow corydalis and since it likes to fill in cracks and crevices. It was a natural choice to soften the hard edges of the wall and provide some colour. The fact that it contrasts so nicely with the green of the hostas was just a happy coincidence," says Mary Ellen.  

I know many readers will look at these pristine hosta leaves and wonder what Mary Ellen does to control slug damage.

"I don’t do anything to control the slugs. I just let nature take its course. They are not much of a problem and, for the most part, don’t do very much damage. We have a lot more difficulty with cutworms and grubs," she says.  

Next we'll head into the backyard where there is a picturesque courtyard and pond.

"The shed at the back of the garden was probably built about the same time as the house. It certainly looks like its been around for a hundred years, but it was never really integrated with the rest of the garden,"says Mary Ellen.

"I remember reading in a book written many years ago by Beverley Nichols, the English gardener and writer, that a garden tells you where things should go. The trees and bushes point to where the flowers should be. It’s the same with the paths. If you follow the natural flow that leads you from one garden area to the next, that’s where the walk goes."

"All the paths are built with old bricks and flagstone that I recovered from various parts of the garden. A few years ago, I came out to find that one of my shrubs had sunk about two feet almost overnight. It turned out that, unbeknownst to me, I had planted it where the old well used to be and the soil that had been used as backfill had settled. That was a great source of bricks. The rest came from the retaining wall that was taken out when we rebuilt the old concrete patio at the back of the house."
"I have added more paths and small patios over the years. They provide a much needed balance to the softer elements in the garden and, as an added bonus, they cut down on the amount of lawn I have to mow." 

Some hamburgers, sausages and a few cases of beer lead to the creation of a pond in the back garden. Keith tells the full story:

"About ten years ago, a landscaping company asked us if we would be willing to host their “Build a Pond Day”, an annual event that they held to teach local contractors how to build a garden pond. We had a small pond that we had built in the back yard where the old well had been, but it didn’t really work, so we said “Why not?” 

"A few weeks later, about twenty contractors arrived bright and early with wheelbarrows and shovels in hand. By the end of the day, they had excavated the pond, wrestled several large boulders into place, installed the recirculating lines and built a small waterfall at one end. Considering that it would have taken a landscaper a week or two to complete the job (it’s a substantial pond about eight metres long and two metres wide) it was no small feat. And the cost? A couple of cases of beer and enough barbecued hamburgers and sausages to keep the workers happy."

The only thing that remained to be done was the planting.

"The landscaping company’s generosity however didn’t extend past the pond. They left it up to us to put in the plants and integrate the pond into the rest of the garden, which gave us a whole new area of garden design to explore," says Keith.

1. Bleeding Heart 2. Climbing Rose (white) 3. Peony 4. Bleeding Heart 5. Deutzia 6. Hosta 7. Rudbeckia 8. Bearded Iris 9. Spirea Goldmound 10. Spirea Goldflame

Mary Ellen's List of Plants for Spring Color:
Bleeding Heart, Spring Bulbs, Creeping Phlox, Lamium (groundcover)

Plants for Early Summer Color:
Peony, Climbing Rose, Bearded Iris, Hosta, Spirea, Miss Kim Lilac, Beauty Bush, Japanese Iris

Plants for Late Summer Color:
Phlox, Pink Diamond Hydrangea, Forever Hydrangea, Brown-eyed Susan or Rudbeckia, Annual Flowers

Star of Bethlehem, Ornithogalum umbellatum is a member of the lily family and is a bulb that blooms in late spring. Star of Bethlehem is pretty, but be warned–it can be very aggressive. It should only be planted in an area where its invasive tendencies can be carefully contained.

Deutzia x lemoinei 'Compacta' (on the left above) has an upright habit and white flowers in spring. Plant it in sun to part-shade in average garden soil that is on the moist side. Prune in spring after flowering. Height: 4-6', Spread: the same. USDA Zones: 4-8. 

Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis, 'Alba' (on the right and in closeup above) has bright green foliage and white flowers. Height: 70-90 cm (27-35 inches), Spread: 70-90 cm (27-35 inches). Light shade to full shade. Average to moist soil. Hardy: Zones 2-9.

"The round metal sphere decorated with entwined vines and leaves provides a lovely counterpoint to the shrubs and flowers in the rest of the garden, but while it looks like a piece of garden sculpture, it actually started out life as a shade for a chandelier that we bought on a whim at a garage sale. When we looked around the house we realized that it really didn’t work as a light fixture, so we threw away the electrics and stuck the shade on a metal tripod. It’s been a feature of the garden ever since,"says  Mary Ellen. 

I think you'll agree that the work Mary Ellen and Keith have done on the landscaping really enhances the style and character of their century home. It may not be the grandest house in the neighbourhood, but it is certainly one of the nicest.

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