Blue Castle Garden: Year 12

In 2016, the primary focus was on repairing faulty stain. A protective screen was added to the back yard fence to shield my neighbors from a poisonous plant and several trees suffered from disease, weather and wildlife damage.

A bird bath was placed in the front yard flowerbed and a couple plants began to display their true beauty. Mulch was added, then removed due an unforeseen problem.


Darkened Trellises and Patio Post

Finding the color scheme too bland, the two trellises and patio post at the back of the house were darkened. The light grey plastic lattices were replaced with finer black ones.

Testing out the new stain color on the trellis frames.

The light grey lattice was removed and the wooden frames were stained a dark grey.

Dad cutting the black PVC lattice to fit within the trellis posts. 

Installing the final board holding in the plastic lattice. 

Darkening the trellises and patio post punched up the contrast with the house siding.

Installed Protective Screen for Poisonous Monkshood

Monkshood, a tall shade plant with beautiful purple flowers, is also pest free due to its entirely toxic nature. Once used as an assassin’s poison in the ancient world, it remains one of the most dangerous garden plants.

To protect my neighbors’ children, a solid screen was attached to the fence,  preventing a single leaf from poking through the boards.

Cutting the trim pieces for the Monkshood screen.

The screen made of thin plywood was later replaced with higher quality materials.

Metal trellis panels provided support for the Monkshood. 

Stripped Failed Stain

As oil stain was no longer available for sale, a good quality, brand-name acrylic fence stain was used. Unfortunately it did not live up to its claims and began to fail. So began the long, difficult process of removing the crumbling stain.

Most of the degrading stain was removed using a handheld wire brush.

Not only the pergola, but the gate arbor and wooden patio began to flake.

The more sunbaked the wood, the quicker the stain failed.

The rest of the flaked stain was removed the following summer.

The west facing garbage enclosure suffered damage.

Critter Proofed Front Step

To prevent wildlife from setting up a home under my front step, an aluminum rust-free plate was sunk beside the step to fill the gap. 

The aluminum plate before backfilling.

Even before mulching it was hardly noticable. 

Fixed Problem Area with Neighbour

My neighbor and I purchased a tough bush to beautify and fill in his flowerbed by my front gate. This spot was dry and prone to weeds. After planting, we added a  curve to his grass for a smooth transition between his flowerbed and mine. 

An aluminum plate was dug in deep to keep the bush from growing into his back yard. 

The newly planted Sem False Spirea bush.

Four years later, the Sem False Spirea was filling out nicely.

Added Birdbath to Front Yard

A simple Campania Chatham birdbath was tucked into the flowerbed, creating a focal point from the sidewalk and encouraging birds to visit. 

Ready for visitors after a rainstorm.

The birdbath behind the newly planted caragana tree.


Showy Mountain Ash Struck by Sunscald

Some young or thin barked trees can be susceptible to sunscald. This damage is caused by winter sunlight warming the bark, followed by a sudden temperature drop that refreezes and kills the active tree cells. It generally occurs on south or southwest facing bark.

Sunscald affected a sizeable portion of the main trunk.

Three years later, the bark started to peel back and expose the inner core.

Four years later, the tree is sealing the wound.

Reflective wrap protecting the tree from temperature changes.

Deer Trashed Second Columnar Mountain Ash Tree 

My neighborhood deer herd arrived much earlier than expected and ate the replacement Columnar Mountain Ash, killing it before I could protect it with chicken wire. I gave up and replaced it with a caragana tree. 

The denuded Columnar Mountain Ash and the replacement Caragana.

Swedish Columnar Aspen Struck by Bronze Leaf Disease

A serious disease passed through the city, infecting one of my Swedish Columnar Aspen trees. After diagnosis, I started to remove the infected branches as recommended. It may still be fatal and only time will tell if the tree survives.

Bronze Leaf Disease is characterized by bronzy-red leaves with lime green veins. They turn color weeks before the beginning of fall.

Selected the Wrong Mulch

The mulch used previously was discontinued. A fine cedar mulch was purchased as a replacement but did not allow water to penetrate, leaving the garden beds dry. Once discovered it was quickly removed and composted.

Using Gorilla Tubs® to move the mulch.

Overuse Injuries

Stripping and staining for hours on end led to my hands going temporarily numb. In my rush to finish the patio, I worked for an entire day straight without breaks. My hands regained their sensation and I now quit at the first signs of fatigue or pain. No task is worth ignoring these signals.

There is a lot of work involved in stripping a large patio. 

I wish I had taken my time on this project.


Red Mulch Doesn’t Suit a Natural Garden Style

The new cedar mulch looked extremely red when laid down. This unnatural pop of color didn’t suit the style of the garden. In nature, decomposing plant material tends to be a much darker, more muted color.

On forest floors, red is not a natural color. 

Burning Bush Lives Up to its Name

Because the rabbits absolutely loved to eat my burning bush I eventually moved it into the protected back yard.

Dwarf Winged ‘Compacta’ Burning Bush glowing in the fall.

Elsa Spath is a Stunning Clematis

Elsa Spath has huge, vibrant flowers in an eye-popping blue-purple shade.

Elsa Spath is one of my favorite clematis. 


Injuries don’t just happen to other people, they can happen to you, and can be life-altering. Work will always be there and pressure to complete a task quickly can lead to unwise decisions.

I regret pushing myself too hard this year. Break up long repetitive tasks, move tripping hazards out of the way, reposition your ladder and take whatever measures necessary to be safe.

This post is part of the Blue Castle Garden Timeline series. 

About Jolene

I’m an avid gardener whose mission is to bring more beauty into the world. I believe that with the right information anyone can create their own lovely, small garden paradise.

When I’m not gardening you can find me exploring the Canadian Rockies. Learn more…

Jolene Rempel on Cirque Peak, Banff National Park.

About Jolene

I’m an avid gardener whose mission is to bring more beauty into the world. I believe that with the right information anyone can create their own lovely, small garden paradise.

When I’m not gardening you can find me exploring the Canadian Rockies. Learn more…


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