A History Lesson: Chapter I

It all started with a simple message.

A few bloggers,( miss m,) you know who you are, have asked me if I have any pictures of the garden BEFORE, I did any work on it.

Unfortunately I am not a child of technology, I bought a Beta, instead of VCR, anyone who was around then knows exactly what I mean. This “burnt” me a bit on modern technology, would digital cameras get replaced, just as I invested in one? (Perhaps that cheap Scottish blood needs a little thinning down.) So May 2009, I finally bought a digital, yay!

Of course, this was no good for the beginning of my record at Kilbourne Grove. I do have some photographs from my camera then, but no scanner (not even a printer) and did not want to trouble someone to scan them in for me.  Rebecca suggested that I photograph them instead. The quality is not as good, but at least you will get the general idea.

We bought our house on May 24, 2006 but did not do anything that year. I wanted time to think about it, instead of rushing into planting, (like I had at every other house!)

In May, 2007, we started our first project, the Kitchen Garden. At first we called it the Potager, but it just never flowed off our lips, despite Canada being a bilingual country. The Kitchen Garden is what it became, even though it is the farthest you can be from the kitchen.

I wish that I had taken a picture, before it was finished, but I was too excited and did not even think of it, trust me, it was all grass!

Wow, what a terrible picture, I probably could fix it up a bit on Photoshop,  if I had it, and if I could figure out how to use it….. You can see how green our neighbours lawn is behind ours, shhh, they use chemicals!!!

When I planned this I was going to have all the boards stained a bright colour à la Sarah Raven, but I found out that the wood would have to weather two weeks before it could be stained. TWO WEEKS, I could not even wait two minutes at that point, besides my parents were visiting that weekend to help us. So we went ahead and I thought that I would stain it later.

This was taken in August, 2009. “What is that? Why is it still not stained?” There is one big reason for that, Ian!!! What is it with guys and natural wood? (I am just wearing him down, it will happen sooner or later, lol).

It is one of my favourite parts of the garden.  


It has become (and actually was designed for) a handy place to keep extra, gifts or impulse purchases. I can plant them here and leave them for years, if need be, till I decide what to do with them. I have also overwintered my Japanese maples that I keep in containers on my terrace in Toronto by plunging the pots into the ground here, for the winter.

If you want to read more about my kitchen garden you can here.

Still some future plans. Although we took out all the grass this fall in the paths (what a pain to cut), we used some of the million tons of bark chips to replace it. This is just a temporary fix, I would like either pea gravel or a limestone screening. If we could give up some of the bricks holding the beds, or if I find more, brick paths would be the ultimate!


52 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Joy said,

    Deborah ! I would do just about anything for the room you have with this garden .. I am going to have to literally dig up my “bulb circles” after they flower to make an herb wheel in the same space .. this could be tricky .. and I find it hilarious your hubby’s name is Ian , which is also number one son’s name and that we share the cheap Scottish blood thing .. but I tend to describe a lot of my garden as “Potager” spending my teen years in Ottawa made me try the bilingual thing .. and .. we also made the choice of BETA when that whole mess happened .. now we wonder where all the old VCRs are ? no tapes in this house any more ! haha

    • 2

      Joy, everytime Ian transferred me and I had to give up one of my beloved gardens, I vowed to myself, the next one would be bigger! And it was, but hopefully, this is the last.
      The proble with getting older, is remembering the old technology, I even remember 78 rpm records, wow, that is dating me even more!

  2. 3

    fairegarden said,

    It is lovely Deborah! Just taking photos of old pictures is the way to go, much easier than scanning. Thanks for going to the trouble. I love the raised beds and thanks for the idea of using such a place as a holding bed. Parts of my veggie area would be the perfect place for that here. 🙂

  3. 5

    Edith Hope said,

    Dear Deborah, I am delighted to see that your Kitchen Garden is in a formal style. Yes, painted or stained wood divisions would be a quirky touch and, I think, very YOU. Perhaps you could use the same colour as you have used for your central sculpture. Brick paths, although expensive, would be lovely and would weather beautifully as well as being very traditional. Failing that, go for pea gravel which can be easily raked to remove weed seedlings and is in my view much smarter than bark.

    I have no idea why I am saying all of this having never grown even a lettuce myself but I did enjoy in the past going to RV’s potager at Barnsley House before it became an hotel! And I love the idea of ‘growing your own’.

    • 6

      Edith, I am trying to design most of my garden formally, with just one area (so far) a bit more cottagey. I do take a lot of inspiration from the beautiful English estates, but especially, my first love, Sissinghurst.
      I was planning of the blue, I had already bought the stain, before we even installed it. The blue is a particular love of mine, you will see it as an accent in other areas of the garden.
      I do really hate the bark, but it will do a great job of killing the grass underneath, then I can rake it up and change to brick or gravel. We will have to see how much energy Ian has, lol.
      RV was my main inspiration behind this, also the reason I started with the word “potager” in the first place. Would love to have seen her garden, before it was taken over, but I have all her books!

  4. 7

    I am like you Deborah … with regard to buying in late to the digital age… I have some slides I am planing to have scanned! It is great to see before and after shots. Brick would be lovely as your paths but so too pea gravel. Lovely raised beds and design! Carol

  5. 9

    miss m said,

    I think the most important thing I’ve learned about blogging is don’t forget the before shot ! I don’t know how many times it’s slipped my mind (like you, I just go to work !) but aren’t they great to have ? Look how much (more) they emphasize the fabulous work we’ve done ! 😀

    Great job on the potager, Deborah. I love that space ! And it’s a perfect holding area too, as you say.

    ps. I have 2 scans lying around here, doing nothing. I should send you one !

    • 10

      Man, those V8 commercials have nothing on me, the number of times I have hit myself in the head and said, I forgot to take pictures. Luckily Ians mum had taken a lot, although she always seems to get me from behind, bending over. I wonder if she thinks it is my best side, lol.

      Thanks for the offer of the scanner, it would probably cost more to deliver it, than to buy one.

  6. 11

    I’ve been taking pictures of pictures since before I knew what a scanner was. There are a lot of very old family pictures from various aunts and cousins that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

    Good lighting (indirect light from a north window works well; bright shade is better than open sunshine; indoor lighting gives photos a yellow cast) and a steady hand help. You can also get a tripod to keep the image from blurring. Even one of those cheapies that almost fit in the palm of your hand are handy. Clip or tape the image upright on a piece of card and use the self-timer feature on the camera to prevent camera shake when you press the shutter.

    Great to see the befores and afters. You’ve done a beautiful job. Joy and I will have to wrassle you for some of that space!

    • 12

      Helen, what great tips, I wish that I knew this before I took these pictures. I didn’t realize how much my hand shakes until I was trying to get the picture in the frame, yikes!

  7. 13

    Tatyana said,

    Deborah, I love your kitchen garden! I love some formality in the garden. I think you did a great job!

  8. 15

    leavesnbloom said,

    Hello Deborah – I can tell you that there are not many scots that call their veggie or Kitchen garden a “potager” garden. Some might but they are the “blow ins” from down south who come up to their scottish country estates at the weekend for shooting parties etc dressed in their tweeds.

    I can really see how your hedges and screening have really matured over the years too. I’m a lover of natural wood – but there comes a time when it does need a little preservative put on it. I love the layout and I don’t blame you one bit for taking out the grass – pea shingle/gravel would be a lovely finishing touch to the garden.

    • 16

      Rosie, that is probably why I felt pretentious everytime I called it a potager. I could feel my Uncle Alec cringing! lol.
      Interesting that you have noticed the hedges maturing, sometimes I look at them and think that they will never grow.

  9. 17

    leavesnbloom said,

    oops forgot to say thankyou to Helen from Toronto Gardens for the great tips on taking photos of old photos. I am going to try that out. 🙂 Rosie

  10. 19

    Great post Deborah, an the pictures came out very well! 🙂 Love to see the early stages. The kitchen garden is so lovely, I think it’s still my favorite.

  11. 21

    Barbara H. said,

    Chiming in here on the technology thing, the forgetting the “before” shots thing, and probably all the other things, too. Except I am so envious of your kitchen garden beds – haven’t done that. I remember when I put in posts for the raspberry trellis in my old garden, I loved the natural wood. It gave the garden such a lift. And then, not so long after that, I knew they needed to be painted – it was so much better than natural I couldn’t believe it. I went to a soft green for the posts, but I ended up painting my porches purple and fuchsia! My Realtor first told me to paint them but changed her mind, realizing the porch color would stick in people’s mind. It’s so great to see this picture of the picture of the before shot. You have done so, so much. Great job, Deborah!

    • 22

      Barbara, you have a huge garden, why don’t you build a Kitchen Garden as well? It really is useful and I am sure would look lovely at your home.
      Funny story about the realtor, I would love to see pictures of that porch!

  12. 23

    I love the idea of keeping an area to plant my impulse plant purchases until I find the perfect place for them, or to see how they do in our climate. I love your kitchen garden, especially how you laid it out.

    • 24

      Noelle, it is the best thing I ever did! (at least in the garden,lol) I am such an impulse buyer, so much that a certain friend of mine, (Janus, you know who you are), I really should stop plant shopping with her as I come home with all these unplanned purchases. I am much more disciplined, shopping on my own. But at least I have a place to “store” them.

  13. 25

    This is fantastic, Deborah. What a huge amount of work you’ve done over the past few years. (and yeah, I giggled about the betamax. I hear you on that.)

    • 26

      Thank you Jodi, I resent spending money on technology, it seems like everytime I get used to something, it becomes obsolete. Then I have to repurchase. Funny, but will not think twice about spending the same amount of money on a book or a plant?

  14. 27

    Joanne said,

    I think blogging is such a good way of keeping a record of the garden developing much better than putting photos in a box to collect dust.

  15. 29

    teza said,


    But was yours a top loading betamax machine? My Father, rest his soul had to have the latest and greatest [ seems I’ve picked up on that with rare plants!] including a microwave oven that a family of four could easily reside in….. but alas!

    The kitchen garden is divine! I am contemplating renting an allotment at the nursery this year as I refuse to pay the grocers prices for produce that is rarely fresh and with little or no taste. I love the ideas that you still harbour – you’ve managed so much in a short amount of time, I’ve do not doubt you will have your dream garden in no time at all. I like the idea of painting the wood the same colour as the central sculpture…. maybe that and a wonderful buttery yellow!! The photos are just fine. Tomorrow I have to take photos of my favourite bursery and have them scanned onto a disc so that I can complete a new post. At times like this I feel like a dinosaur! Great post as always!

    • 30

      I had that same microwave!
      When I first moved back to Toronto, I wanted to get an allotment garden, but the closest one to me had a waiting list. Even if you just use it for tomatoes, it would be worthwhile,(unless it becomes a holding area for even more kids, lol.)
      I’m with you on the dinosaur, tired just thinking about how much I do not know!

  16. 31

    I love your kitchen garden! I really like the blue – is it a trellis? – in the center! My vote would be for brick or flagstone walks. I’m not fond of pea gravel as it is not that easy to walk on and gets in my shoes, but there is a crushed red stone which I like. We call it “chert”. I don’t know if it is available in your area.

    • 32

      Deborah, that is actually my fathers old TV tower. He got a satellite dish and was throwing it out. I use it as a trellis.
      The pea gravel can be difficult to walk on, I read recently that most people put it on a path too thick. It should only be one inch deep. You can get crushed bricks here for paths, but I am not fond of the red colour, I prefer a grey.

  17. 33

    Hi Deborah, It’s always fascinating to see the development of a garden site, so thank you for finding a way to post the older pics. We did have some pea gravel paths at our last place and I found it lovely to walk on.
    You idea of an “impulse” bed is brilliant – I think I will tuck one around the side of the house 🙂

  18. 35

    Barry said,

    It’s always exciting to see the way gardens develop. I was always in a hurry to have a “mature garden” when I started in 1986. But looking back at old pictures I realize that it was as interesting and beautiful ( to me at least) at all stages of development.

    Regarding our posts in “Ryans Garden”, I’m serious about organizing a snowdrop viewing.

    • 36

      Barry, I am a huge fan of before and afters. A large part of my collection of gardening books consists of “My Garden” books by various authors.
      If you have snowdrops in flower, or know of any, I want to see them!

  19. 37

    Anna said,

    Enjoyed the story behind the development of the garden Deborah. Your kitchen garden is most elegant. I have bark chips between the raised beds at the allotment which need topping up every couple of years. I dream of replacing them with gravel or slate 🙂

  20. 39

    jim groble said,

    Wow! The pics are great and tell a wonderrful story.

  21. 41

    wendy said,

    I love a before and after! what a great blank slate you started with. I love the kitchen garden. I do call mine a potager, but I’m just trying to be pretentious. 🙂

    Wow. Chemicals. They do create a green green lawn!

  22. 43

    commonweeder said,

    Before shots are important and I keep reminding myself to take them. It’s hard when I’m afraid the After shot won’t be much of an improvement. I have a Vegetable garden and the addition is called The Potager – mostly to differentiate it’s later beginning. Besides, it has two clumps of bee balm. I’m a new visitor. I love your blog!

    • 44

      I love flowers and veggies mixed together, the classic Potager. I always think of veggie gardens, the way they were when I grew up, long straight lines.
      Thank you for visiting my blog and I hope to see you again soon.

  23. 45

    gardeningasylum said,

    The blue trellis is a great focal point.

  24. 47

    Teresa O said,

    Hi Deborah,

    Thank you for visiting The Cottage on the Corner. What a wonderful garden. It reminds me of one had ten or so years ago. Raised beds are the best and the blue trellis a great focal. I used pea gravel in the paths and was perfectly satisfied. Seeing before and after photos allows us to travel your gardening journey with you. Thanks for sharing!


    • 48

      Thank you Teresa. I do love before and afters, in my garden or in other gardeners. It really shows you the work that they went to and how things have changed.
      Thank you for visiting my blog and for your kind comment.

  25. 49

    Melissa said,

    Deborah, I realized my comment was posted on my own blog, in response to yours. I’ll repeat it here – I think you have an amazing garden! I’m glad you have some help with it. When that pleached lime walk goes in be sure to take photos every year. Pleaching is a lot of work but fantastic – the pleached hornbeams here in Washington at Dumbarton Oaks are magical.

    Thanks for sharing your garden with us.

    • 50

      Melissa, I will have to see if there is a picture of them on the website. Pleaching does not seem to be too popular in North America and there is not a lot of information on it.
      Thank you for the compliment about my garden. That helper of mine (my husband) takes alot of encouragement to get him helping, lol.

  26. 51

    Liisa said,

    Lovely photos! My kitchen garden has become a winter holding area for perennials that I keep in pots, as well as those impulse buys! Last fall I planted tulip bulbs deep down in the lettuce beds, which I am growing for spring cutting. I love your thoughts of pea gravel pathways, there’s something about that soft crunching sound beneath your feet. I so enjoyed seeing the transformation from your before and after photos!

    • 52

      Liisa, that is great to hear. In the autumn, in my last garden, I always still had all those “impulse” plants in pots. I used to frantically plant them wherever I had a hole. Now, the Kitchen Garden takes care of them, until I find the perfect spot. Sometimes I will bulk up a perennial here, so I can divide it the next year. Good for you with the tulip bulbs. The squirrel mafia prevents me from planting any, until I bring in the big police dog!

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