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Oh landscaping, my nemesis. How I love to hate you. I love to plan you. I love to execute those plans. I surely love to spend the money on you.

I just…hate you…at the same time.

No one ever claimed I made any sense.

I’ve already whined posted about how overwhelmed I was thinking of the yard. Trying to fit in everything that I want. Trying not to make the same mistakes that I made in our last house. Mistakes that of course, I should have learned from and I think I’ve done well.

The landscaping requirements in my area – common practice when you build a new house- are 8 shrubs/bushes and a tree that has a caliper (diameter) of 2.5 inches. This is what I had to complete in order to get my landscaping deposit back from the builder.

Oh ho. They got shrubs and more.

My first house had the front landscaping completed as part of the house building process, something I appreciated when I was 7 months pregnant and had a sweet little 16 month old boy tagging along too. Over the 6 years we spent in that house I ripped out almost everything they planted. I hated the shrubs, the tree died on me anyway and the only thing that I left intact was a gorgeous mock orange that I miss every single day.

This time around I knew that everything had to be edible, beautiful and maintenance free. The reason for the maintenance free in the front yard will be explained once you see what’s happening in the back yard.

My new yard is all party in the front, business in the back.

So here’s the before:

the before view of planting yard

And the “party” after!

The after looks so much better in real life, I simply cannot get a picture that I am happy with. The flowerbeds are huge, each is around 45 sq feet. The back one was made larger and most likely is around 55 sq feet or so.

The rectangle shape of the flowerbeds?

Easy to mow around.

Yup. All about little to no maintenance.  I love grass, I really do, but hate mowing it. This was straight and easy and done in a few swipes.


the after look of planting yard when plants started growing

The pictures don’t do it justice. Taking shots of green on green isn’t something I am skilled at yet.

look of the yard with green grass and growing flowering plants

The front hosts three dwarf cherry bushes, which was a must for me. My children adore the sour cherries, indeed, will eat almost any berry that comes across their path. They are the taller bushes with the white tags on them.

The plan is that they will full up the back of that bed, even though the picture doesn’t show it they are lined up in a row at the back, with my aim that in a few years I will have one lovely, intermingled cherry bush hedge.

One can dream.

Everything is surrounded by bark for the mulch, making it hopefully weed free. Like I said, low maintenance required.

The University of Saskatchewan released the Romance series of dwarf cherries in 2004, much to the delight of northern gardeners. Unlike most sour cherries which tend to be yellow inside and clear juiced, they are completely red throughout and produce a red juice = meaning a larger amount of those amazing antioxidants that cherries are being touted for.  Processors of conventional canned cherry pie filling add colorants to make their product red while these cherries are naturally red. Win.

They also have a high “brix”, meaning sugar content/sweetness, which equals great taste for fresh eating. The higher the brix, the better tasting it is fresh.

A run down of my three types from the U of S site:


  • Dark Red
  • Fresh eating type: excellent quality
  • Also good for processing
  • One of the best for fresh eating flavor
  • Most productive cultivar in 2009
  • Moderate vigour
  • Few suckers
  • 5.0g fruit
  • High sugar content (up to 20 brix)
  • Pits are large enough for old fashioned crank pitters


  • Medium Red Fruit
  • Tart pie cherry: Processing type
  • Some suckering
  • 4.5g fruit
  • This cherry may be best for making pies with no dyes needed


  • Black to dark red
  • Most years it is the largest of all sour cherries
  • 6.5g fruit
  • Good balanced flavour for fresh eating
  • Consistent but moderate producer
  • Blooms 1 week later than other varieties earning it the nickname ‘Big & Late’
  • Few suckers
  • Pits are large enough for old-fashioned crank pitters
  • Fruit too large for standard commercial sour cherry pitters
  • Very different genetically from all other U of Sk sour cherry cultivars

flowering plants in the yard started to bloom

Between the three, I think I have it covered.

I also needed beauty in there as well because my soul needs flowers. In front of the bushes are tall perennials that will eventually spread out and fill in the area.

Like Shasta daisies…

close up of white Shasta daisies flowers

Summer cloud larkspur.

close up of the summer cloud larkspur

My favorite- there’s three in the flowerbed- Echinacea.

close up of Echinacea flowers

Oranges and lemons blanketflower.

some oranges and lemons blanketflowers

I let each of my children pick a flower that they wanted in the front and my son choose Veronica “pink explosion”.

close up of veronica pink explosion

My daughter chose the most beautiful lilies. Little magpie, just like her mom. Likes the purtiest things out there.

close up of stargazer lily flowers

So we’re only at three of the required shrubs and no tree, but fear not.

Meet Annie the apple tree.

When you’re this big, you get a name.

an apple tree that is starting to grow high

The hardest part of the entire front yard was finding a fruit tree that had a diameter of 2.5 inches. Unless you are looking at crabapples – useless- or ornamentals, this is almost like searching for the Holy Grail itself.

Yes, I have a problem with crabapples. That comes from living in the country as a kid and having so many you just ended up hating them. Hard to make applesauce with, not the greatest to eat fresh and unless you have a press, juice ain’t an option. No way in heck was I having one.

After spending a week on the phone I ended up finding one at Arrowhead Nurseries, out in the north end of Edmonton. Annie is a Goodland apple tree, fabulous for eating fresh, stores well and is a great cooking apple. At this size she’s also 8-9 years old, which is why they are almost impossible to find in a basket, ready to plant.

You do not want to know what we went through to get this 500 + pound tree into the ground. Don’t. Ask.

But she’s there and she’s very happy, didn’t drop a single leaf with stress or shock and is so gorgeous. At the back of the flowerbed are 4 Lee Saskatoons, a variety I had never heard of until I was browsing the Saskatoon Farm’s website. If they don’t have it, it don’t exist, pretty much.

The Lee variety “is believed to be a cross of Northline and Pembina. Fruit is up to 16 mm diameter with intense flavour and few seeds. It ripens ahead of other cultivars. Lee is a compact shrub up to 6 ft tall that spreads slowly.”I have found that Saskatoons don’t mind a bit of shade at all, from my experience and just seeing how they flourish in shady spots in the river valley. You do need sun, but  these guys will be just fine behind the apple tree and I love that they only get 6 feet tall. Again, another hedge of intertwined fruit bushes.

And don’t tell Annie, but because she’s in the front, well…Mama’s going to have to prune her and keep her in check size-wise.

At one end of this bed there is also a gooseberry and  a white currant. The white currant is currently – ha- stripped of all its berries by my feral children. I told you. Lovers of sour berries.

I do believe that makes 9 shrubs at this point.

On the other side of the driveway?


the before look of the other side of the yard without any plants


Three honeyberry bushes alternated with three more Lee Saskatoon bushes. This will be, in years, a beautiful edible hedge between the neighbors and us. The neighbors loved the idea but I don’t think she believed me when I said that I would love that the kids all ate the berries as much as they wanted.

This brings the total to 15 fruit bushes in the front. I’ve always been an overachiever.

I’m thinking the whole neighborhood now senses my need to feed them all fruit. My other neighbor popped by while I was planting my cherries and said “More cherries!!” and I replied ” Sure hope you like them!”

Just wait until I grow zucchini next year.

the after look wherein three honeyberry bushes are plantedThe back.

Well, the back is another story.

We are not done yet, but I’m going to ask advice.

Two pears and two plums.

All doing HORRIBLY.

the backyard of the house with grassesHorrible. Awful. Leaves dropping off everywhere, turning brown.

I planted them the exact way I was told, a few inches of pea gravel in the bottom of their large holes to help with water since we have such compacted clay soil, backfilled with black dirt and a handful of bone meal.  Mulched on top and no touching their trunks at all with the mulch. Watered and watered some more. Rain helped too.

What the hell did I do?

I broke them.

I can move a 500 pound apple tree and plant it perfectly, yet cannot manage 4 small fruit saplings.



So anyone who has advice on what to do with these trees, I’m listening.

Oh and on a happy note, you can see I have grass and a fence on this side of the house. The blue pool means the kids have already been enjoying the yard immensely.

Now if the mosquitoes would just bugger off.


Seriously. What Did I Do To Those Trees? Magpie

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Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

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  1. Megan says

    wahwah, I didn’t check the year but my advice still stands for any future trees, I hope they made it.

  2. Mary says

    We are in the midst of re-landscaping our Edmonton front yard with edibles as well, so I was happy to see your post!  Where did you find the honeyberry bushes? I have heard good things about them, but never actually tried the fruit!

    • thekitchenmagpie says

      They can be found at Home Depots now, even Walmarts. They are very mainstream now, mine were Walmart, 14.99 and have been perfectly healthy and producing for 3 years now!

  3. Joycelyn says

     Hi Karlynn


    Your gardens are coming along very nicely.  I like the way your front beds are spaced for easy mowing, & just love the idea of your future cherry tree hedge. I can just picture your neighbours sneaking over and picking a few handfuls!


    As for your question about your fruit tree saplings not thriving in the compacted clay soil, according to Canadian Gardening magazine, & the UMN extension, one of the problems might be the layer of gravel you put in the bottom of the planting holes, (they say no, don’t add gravel) and the soil used to backfill.  


    Do check the articles out, I think you’ll find them most helpful.







  4. Maxine says

    I would suggest root boost. The extra rain that we have had can cause all the roots to sort of flow and not want to catch when they are small. I have always found that Root Boost helps the tiny roots to catch and not rot before they actually grow. 

    Love what you have done with all the fruit trees. I wish more people would do this. It’s fantastic! magpie 

  5. The Kitchen Magpie says

    Good to hear, cause Annies staying where she is!

  6. Fine Frostings says

    Love, love, love my Goodland apple tree. I will definitely have to check out all of the cherry bushes!

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