In spite of Nick's constant reminder to "stay inside the fence," Linda slipped in a few rhododendrons (few survived, though, as the bucks rubbed their antlers on them) and planted some native ferns and goatsbeard. Much to Linda's delight, there are native trilliums all through the woods, as well as fairy slipper orchids (Calypso bulbosa). "We marked each one because they are so delicate. If they are stepped on or accidentally pulled out, they'll die," she says.
Linda is just as thoughtful in the cultivated part of the garden. Other than using insecticidal soap in the greenhouse when necessary, she avoids chemicals, believes in composting and feeding the soil, weeds religiously and selects pest- and disease-resistant plants.
Like every garden, the Rehlingers' has its challenges. It gets both early and late frosts, weeks before their two nearest communities. Camelias should thrive in the Zone 7 garden. They don't. Neither do Clematis armandii -- Linda has lost two.
And then there's the sheer size of the property. "Sometimes I think we've created a monster," Linda admits. She keeps her routine simple: she starts her maintenance in one area and moves from spot to spot-and crisis to crisis. By the time she's done the circuit, it's time to start over again.
Help comes from Nick in the form of labour-saving devices he's created, such as a watering system (a series of underground pipes with taps), a motorized power screener for sifting compost and "Electroputt", a miniature garden truck adapted from a riding lawn mower (see "Shoulder Savers", above). "I can't wait for Nick to retire in two years so he can make more things for me," she smiles.
In the meantime, Nick has plans for another gate, this one with a dragonfly motif. And Linda wants to replace the germander portion of the herb knot with cuttings of a hardier, evergreen variety. An additional enterprise resulted from a friend who asked to use their garden for a wedding, which prompted Linda and Nick to rent out the property for the occasional ceremony. "You labour in your garden for hours and hours, and this is a really nice way for others to enjoy it," Linda says.
Linda Rehlinger has huge compost piles to sift and she says husband Nick's power screener "is so easy to use, it's like a dream." Nick says the concept isn't new-it's been around for years-and anyone can make it.
All you need is a home cement mixer (that normally mixes about a wheelbarrow-full of concrete at a time) and three metres of 45-centimetre-wide, heavy rabbit wire. Remove the barrel or metal drum from the cement mixer, bolt the rabbit wire in place using the same holes that attached the metal drum. Plugged in, it will rotate, screening and breaking up soil or compost while you do other things.
The "Electroputt" is a small garden truck Nick made from a riding lawnmower by removing its blade, converting it to battery power and adding a box on the rear. It hauls about the same amount of soil or amendments as a wheelbarrow, and also works like a miniature dump truck to deliver each load where Linda wants it. As a bonus, Nick has attached a bicycle basket
in front for tools.