The back garden features a rectangular lawn surrounded by undulating raised borders planted with a mixture of perennials, shrubs and small trees. Midway down the garden is a prominent yet graceful Nootka false cypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) that effectively divides the space into front and back rooms. Throughout are furnishings and accessories the pair have carried at their shop since opening it in 1992. “Some we designed,” says Michael, “such as the tiered, cast-iron fountain, the black iron trellises and the Wiarton limestone table on the terrace.” Others, such as the vintage orange art glass on the deck and the rusty armillary atop the birdbath in the back of the garden, were found at flea markets or through antiques dealers.
Blossoms on parade
Spring arrives in April with a sprinkling of tiny blue-flowered bulbs, including Siberian squill and glory of the snow. Their buds nose through a thick layer of leaf mulch laid down by Michael. “I chop up the fallen leaves with the lawn mower in autumn and spread them over the beds in early spring. I never fertilize; that’s the only organic matter the garden gets, and the soil has improved so much in the five years I’ve done this.”
Along with the little bulbs, lungwort (Pulmonaria saccharata), with its blue flowers and silver-splashed leaves, is the earliest perennial to bloom. Close to the house where their perfume can be enjoyed, a few hyacinths open their purple-blue bells. In April, the long deck planter is filled with blue pansies that flower non-stop until summer.
By early May, the fritillaries are in bloom, both the tall, yellow-flowered ‘Lutea’ crown imperials (Fritillaria imperialis ‘Lutea’) and the diminutive snake’s-heads (F. meleagris), with their checkered nodding bells. The ultra-hardy (to –40˚C) ‘P.J. Mezitt’ (syn. ‘P.J.M.’) rhododendrons flanking the entrance to the gazebo also take their star turn, covered in eye-catching magenta blossoms.
As temperatures climb, the honey-scented pendant flowers of wisteria cascade from the pergola, while the lily-flowered ‘China Pink’ and ‘Queen of Sheba’ tulips open their fluted blossoms. The previous homeowners planted the tulips and they’ve appeared every year since.