Throughout the garden, swaths of lush beds overflowing with phlox, daylilies, sedums, bee balm and cosmos play homage to Barbara’s philosophy of “follow no formulas,” while decorative vignettes greet every glance. “I want my garden to look like things happened naturally; like birds flew over and dropped seeds into the yard,” explains Barbara. But she’s equally adamant her easygoing approach doesn’t mean her yard is unkempt: “It’s not manicured, but it’s well groomed, never shabby,” she insists. And while the decorative touches are abundant, the landscape is not cluttered. Exuberance never spills over into chaos.
Despite her repudiation of rules, there is one maxim Barbara does subscribe to: gardening must never be a chore. Though she will reluctantly admit early spring can be somewhat taxing, for the most part, tending the garden is a form of pure relaxation. “It’s exercise and enjoyment—a labour of love.”
Notwithstanding the healthy abundance of blooms, which includes plenty of her favourites—poppies, Asiatic lilies and zinnias—Barbara is quick to point out she is not a horticultural heavyweight. “I don’t know botanical names, or what plants will work until I try them.” And her basic approach to plant care is to grow specimens so closely together that weeds don’t have a chance. Before winter, aside from adding a layer of straw to protect her golden clematis (Clematis tangutica) and her lilies, Barbara does nothing else. Not surprisingly, she favours low maintenance plants, and if a specimen can’t make it on its own, it’s gone. Says Barbara: “I once had a Japanese maple, but it became too much work, so out it went!