Gardens - Featured Gardens

A lot in a plot in Victoria, B.C.

Karen York
Photography by
Janis Nicolay

Full of exotic details and quixotic plants, this garden offers brilliant combinations and a tip of the hat to Dr. Seuss

a-lot-in-a-plot-inset2.jpgA treasured collection
Among his treasures are a wheel tree (Trochodendron aralioides) with its whorled branches and tapered leaves; winged thorn rose (Rosa sericea ssp. omeiensis f. pteracantha), grown for its forbidding but fetching crimson thorns; a very rare cutleaf Japanese daimio oak (Quercus dentata ‘Pinnatifida’); and blue bean tree (Decaisnea fargesii), better known as dead man’s fingers for its bizarre blue seed pods.

A true plant collector treads a fine line between pleasing diversity and leafy chaos. “There’s not a lot of repetition of plants,” Paul says, “but of shape, colour and texture. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle that is always changing.”

This is a sensual garden, one to walk through slowly, following the winding paths from the sun-filled front garden filled with deer-resistant euphorbias, barberries and dwarf conifers, round past the heavily underplanted apple tree and the “boggy” patch in back with moisture-loving gunnera, willow, skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus),and ‘Mammuth’ ironweed (Vernonia arkansana cv.) to a circle of lawn that offers a remarkable 360-degree view of Paul’s dense but artful plantings.

“I love to plant thickly,” he says. “I set out the main trees and shrubs and then use lots of fillers, such as irises, daylilies and hardy geraniums—Rozanne (Geranium ‘Gerwat’) is particularly good—so you get interesting combos quickly. It’s more work in the long term because of all the transplanting involved but I’m willing to pay that price.”

Skyscraper perennials
Statuesque perennials add all-important vertical exclamation points but Paul has also planted more than 20 trees, sticking to relatively small and/or narrow ones to preserve the garden’s scale and permit more underplanting. “Trees like the dwarf American sweetgum ‘Gum Ball’ (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Gum Ball’) and Red Fox katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Rotfuchs’) are ideal for urban lots. Crimson Pointe plum (Prunus ×cerasifera ‘Cripoizam’) is another excellent exclamation point, and the snakebark maple (Acer davidii), which promises to become the biggest tree here, is handsome all year-round.”

Gum balls, snaky bark, a rainbow of colours…Dr. Seuss’s little orange Lorax, who speaks for the trees, would be right at home.

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