Gardens - Featured Gardens

A plant collector's paradise in Northern Ontario

By
Kathy Wood
Photography by
Tracy Cox

Doing what comes naturally, a northern Ontario gardener turns her farm into the quintessential plant collector’s paradise

plant-collector-inset4.jpgAs you wander along mulched paths around the garden’s perimeter, monochromatic green shades of woodland beds provide a cool contrast to the exuberant jewel tones of the perennial borders. Shade-loving specimens such as heucheras, hostas, gentians and Marnie’s new love, Siberian bugloss (Brunnera spp.), thrive under the canopy of towering white pines. Once you proceed out into sunlit flats, you’re greeted by billowing borders of showy, colourful annuals and perennials ringing the garden area. Marnie, who has a degree in fine arts, admits there is no defined colour scheme or design element, preferring instead a relaxed, informal, cottage style with lots of nooks, crannies and secret seating areas—a garden you can’t see all at once.

Marnie does, however, love colour throughout the seasons. “There is no real downtime in my garden,” she says. “Early spring bursts forth with daffodils and other plants, but the height of bloom is late July. Living in cottage country, I favour plants I can enjoy later in the season without the bugs.” Her fall displays include ornamental grasses and sedums, anemones (‘Pamina’ and ‘Queen Charlotte’) and ‘Prince’ aster (Aster lateriflorus ‘Prince’).

plant-collector-inset2.jpgYou immediately notice the gigantic hostas and other oversized perennials, a quality Marnie attributes to a healthy shovelful of composted manure in each planting hole, compliments of Scarlet and Polly, her two resident horses, and Princess Jasmine, her pot-bellied pig. Acidic, heavy clay soil has been amended over the years with copious amounts of compost. 

Dominating the centre of the lawn area is a series of three ponds connected by a couple of streams interspersed with waterfalls. This water feature combines two of Marnie’s favourite garden elements: water and stone. She absolutely loves the latter and takes every opportunity to incorporate rocks into her garden. “They’re very important to me; I feel a real connection to them and the earth,” says Marnie. “They have a special beauty that adds texture to the landscape. And I love the softness of plants juxtaposed against the hard features of rocks.” She hauled most of the stones used for the raised beds, flagstone paths and edging for her ponds out of the bush from other parts of the property. For the ponds themselves, Marnie bought the big boulders and 18 tonnes of river rock, which was dumped in her driveway; she then hand-carried the stones to their final destination.

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