This massive foundation garden is characterized by a patchwork of foliage that shines, especially in autumn. Red barberry (Berberis), ‘Burgundy Lace’ hydrangea and ‘Quicksilver’ Russian olive (Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’) are among the shrubs and small ornamental trees sharing the slope with perennials and the red autumn fruit of several crabapple trees.
The topography of the property was an important consideration; the house sat atop a rise that sloped precipitously. To create the foundation garden, Elaine softened the grade by adding rocks and soil.
There was also the question of what to do with a marshy area at the bottom of the slope. “When this was a farm, the cesspit drained into it,” says Elaine. “Like an idiot, I tried to drain it by having pipes installed, but it didn’t work. It would simply fill up again—it’s fed by a dozen springs.” So she had the marsh dredged and it became a pond that measures 36 by 12 metres, and is now home to hundreds of frogs.
There are touches of artistic whimsy in and beside the pond. Marcel crafted a large concrete sculpture of a frog, which perches on the bank. And rising out of the water is a giant bronze human hand reaching skyward, also made by Marcel.
Next to the pond, Elaine planted a collection of trees that has become the dividing line between her property and the adjacent farm fields. These include an amur maple, black willow (Salix nigra), northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and alder (Alnus). Under the trees, a mass planting of Petasites japonicas var. giganteus thrives in the damp soil. Among the plants is a one-metre-tall resin pharoah’s head, purchased from a renovation specialist who was restoring the facade of a Montreal cinema.
At the west end of the foundation garden, adjacent to the house, a wide stone staircase takes visitors toward the lower garden. At the top, in fall, a wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana ‘Variegata’) produces red berries while a copper leaf hibiscus displays large, pink flowers. A series of tiny ponds—Elaine’s “precious puddles,” as she calls them—flanks the stairs.