Gardens - Featured Gardens

City limits

Suzanne Anderton
Photography by
Andrew Farquhar

In Kelowna, British Columbia, a cottage garden is a happy marriage of colour and designs

In a bed running along the front of the house, Deborah has pruned scrawny, unattractive juniper bushes to resemble bonsai trees. "Be prepared for bushes that look pretty awful for the first year after pruning," she warns. "But the needles will gradually start to reappear where you want them, and soon you'll have lovely puffy balls at the ends of the stripped branches." Wild ginger (Asarum caudatum) creates a glossy carpet underneath; it grows readily in the Okanagan and spreads by self-seeding without overcrowding.

On the east side of the house some of the Chinese elms were removed to make room for a long strip of perennials -- various hostas thrive, shaded from the hot afternoon sun -- vines and shrubs. Decorations here include a yellow bench, which was rescued from an old paddle steamer, and a dead lilac branch, which was "planted" among strawberries and perennials.

A large clump of Miscanthus sinensis, which stands next to a wide twig archway covered in hop vine, reaches two metres each year after being cut to ground level every spring. Ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinacea 'Picta') and blue fescue (Festuca ovina) are part of compositions featuring foxglove, sedum, aster, spurge, astilbe, black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), delphinium, bleeding heart, leopard's bane (Doronicum orientale 'Magnificum'), elephant's ears, purple coneflower, globe thistle (Echinops bannaticus) and deep purple 'Cappuccino' heuchera. Deborah appreciates the contrast grasses offer in shape and texture to the softer lines of perennials and groundcovers. In winter, most of the grasses remain erect after a snowfall, creating a sense of movement and lightening the general colour scheme with their bleached blades.

Under a shady elm in the backyard there's a spectacular mass of white-flowering goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), which is easy to grow in various degrees of sun or shade. The foliage continues to be attractive long after the summer flowers have faded. There's also a small lawn and seating area in this north-facing part of the yard.

Continuing around to the west side of the house, there's a large compost container made of twigs, an island garden just for rhubarb, and strawberries growing in and around the perennials. Deborah points out several old Chinese elms that should be removed, as they're providing too much shade and reseeding so fast they're threatening to take over the garden. Their removal would open up the property to the neighbouring orchards -- not to mention the neighbours' cats and chickens, which already take advantage of Deborah's welcoming nature -- so she had planned to replace the elms with a variety of maples.

But fate has intervened. Soon after this article was photo-graphed and written, Deborah made the decision to sell her property and leave the garden's future challenges and planting schemes to its next caretaker. She has since moved to Kamloops, where she can look forward to the adventure of creating a new garden.

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