Tom Ingham believes you never see your garden the way other people do. Maybe that's why he and his wife, Wendy, modestly underplay the beauty of their Vancouver Island garden.
"We just muddle," Wendy says with a smile. "We don't plan much, we get out and try things. If it doesn't work, we try something else."
Muddling, along with a deep love of gardening, obviously produces stunning results.
Theirs is a West Coast garden with English overtones. Located in Qualicum Beach, 160 kilometres north of Victoria, this town lot showcases hundreds of spring bulbs and perennials, a variety of shrubs and trees, as well as vegetables, fruits, herbs, roses and vines. It also features a sweeping ocean view, thanks to a steep 36-metre drop in the back garden.
It was that view, coupled with the quiet one-way street, that first drew the Inghams to the property. Originally from Britain, they lived and gardened in Ontario for 28 years before retiring to Vancouver Island in 1994. Having departed Ontario in winter weather, their arrival on the balmy West Coast was as startling as flying to Florida.
The change in climate also meant a change in their gardening habits. On the West Coast, it's a full-time occupation. "Here, you can work in the winter, even in the rain," Tom says. "And you have to prune two or three times a year."
Pruning wasn't all they had to do when they first arrived.
The garden had originally been well planned and planted, but nothing had been done to it since 1971. After installing a partial fence to keep the dogs in and the deer out, the Inghams began clearing.
"You couldn't see the flower beds at all; the rhodos, the heathers, the forsythias, the winter jasmine were all overgrown and jumbled together," says Wendy. "On the slope out back, nature had taken over; out front there were tree stumps, brambles and huge cedars."
They tackled the garden in sections, pruning the heathers and azaleas out back before moving to the rockery at the front of the house, where they moved a large pink mallow (Lavatera spp.), had two enormous tree stumps removed, unearthed a stash of additional rocks and even discovered a small sprinkler system. They kept all the large native trees but called on help to remove two cherries and a specimen fir.
The Inghams also needed help identifying a few of the shrubs they'd never seen before, such as Pieris, Viburnum and California lilac (Ceanothus). In other cases, they knew what they were looking at but couldn't identify the variety.