Gardens - Featured Gardens

Garden impromptu

Laura Langston
Photography by
Paul Bailey

Though largely unplanned, this seaside garden bursts forth in spring with an eye-popping display of bulbs.

"We have the most brilliant orange azalea in the front yard, and even though it doesn't go with anything and we don't know the variety, we'd never heave it out," Wendy says. "We just enjoy it."

The Inghams' garden is compact. The front is easily seen as you pull into the driveway on the south side. Clematis armandii climbs the side of the garage, watched over by a small rose bed filled with Wendy's cherished roses. A nearby blue wisteria blooms in spring. So does a carefully pruned California lilac by the front door. Just beyond the path that curves along the front of the house and a small patch of manicured lawn is the front bank, Tom's favourite view in the garden.

"When you stand in the driveway and look west across the lawn and up the bank, you see all these different colours and textures," he says.

Besides the orange azalea, there are a number of miniature rhododendrons, including 'Golden Witt', 'Fantastica' and 'Senator Jackson'. Grasses and heathers add texture while maples, evergreens and a few large rocks add year-round interest. In the spring, the south garden is a riot of snowdrops, primroses and violets, as well as a huge contingent of bulbs: daffodils, bloodroot, crocuses, hyacinths and tulips. They are framed by Japanese flowering quince (Chaenomeles japonica), forsythia, perennial pink fuchsia (probably Fuchsia paniculata) and a pink variety of star magnolia (Magnolia stellata). The shrubs provide a backdrop when stately monkshood blooms next to delicately scented acidanthera (Gladiolus callianthus syn. Acidanthera bicolor) and colourful spires of penstemon.

"When we came here, we tried to grow the same things as we grew in Ontario," Wendy recalls. "But you learn that doesn't always work."

They gave up on snapdragons near the front door-they required constant deadheading-and now grow hyacinths in spring and fibrous begonias in summer. Tomatoes were challenging, too, until they selected varieties more suited to their damp conditions and planted them in pots positioned under the eaves to prevent tomato blight.

However, some things do grow better in their Zone 8 garden (Qualicum Beach itself is Zone 7 and 8), including sweet peas and roses. Hellebores also thrive and are featured on the narrow west side of their yard, along with ferns, ribbon grass, saxifrage, sedums and white windflower, a prolific self-seeder. All have been planted in an effort to prevent the rain from washing the soil down the slope leading to the back garden.

Gardening on a slope, as Tom points out, is hard work. So is dealing with Qualicum Beach soil. It's sandy and constantly losing nutrients because of the rain-a contrast to the heavy, well-developed soil of their last garden.

"When we arrived, we ordered topsoil, but it had weeds," says Wendy. "Then we ordered yards of seaweed, but it came with sand fleas. Not only that, when we composted fruit and vegetable peelings, we attracted rats." After much trial and error, they settled on what they use today, a combination of manure, compost, fish fertilizer and their own potting blend.

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