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.

The back garden is dominated by the ocean view, a large deck running the length of the house and a narrow strip of land where the Inghams grow an astounding variety of plants. There are summer- and winter-flowering heathers; more miniature azaleas and rhododendrons; spreading junipers; summer-flowering buddleias; groundcover broom (Genista spp.), which erupts into a carpet of brilliant yellow in May; as well as two dwarf apple trees and several blueberry bushes.

Their attitude is relaxed and their garden philosophy is simple: do it, enjoy it and shuffle plants until they find a proper home. "We're getting good at lifting things out and moving them," says Tom. They're also good at keeping all plants carefully pruned and the garden relentlessly tidy, and at taking advantage of every inch of space.

Eight raised beds starting in the back corner of the garden are staggered along the east side. They feature beans, garlic, potatoes, beets, small onions for pickling, lettuce, strawberries, raspberries and a variety of herbs. Compost bins are tucked out of sight behind prolific blackberry vines. Because they travel, the Inghams refuse to let the garden rule their lives. "We want it to look good, but we don't want to be slaves to it," says Wendy. Aside from occasionally hiring help for some bigger jobs, they do everything themselves, splitting the work evenly. "No real plan to it," Wendy says, "It just evolved that way." When pressed to "guesstimate" how much time they spend outside, they suggest about four hours a day during the growing season.

And their hands-down favourite time of year is spring. "The spring garden is a developing garden," Tom explains. "There's something new to look at every day."

It's like a re-awakening as they welcome winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) and winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), followed by a constant carpet of snowdrops and primroses, large and small daffodils, tulips, witch hazel and corkscrew hazel, and the beautifully perfumed mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia).

Spring also brings its challenges. Inevitably, there will be a new crop of cedar roots to dig out of the raised beds, as well as visits from slugs and deer. The slugs are hand-picked, while the deer, which wander the roads of Qualicum Beach like mischievous, brazen children, are more problematic. The partial deer fence along the back of the property helps, as does the temporary black fishing net that runs across the double wide driveway. "It's only seven or eight feet high, but when they brush their faces against it, it's enough to discourage them," Tom explains.

While spring is the beginning of the season, fall inevitably marks garden wind-down and cleanup. In the midst of empty-ing planters and cutting back dead foliage, the Inghams swear that next year they'll travel more and garden less.

"But it just never happens," says Wendy with a laugh.

Planning is hard to do. And muddling, it seems, is hard to stop.

Botanus, Inc., Acidanthera bicolor murieliae

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