How to - Gardening Resources

Garden tour: The spring garden at Ste. Anne's spa

By
Kathleen Dore
Photography by
Laura Arsie

Tour the sprawling spring garden at Ste. Anne’s spa in Ontario.


The sprawling spring garden at Ste. Anne’s spa in Grafton, Ontario, is a lovely place to take a tiptoe through the tulips – and be perfectly pedicured while you do it.

There’s a commonality among spas, spring and gardens, it’s the idea of renewal, so what could be more rejuvenating than combining all three? With blue forget-me-nots, perennial yellow alyssum, a riot of tulips and countless shades of fresh green, the spring gardens at Ste. Anne’s spa in Grafton, Ontario, are a tonic for colour-starved eyes. “It’s an exciting time of year – everything is coming back to life,” says Darlene O’Connor, who, with her friend Debbie Turk, created and maintains the gardens. “It’s a period of rebirth – even people seem to be coming back to life.”

How Debbie and Darlene started gardening at Ste. Anne’s is a rebirth story itself. The two friends considered themselves “hobby gardeners,” and never imagined gardening for a living. But Jim Corcoran, Ste. Anne’s owner, knew Darlene and had admired her home garden, so he asked her to come on board. She was reluc- tant to leave her job delivering mail, so recommended Debbie, who had recently lost her office job. Debbie took the leap and started creating the spa’s gardens in August 2001; by September, Darlene had joined her. They’ve never looked back.

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The path’s paving stones were nearly overgrown when the garden started. Now, the manicured walk is flanked by borders bursting with colour: When the tulips and forget-me-nots die back, daylilies, bearded irises and lupins take over. Shrubs, such as variegated weigela, pink Japanese spirea (Spiræa japonica cvs.) and Viburnum cvs., punctuate the beds, adding height and seasonal interest.

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Rolling hills provide a pastoral backdrop for the long, deep borders that lead from the main building at Ste. Anne’s spa to the pool. “One spring, an Englishman told us that we ‘truly captured the English cottage garden,’” says Debbie Turk, one of the head gardeners. “It was the best compliment we could ever get.” White rock cress (Arabis caucasica), forget-me-nots (Myosotis cvs.) and patches of tulips colour the bed where a Japanese spirea is beginning to leaf out.

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OUR 8 FAVOURITE EARLY TULIPS
1 WHITE: ‘PURISSIMA’ FOSTERIANA TULIP (syn. White Emperor)
2 YELLOW & RED: ‘STRESA’ KAUFMANNIANA TULIP
3 AMBER & YELLOW WITH PINK OVERTONES: ‘FÜR ELISE’ GREIGII TULIP
4 PINK: ‘COSMOPOLITAN’ SINGLE EARLY TULIP
5 ORANGE: ‘MONTE ORANGE’ DOUBLE EARLY TULIP
6 APRICOT: ‘APRICOT BEAUTY’ TRIUMPH TULIP
7 DARK PURPLE: ‘NEGRITA’ TRIUMPH TULIP 8 RED: ‘APELDOORN’ DARWIN TULIP

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A range of Darwin and double-flowered tulip collections stands tall and grabs attention in the garden, where co-head gardener Darlene O’Connor’s affinity for bright colours pairs beautifully with Debbie’s love of pastel plantings.

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Along the path from the spa to the pool, visitors can pause for reflection at the stone fountain, where Debbie and Darlene planted Floribunda and Grandiflora rose cultivars. In the distance, a tree shades a spot for two guests to enjoy the serenity.

GARDEN STATS
Size: Approx. 3,000 square metres Zone: 5 Orientation: South and north Growing season: April to October Focus: English cottage garden style with reliably hardy perennials and self-seeding annuals Age of garden: 15 years Maintenance: 12 hours a week

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The border along the courtyard’s stone wall is bursting with colour, with wild violets and forget-me-nots carpeting the ground. “Violets run rampant,” says Debbie. “I have to pull some out so they don’t take over.” The money plant (Lunaria annua) has a bright purple bloom in spring before it grows its flat, rounded seedpods, which turn an intriguing translucent silver colour.

ENTER TO WIN
See The Tulip Garden For Yourself! Enter our contest to Win A getaway At Ste. Anne’s Spa for you and three friends. Click here before March 21, 2016, to enter.

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