In 1989, Brenda Adams' family had just moved in, and she recalls spending hot July days taking stock of the property. The house had been the manse of the nearby Kirkwall Presbyterian Church since 1856, and the few garden beds that existed were filled with plants donated by members of the congregation: tough,
old-fashioned perennials that Brenda has since woven into her own borders. The back of the property had been fenced off to provide a pasture for a neighbouring farmer's ponies, so "everything was chewed to the ground," she recalls.
With limited gardening know-how ("Why did the forget-me-nots all die?" she once puzzled), Brenda found herself faced with the daunting prospect of taming three and a half acres of dry, crispy lawn, ragged pastureland and a few small flower beds. Over the ensuing years, the Zone 5 garden has slowly taken shape. "It's like gaining weight-it happened gradually," she explains. But with inspiration gleaned from the many garden tours she's made and the horticultural society meetings she's attended, not to mention plants received from her gardening friends, Brenda has created a country-style garden she can be proud of.
Originally, Brenda had visions of flanking both sides of the long driveway with colourful twin borders, complete with soaring delphiniums. Her dreams soon gave way to reality when she discovered what a challenge it was to garden between two black walnut trees on a site exposed to drying west winds and scorching sun. Instead, Brenda started working with tougher plants, even though many of these specimens flowered in oranges, reds and yellows-not her favourite colours. The result is a border that provides a succession of season-long bloom that starts with a dazzling springtime display of bulbs. Blooming through early summer are elegant falls of tall bearded irises and soaring, multicoloured spires of lupines, followed by fiery orange poppies, magenta-hued rose campion, a rainbow of daylilies and brightly coloured phlox.