Gardens - Featured Gardens

Rock stars

Janet Collins
Photography by
Bert Klassen

Visit an exotic garden on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast

Harold Myers admits that theirs is no ordinary rock garden. Yet one glance around this Davis Bay, British Columbia, botanical beauty confirms the appropriateness of the term. "We kept finding interesting rocks we wanted to bring home," says Harold. "The garden was a good place to put them, but they looked a little strange just sitting there on their own, so we started planting things around them." The result is a spectacular garden that embraces and replicates the different ecosystems of the West Coast, such as alpine, woodland and desert, while looking exotic and vaguely Japanese.

Harold and his wife, Marie, began designing gardens around rocks not in B.C., but in their former home in North York, a leafy suburb of Toronto, where they created a yard that attracted a wide variety of birds and other wildlife. Twelve years ago, when Harold retired from his security alarm business and the couple moved to B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, they decided to use a similar approach with their new plot. "There wasn't much to start with here except a small cedar hedge, some fruit trees and a few border plants," says Marie of their 1,349-square-metre property. "But it was the weeping sequoia near the driveway that sold us on the house."

Other eye-catching plants soon joined the sequoia. With the help of their son, Larry (who recently left a career in the forestry industry to take up landscape design), the Myerses have transformed a typical residential planting scheme into something that's truly original. For example, the entry around the house has been designed to resemble mountainous terrain. Gravel beds with large specimen rocks, many trucked in from Hope, B.C., dominate the space. On one side of the drive, the weeping sequoia retains its pride of place. On the opposite side, judiciously chosen plantings include pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana 'Sunningdale Silver'), golden groundsel (Ligularia dentata 'Desdemona'), 'Boughton Dome' hebe (Hebe cupressoides 'Boughton Dome'), fuki (Petasites japonicus var. giganteus), and umbrella plant (Darmera peltata syn. Peltiphyllum peltatum), with one leafy, massive gunnera (Gunnera manicata) garnering most of the attention.

Gravel beds flow along a curved path that winds through a woodland area on the north side of the house, before turning toward the wetland area (complete with a bog, small waterfalls and ponds) at the rear of the lot, which slopes down to the west. This gravel pathway meanders along the slope in much the same way a stream might travel down from the coastal mountains to the ocean. "The gravel is also used for continuity," says Larry, "a common link between the different parts of the garden."

Size of property: 1,349 square metres

Orientation: west

Conditions: sandy soil, sloped lot

Growing season: year-round

Garden focus: rocks; exotic landscape with Japanese touches

Zone: 8

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