Rediscovering her passion, Maureen researched plant selections and experimented with hardiness, wanting to test the limits of what she could grow in their Zone 5a garden. Searching beyond local nurseries, she combed through mail-order catalogues, purchasing 'Constance Spry' roses, native plants such as Jack-in-the-pulpit and heritage varieties, including the dainty fair maids of France (Ranunculus aconitifolius 'Flore Pleno').
Over time, Maureen's gardening philosophy has evolved from the rigid requirements of a formal garden (a pair of curving boxwood hedges shouldering a path of Japanese stepping stones are a remnant of that phase) into something more relaxed, even allowing for the occasional misfortunes visited on the flower beds by their three inquisitive dogs: Chumi, a Tibetan terrier; Rudy, a West Highland white terrier; and Lily, a bichon frise. She also admits to not being a "waterer," and therefore chooses plants that will thrive without needing to be constantly irrigated.
Although the garden looks its best in spring, Maureen has added plants that provide colour throughout the growing season. But while her earlier choices centred on bloom, she now focuses on the other senses. "If it's a choice between flower or fragrance, I choose fragrance." Aromatic examples range from magnolias and butterfly bush to French tarragon, lavender and sweet woodruff. Maureen also selects and arranges plants to maximize diversity in texture and size. By the pond, for instance, the spiny, dark leaves of holly contrast with the taller, light shoots of bamboo, while dwarf, oval-leafed Rhododendron impeditum cascades over rocks next to the rounded leaves of marsh marigold (Caltha palustris).
Gardening has taught Maureen to turn challenges into opportunities. Rather than bemoaning the removal of a weeping flowering crabapple in the back garden that was taking up too much room, for instance, she talks about the potential to make new plans and try new plants. And when adding an entryway and sunroom to the house a few years ago meant tearing up the front garden, Maureen redesigned the space by replacing the scrawny lawn and central maple tree with a curving berm, high enough and densely planted to provide privacy from the street.
"The biggest challenge in the garden now is pruning," says Maureen. But, characteristically, that opens up the potential for a future project. "I'm going to get my own mulching/chipper machine," she says with a smile.
- Size: front: 56 square metres; back: 21 x 9 metres
- Orientation: front: northwest; back: southeast
- Conditions: steeply sloped, amended soil
- Growing: season April to October
- Garden focus: dense plantings, terraces, secret sitting areas
- Zone: 5a
Combining the elegant with the old-fashioned and the exotic with the hardy, Maureen Hannaford takes a mix-and-match approach to gardening. But she also enjoys using several varieties of the same plant in different arrangements. For example, Japanese maples, her favourite plant, provide graceful focal points throughout the garden: a tall ‘Bloodgood' guards a trellis in the southeast corner of the yard, rubbing shoulders with a fragrant saucer magnolia; a cascading Acer palmatum var. dissectum shares a bed with hydrangeas, variegated elder and gooseneck loosestrife in the front berm garden; and a 'Dissectum Atropurpureum' (with a backdrop of a climbing rose and clematis) is flanked by field poppies along the edge of the sun porch.