Planted among the remains of an old house foundation, Vicki Lynn Bardon's sunken garden evokes the spirit of romanticism with its crumbling rock walls, elegant urns and secret nooks. Several roses, including 'American Pillar' and 'New Dawn', climb the rock walls, their heavenly scent hanging in the air. English ivy, feathery ferns, Solomon's seal and a host of hostas provide a foliage backdrop for the blanket flowers (Gaillardia x grandiflora), bleeding hearts, purple coneflowers, peonies, perennial geraniums, hollyhocks, Siberian irises, and lilies lining the perimeter of the walls.
Situated next to their gift store on Main Street, the "Secret Garden," – as local children call it – was just a vacant lot for several years after Vicki and her husband, Gary, acquired the property, before Vicki finally found time to turn it into a garden. An internationally recognized clothing and quilt designer, she hadn't done much gardening prior to this project. "Now I'm obsessed with it," she laughs. "I find it very satisfying and creative." The same inimitable sense of colour and style that marks Vicki's work is apparent throughout the garden. "I'm a real sucker for blue flowers," she says. Irises, delphiniums, clematis, monkshood and veronicas are a few of the blue flowers that thrive in her garden. "Intense blue. I like to combine that with pinks and magentas and purples and whites." She also loves the oranges and yellows of the black-eyed Susans and lilies, which come along later in the season.
One of those gardeners who can't pass a plant nursery without stopping in and buying something, Vicki says, "There isn't a flower I don't love. I don't think I'm going to live long enough to plant all the flowers I want to have." Her favourites, however, are peonies and irises. She loves the shape of irises; their upright petals and drooping lower petals remind her of a woman wearing a flowing, ruffled skirt.
It seems Vicki can transform any space, indoors or out, into something spectacular. When another old building south of the store was demolished last year, she immediately claimed the space for a new garden. This one, a "folk art garden," features such whimsical touches as an antique dress rack (from the store) used as a trellis for morning glories and a rustic, woven willow headboard that serves as a support for a row of sweet peas. Scallop shells line the edges of a few of the beds and, on fine days, Vicki's gorgeous quilts hang from a wooden fence above the garden.
Location: on Nova Scotia's south shore, about 70 kilometres southwest of Halifax
Conditions: acidic soil, high winds, average annual rainfall: 13 centimetres
Growing season: mid-May to late September