Gardens - Featured Gardens

The lure of the East

Gerald Filipski
Photography by
Marilynn Mcara

A plain-jane Alberta backyard is transformed into a sanctuary with hints of the Far East

Bill and Lorraine take photos of every pot at various stages during the growing season. Each plant is evaluated based on its performance, and notes are logged into a journal. Before the next growing season, new plants are chosen to replace those that didn’t meet expectations.

A winding slate path leads you into the garden. Woolly thyme grows between its slabs, softening the path’s hard edges; the pale, fuzzy leaves create a pleasing effect against the darkness of the stone. The view from here is striking. Bill’s life’s work is the oil business, so it seems fitting that Edmonton’s oil refineries and skyline act as backdrops for the plants. In the foreground, the garden is resplendent in its summer colours—yellows, pinks and oranges courtesy of the cannas, mauves from the blazing star, golden yellows from the black-eyed Susans, blues from the delphiniums and hydrangeas. Bill talks about his plants lovingly, like a parent. “When someone asks me which ones are my favourite, I can’t answer,” he admits. “They’re all my favourites. It’s like being asked which of your children you like best.”

The garden’s peaceful setting is complemented by the pond, whose cascading waters sound soothing, rather than intrusive. The waterfall’s foundation was built from the clay Bill removed when digging his first perennial bed. (This bed, and the others, had clay taken out to a depth of 45 centimetres to allow for the addition of quality topsoil.) He brought in 42 loads of topsoil and 17 tons of stone to create the garden and water feature. Bill credits his son, Sean, as his main helper in the garden’s creation.

The waterfall is surrounded by moisture-loving plants. ‘Butter and Sugar’ and ‘Caesar’s Brother’ Siberian irises are enhanced by variegated reed grasses and umbrella papyrus (Cyperus alternifolia). The pond’s base is home to “Mr. Tan,” a statue of a water carrier that is part of an Asian theme running throughout the garden. It evokes memories of the time the family spent living in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and China. Mr. Tan watches over the water lettuce, water lilies and water hyacinths.

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