Gardens - Featured Gardens

Tulips take centre stage in a Halifax garden

Carol Matthews
Photography by
Dan Callis

A bounty of flowering bulbs creates a colourful outdoor space

The bulb display is framed and supported by purple saucer and pure white star magnolias, various rhododendrons, yellow forsythias, azaleas and evergreens. Interspersed are yellow alyssum, violets, spreading pink and white phlox, hostas and soothing blue forget-me-nots.

tulip-garden-inset2.jpgAdjacent to Stewart’s gardens is a vacant wooded lot in which he has planted 1,500 narcissi, more rhododendrons and azaleas, and fragrant lilies-of-the-valley, which carpet the ground each spring.

Stewart says his only “plan” for his garden beds is spontaneity. “I love playing with combinations—of colours, plants, varieties,” he says. He’s not much of a garden purist—he doesn’t use Latin terms for plants and doesn’t even know the name of many of his tulips—but he knows what he likes and how to make it happen.

But all this beauty does not come without effort. Every spring and fall Stewart spends many days in the garden preparing beds, planting and getting ready for the next season. In the summer he spends one day a week deadheading flowers and performing basic maintenance. He has compost piles strategically hidden throughout his yard, but confesses to composting haphazardly. He throws things in a pile and simply waits for nature to take its course. Because his garden soil is rocky and thin, Stewart has to truck in topsoil when he develops a new flower bed. Depending on the quality of the soil, he may add peat moss or vermiculite, along with the compost, to lighten it and help retain moisture.

Although the garden is famous for its spring display, dozens of other perennials and flowering shrubs carry the show through summer into fall. Traditional borders are filled with delphiniums, fragrant peonies, coneflowers and 2.5-metre-tall hollyhocks, interspersed with alliums and all kinds of lilies. Pots of annuals punctuate the borders as well.

It’s no wonder dozens of garden clubs and hundreds of people have visited this gorgeous garden. Its beauty, along with the charm of its owner, lures many back year after year. Stewart also opens his garden for charitable fundraising tours, and for the last 20 years has held an annual garden party for friends and associates. “My greatest thrill is sharing it with people,” he says. “It’s what keeps me going, and gives me a new sense of mission.”

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