An eclectic mix of shrubs and herbaceous perennials compete for space in this more informal section of the Bodnar garden. Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) boasts orangey red, elongated berries and the branches of native highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) are heavy with fruit. Fallen yellow maple leaves are caught by a native prickly pear cactus (Opuntia compressa) at the base of a moss-covered stump.
Near the barn, a slate-covered "widow's watch" (actually the top portion of a house, shown at left) overlooks the driveway. On the right side, across the south lawn behind the house, a congregation of orange pumpkins is perched along a weathered church pew, leaning against an old ice house. A corncrib inherited from Jody's ancestors now stores garden implements. Nestled near its foundation, a tiny toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta) is at home beside a piece of driftwood and an old wagon wheel.
The two most spectacular preserved buildings in his collection anchor the gardens toward the westerly edge of the property: a former Baptist church (circa 1881) and a 1920s Bank of Commerce building from the nearby village of St. Williams, both of which had been abandoned and in disrepair. Jody says his decisions to rescue such structures are often a leap of faith. "When I see a building, I have to envision what it will look like in the landscape; then I think about how I will use it and get it from point A to B."
Nearby, lines of clipped globe boxwood contrast with upright cedars, appearing as soldiers guarding meticulously edged, grass-carpeted corridors. They contribute a sense of formality, yes, but it's not a serious formality. On occasion, crowns of renegade sumacs stick out haphazardly from between the "soldiers"—a hint that whimsy is welcome and volunteers are tolerated.
Near the horse gentian, the trunks of young eastern redbuds (Cercis canadensis) that have self-seeded will be wrapped in chicken wire over the winter so they aren't "mowed down" by rabbits. These, as well as pawpaw (Asimina triloba) seedlings, a tree uncommon to Ontario, are scattered about the property. An avid butterfly collector, Jody's been pleased to see that larvae of the zebra swallowtail have been feeding on the leaves of the pawpaws—a "very rare occurrence where we are," he says. He's also seen giant swallowtails, Canada's largest species. "I would like to create a sanctuary for insects, butterflies and birds—a place where people can come to see these things in a natural setting."
On the extreme westerly portion of the property, new rows of maples and more corridors of young evergreens are marching out across an open field-the next phase in the continuing evolution of Jody's masterpiece. "We call this our '100-yard garden,'" he says.
While Jody solicits the help of Ingrid and the boys for autumn and spring cleanup, the rest of the garden maintenance falls to him. "It's easy to spend six, eight, 10 hours a day out there. But it's no big deal, you know," he says, philosophically. "If mankind can put someone on the moon, anything is possible—one step at a time."
Inset image by Jody Bodnar: Originally from an 1880s manor, the slate-roofed structure weighs in at around 1,800 kilograms; Jody calls it the "Florida room," which offers the family a unique, warm retreat come winter.