A lo­cal gar­den:

The flower house

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - Contents - By Tania Mof­fat

For years Marie and Em­mett Wenger have been toil­ing hap­pily away, build­ing magnificent gar­dens to­gether. It’s seems to be a match sown from the earth it­self.

Marie was a young child when she first felt that twinge of love for gar­den­ing, “We lived on a farm and my chore was to look af­ter the veg­etable gar­den, but I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber the spe­cial gar­den I shared with my mom filled with dahlias and pe­onies,” shares Marie whose been hooked ever since.

Mean­while, north of Ed­mon­ton, Em­mett was grow­ing up on his fam­ily farm do­ing some of the same gar­den­ing chores. He too loved gar­den­ing and had planted a long row of dahlias from the house to the road as a teenager.

When the pair met, Marie was liv­ing in an apart­ment and although she was un­able to gar­den her love for it never left her. “Em­mett had a house with a beautiful gar­den at the time,” re­calls Marie, “and once I saw it my joy and love for the gar­den came rush­ing back.”

Find­ing par­adise

To­day the pair gar­den in much the same way they did in their early days, to­gether. “We had es­tab­lished a beautiful gar­den in our pre­vi­ous home, but at the time we felt that we had done all we could do with it,” says Marie. “When we bought this house 33 years ago, it was a blank slate and

we saw the po­ten­tial for gar­dens. The land was un­even with a few trees and two tiny gar­dens, it was ba­si­cally grass from fence to fence. The first thing we had to do was level the ground and re­move the nu­mer­ous this­tles that had taken hold. I re­mem­ber teach­ing the chil­dren how to re­move them. It used to take Em­mett over an hour to cut all that grass.” The only orig­i­nal plant­ings re­main­ing in the yard to­day are a pine tree, an ap­ple tree, a vibur­num, a moun­tain ash shrub, a flow­er­ing crab and a pe­ony.

Look­ing at the lush, colour­ful gar­dens burst­ing with blooms ev­ery­where now, it’s hard to imag­ine how it must have looked in the early days. Lit­tle by lit­tle the pair be­gan their mirac­u­lous trans­for­ma­tion. It started with a huge chil­dren’s play gym at the back of the yard be­ing re­lo­cated and a peren­nial back yard bor­der was started.

Over the past cou­ple of decades, they've man­aged to trans­form a drab yard into a show stop­ping dis­play of nat­u­ral beauty. “We love to grow plants. We find so much plea­sure and re­lax­ation work­ing in our yard,” says Em­mett. As the chil­dren grew and no longer made use of the back yard as a play area they slowly re­moved grass and added more and more gar­den space.

A pic­turesque pond com­plete with water­fall was added in 1997 and was the last ma­jor change made to the back yard. They man­aged to nat­u­ral­ize its ap­pear­ance by us­ing a moun­tain ash for the back drop, grasses, goats beard and wa­ter plants. Bird feed­ers and houses can be seen pok­ing through the flow­ers in sev­eral lo­ca­tions. “We wel­come the birds and en­joy watch­ing them, ex­cept for maybe the spar­rows who eat away at the young veg­eta­bles. It’s amaz­ing how many birds come to the pond if you just sit qui­etly near it,” says Marie.

Sev­eral dif­fer­ent flower gar­dens make up the back­yard which pro­vide some for­mal­ity with their curved edges. How­ever, the beds have the care­free at­ti­tude of an English cottage gar­den. When cre­at­ing the gar­dens the cou­ple’s in­tent was to de­sign it in

such a way that it could not be seen in its en­tirety from one spot. One has to take a leisurely walk down the slate paths and step­ping stones or sit in the dif­fer­ent seat­ing ar­eas to experience the whole yard and the dif­fer­ent plant­ings. If you look care­fully you will no­tice veg­eta­bles are not grown separately but have been in­cor­po­rated into the beds shar­ing grow­ing space with flo­ral and fo­liage plant­ings.

When asked what her favourite flow­ers or part of the gar­den was Marie was re­luc­tant to choose. “I love what­ever is in bloom at the time. In the spring it’s the marsh marigolds, sin­gle her­itage pe­onies and fern­leaf pe­onies. The alpine bed is in full bloom as well. By sum­mer the martagon lilies and Queen of the Prairies Filipen­dula, columbines, salvias, roses and del­phini­ums are in bloom. I could go on and on talk­ing about the plants all day,” she laughs.

Marie and Em­mett have quite a col­lec­tion of martagon and Asi­atic lilies, though Marie ad­mits there are less Asi­at­ics now that they have more shade in the gar­den. As for their martagons she tells us that they have over 30 named va­ri­etes and sev­eral grown from seeds.

Hid­den among the back­drop of flow­ers are sev­eral dec­o­ra­tions that Marie and Em­mett put to­gether which high­light their love of na­ture and gar­den­ing, they are also sure to bring a smile to your face when you come across them.

Once the back­yard beds were com­pleted Marie and Em­mett switched their fo­cus to the large front yard, adding beds and de­creas­ing the lawn space. The grass now has been re­duced to form wind­ing path ways for walk­ing around the dif­fer­ent front yard beds. Their ob­jec­tive when build­ing the var­i­ous beds was to have plants

in bloom from early spring to freeze up in the fall and they have suc­ceeded.

“Gar­den­ing pro­vides us with ex­cite­ment through the sea­sons as dif­fer­ent flow­ers come from the spring bulbs to colour­ful an­nu­als and peren­ni­als that ex­tend the grow­ing sea­son and pro­vide great fall colour. We have made use of every square inch of space to grow some­thing,” says Em­mett.

One of the great­est plea­sures shares Marie, is see­ing how peo­ple in the com­mu­nity en­joy their gar­dens. “You know al­most ev­ery­one’s gar­dens are in the back of the house but we have lots of gar­dens in the front. It brings us such en­joy­ment to see peo­ple stop­ping to look at the flow­ers on their walks. We have had the plea­sure of speak­ing to some of them and they tell us that they pur­posely take a route past our home on a reg­u­lar ba­sis to see what will be bloom­ing next. The chil­dren re­fer to our home as ‘the flower house’.”

Last year the Wengers took part in the Ed­mon­ton Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­eties’ self-guided walk­ing tour. Over 877 peo­ple vis­ited their gar­dens. Af­ter the crazi­ness of the pre­vi­ous year Marie and Em­mett plan to just sit and en­joy the gar­den this year shar­ing it with fam­ily and friends. Their twoyear-old grand­son en­joys the flow­ers and learn­ing what he can eat in the gar­den.

The most won­der­ful part of Marie and Em­mett’s gar­dens is that they cre­ated the en­tire makeover by hand and as a team. It’s rare to find some­one with the same pas­sions as you but Marie and Em­mett did. They spend end­less hours to­gether in their favourite place, the gar­den. This mas­ter­ful gar­den is a tes­ta­ment to their wellor­ga­nized, ar­du­ous work, bril­liant ideas, love for one another and for gar­den­ing.

Em­mett and Marie Wenger.

The back­yarfd is de­signed in such a way that you have to walk the paths and ex­plore to see it all.

Flow­ers, flow­ers ev­ery­where!

Pond in­stalled by Em­mett and Marie.

The front yard is al­ways awash with colour­ful blooms.

Back­yard seat­ing area.

A colour­ful mix of peren­ni­als.

Soft mauve al­lium and roses.

Colour­ful Asian lilies and del­phini­ums.

Front flower bed with an­nu­als added for colour and in­ter­est.

Neigh­bours walk by just to see what's in bloom.

Birds wel­come!

In­ter­est­ing decor is ev­ery­where.

Stat­ues are hid­den among the flow­ers

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