In the Gar­den

To make her ideal gar­den, Hazel Richard­son needed to find the per­fect site. She did…

Canadian Wildlife - - FEATURES - By Cana­dian Wildlife Staff

Cer­ti­fied Spectacular: To make her ideal gar­den come to life, New Brunswick’s Hazel Richard­son needed to find the per­fect site. She did…

“My grand­fa­ther had an enor­mous veg­etable gar­den where I spent hours and hours. That’s where I got it,” Hazel Richard­son says by way of ex­pla­na­tion. “It” is the con­sum­ing pas­sion for gar­den­ing. And “it” has cre­ated this ex­cep­tional gar­den, in Han­well, New Brunswick, a quiet sub­urb south­west of Fred­er­ic­ton. In Jan­uary, the gar­den was cer­ti­fied by CWF’S back­yard habi­tat cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram.

The house and gar­den were a mess when Richard­son came across it. “No­body wanted this place. It had been on the mar­ket for ages,” she says. She found it about three years ago, when she was look­ing for a new house and, more to the point, a new gar­den: four acres, grad­u­ally slop­ing down to three large ponds joined by a stream; be­yond, the land ris­ing, a steep, wooded hill­side. It was ne­glected but had good bones, with a red maple, a birch cop­pice and a sad, ne­glected lilac. “I knew the minute I saw it that this would be my gar­den. The house was a wreck, but … there was a heron in the pond!”

Richard­son, a train­ing man­ager for a soft­ware com­pany, left Eng­land for Canada more than 10 years ago. Her big­gest ad­just­ment has been the win­ter: “The win­ters here are way too long. I still can’t get used to the short grow­ing sea­son,” she says with a laugh, “I was start­ing to go mad so I set up in­door grow­ing lights in my base­ment dur­ing the win­ter.”

The big­gest chal­lenge she has faced in bring­ing her vi­sion to life? “This gar­den is so rocky, not good soil — lots of clay, very heavy, with an enor­mous num­ber of rocks. In some places, there’s very lit­tle soil over the bedrock. I have brought in top­soil and mixed in tons of com­post. And I’ve pulled a lot of rocks.” Many of them ended up in a large pile to one side, now pro­vid­ing shel­ter for wildlife.

In the first year, she set to build­ing ter­races for her herb and veg­etable gar­dens and planted ap­ple trees, black cur­rants, straw­ber­ries, grapes and hazel­nuts, among oth­ers. She also be­gan cre­at­ing a wild­flower gar­den. “The truth is I am a lazy gar­dener,” she says some­what im­plau­si­bly. “I like peren­ni­als and self-seed­ing an­nu­als. I want to be able to plant some­thing, let it grow, let it spread.”

On her ap­pli­ca­tion for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, Richard­son wrote: “Since pur­chas­ing the prop­erty, I have worked to en­sure it is a safe place for a wide va­ri­ety of wildlife, de­spite it be­ing in a sub­ur­ban area.” Among the many crea­tures sighted are bears, deer, foxes, skunks, ground­hogs, muskrats, Canada geese, blue herons, com­mon mer­gansers, mourn­ing doves, bald ea­gles, hum­ming­birds, hawks, red-headed wood­peck­ers, pileated wood­peck­ers — the long list goes on.

Richard­son be­comes pos­i­tively po­etic when asked why she does it, what the re­ward is. “The whole point of gar­den­ing for me is cre­at­ing the small joys in life — when you see a bird you’ve never seen be­fore, or in the sum­mer lis­ten to the bees buzzing in the gar­den. I love see­ing the duck­lings on the pond in the spring. Or last sum­mer, when I saw mon­archs in the gar­den for the first time, that was ex­cit­ing. And when all this is the re­sult of the work you’ve done your­self cre­at­ing a place that is wel­com­ing and use­ful to wildlife, that it is very valu­able. That is the re­ward.”

To learn more about the CWF’S Back­yard Habi­tat Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram, visit

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