A Lo­cal gar­den: A wild won­der in the midst of the city

Manitoba Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS - Story by Tania Mof­fat, Pho­tos by Tracy Pe­ters

Bev Pike learned most of what she knows about gar­den­ing from her grand­mother. Hilda was an ex­pert gar­dener and had gor­geous gar­dens at her home here in Win­nipeg for thirty years, fol­lowed by another thirty years of gar­den­ing in her re­tire­ment years on the west coast.

“She was self-taught,” says Bev. “She made an ef­fort to know the Latin names of many plants, fig­ured out the best time to plant var­i­ous seeds and learned how to ger­mi­nate dif­fer­ent plants. The most im­por­tant thing she taught me, was to have a height­ened sen­sory aware­ness of the plants around me,” she shares.

As an artist, painter and writer, Bev knows the im­por­tance of sen­sory stim­u­la­tion in all its forms – smell, touch, colour, leaf rustlings and wildlife move­ments. “I love the dif­fer­ence in the air as twi­light ap­proaches, the height­ened scents af­ter a sum­mer shower and the colour vi­brancy of flow­ers at dif­fer­ent times of the day,” she says. Bev’s favourite part of the

day is sit­ting in the gar­den with a cup of tea, lis­ten­ing to the nat­u­ral acous­tics and tak­ing in all of the sen­sory ac­tiv­ity.

The most in­trigu­ing as­pect of Bev’s gar­den is that it is so won­der­fully wild. She has been tear­ing up lawn and plant­ing na­tive tall grass prairie plants since 1993. Her front yard, con­sist­ing of mostly shade, con­tains beautiful na­tive plants like the rare Yel­low Lady Slip­per, Smooth Sweet Si­cily, os­trich ferns and Canada Anemone to name a few. Her gar­den ex­tends to the boule­vard which con­tains her col­lec­tion of plants that don’t mix with the tall grass prairie gar­dens. Tulips are just some of the beau­ties that you can see grow­ing there as you wan­der past her house.

The back of her gar­den is the “sun” gar­den and is filled with cord grass, bee balm, clover, Cul­ver’s Root and some veg­eta­bles. It may not have the pol­ished look of a mas­ter gar­dener’s gar­den, but that is due to the wild na­ture of her indige­nous plants. “The plants sucker out and move around, but I let them do what they are sup­posed to do. The gar­den is very low main­te­nance as the plants are very hardy and elim­i­nate the need for much weed­ing,” Bev says of her gar­den. Indige­nous plants are hard to move due to their deep root sys­tems (they can ex­tend 15 feet un­der­ground) so re­lo­ca­tion is al­most im­pos­si­ble. If she doesn’t like where some­thing de­cides to pop up, she usu­ally has to leave it.

Wild is beautiful

Just be­cause her gar­den is wild, don’t think for a mo­ment it is not beautiful. It is filled with its own en­chant­ments.

Bev be­lieves you have to de­velop an eye for Prairie gar­dens. “It’s just a dif­fer­ent way of be­ing in a gar­den. It’s like a sen­sory over­load. There aren’t the large vi­su­als like one would see in a coun­try gar­den. You have to learn to ap­pre­ci­ate this type of gar­den in a dif­fer­ent way. It re­quires more of a con­cen­trated ap­pre­ci­a­tion where you ab­sorb your­self within the tiny de­tails and rareness of it.

When she be­gan to build her gar­den, Bev’s pri­mary goal was to re­store habi­tat for the birds and monar­chs as they passed through the city on their mi­gra­tions. It is an at­trac­tive spot to watch the in­sects, birds, and wildlife as they rel­ish in the haven she has pro­vided. Over 20 dif­fer­ent bird feed­ers are spaced through­out her small prop­erty and at­tract ori­oles, hum­ming­birds, rare song spar­rows, and many more mi­gra­tory and over­win­ter­ing birds.

In the sum­mer, Bev loves to sit on her cov­ered bench that is draped in wild cu­cum­ber. “The large blos­som spike look mag­i­cal and have a cin­na­mony, spicy-sweet smell that is shared by many of the prairie plants in­clud­ing the wolf wil­low,” she says.

When the sea­son comes to a close, she brings many of her plants into her heated porch which be­comes a lush con­ser­va­tory. A place to en­joy the beauty of her plants even in the midst of win­ter.

Tak­ing a walk on the wild side, Bev Pike strolls through her gar­den, en­joy­ing the sen­sory aware­ness of the plants around her.

The gar­den has em­braced a free spirit.

The shady front yard grows thick with na­tive plants.

Many of the plants were cho­sen be­cause they were monarch, bee and bird friendly.

Pot­ted plants are brought into the heated front porch for the win­ter.

Sto­ries from Home, will be fea­tur­ing Bev, her gar­dens and art in a doc­u­men­tary set to air in Au­gust.

A bee dances among the fresh blos­soms.

Prairie gar­dens re­quire a con­cen­trated ap­pre­ci­a­tion for small de­tails.

Na­tive grasses.

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