A sweet spot of sum­mer

This gar­den par­adise evolved over 30 years and fea­tures an apri­cot tree and a cov­ered deck for host­ing din­ner par­ties

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - KATHY RENWALD

Gar­den of­fers space to lounge the day away in peace and quiet

Friends come for an hour and they stay for the day or the night.

They lounge on the deck or the cov­ered pa­tio; the chaise longue is pop­u­lar and so is the spot un­der the apri­cot tree.

The minute you walk into Tracey Shock­aert’s gar­den, you see that she has cap­tured the sweet spot of sum­mer.

A gar­den like this doesn’t hap­pen in a rush; in fact, it’s taken 30 years. When she and her hus­band moved into the house on Herkimer, in West Hamil­ton, they thought it would be tem­po­rary. Then the neigh­bour with the English gar­den shared some plants and the apri­cot tree started to grow and a gar­den evolved that would prove hard to leave.

“I didn’t have a vi­sion, or spe­cific in­spi­ra­tion, the gar­den just evolved,” she says as we step in­side the gar­den gate.

Land­ing zone No. 1 is here: a two-tiered deck with am­ple and ami­able seat­ing un­der pa­tio um­brel­las. A sil­ver lace vine cov­er­ing the fence is just start­ing to bloom and the ex­panse of wood deck­ing and stone pavers is soft­ened by pots filled with flow­ers, herbs and veg­eta­bles. This is a favourite loung­ing spot. Last week a group of friends ar­rived mid-af­ter­noon and were still there at mid­night as the twin­kle lights il­lu­mi­nated the far cor­ners of the gar­den.

For 36 years Shock­aert man­aged a den­tal of­fice in Burling­ton. When the den­tist re­tired, Shock­aert tried that too but quickly got bored, so she started work­ing at Hol­land Park Gar­den Gallery in Dun­das. It was a match made in heaven.

“Ev­ery week I walk out with a new plant and they al­ways ask me where I’m go­ing to put it.”

It’s ob­vi­ous where she puts it — in a pot. There are pots every­where; when it’s time to wa­ter, she’s at it for an hour and a half.

One of Shock­aert’s favourite places to sit is the cov­ered deck at­tached to the house. Two pa­tio doors lead to the space and ob­scure the di­vide be­tween in­doors and out.

This is the place for big din­ners, for the two wed­ding feasts held here, wine tast­ings and even a glass of cham­pagne in the win­ter, with an out­door heater tak­ing the chill off. On this sum­mer day hang­ing lanterns tan­gled with clema­tis wave in the breeze as glass wind chimes add their dis­tant mu­sic.

The gar­den fans out from a sculp­tural apri­cot tree in the mid­dle of the lawn that Shock­aert adores. It’s pruned gin­gerly, wa­tered and fed so that it can spread its beau­ti­ful branches over the gar­den for many years to come.

It does a po­etic job of fram­ing a lovely gar­den she has planted along the back wall of the garage. Here Shock­aert has recre­ated the magic of her summers at the fam­ily cot­tage on Turkey Point. A gar­den just like this with hostas and ferns, and flow­ers spilling from a win­dow box, was a favourite spot at the cot­tage. When the cot­tage was sold, she got her favourite memento: the sign with the fam­ily name, and hung it be­neath the win­dow of her garage.

“This gar­den turned into my away place where I come to find quiet,” she says.

And a place where the sweet­ness of sum­mer seems like it will never end.

The sculp­tural apri­cot tree acts as an an­chor for the whole back­yard. A cov­ered deck at­tached to the house is used for big din­ners, par­ties and even wine tast­ings. The pa­tio doors help blur the lines be­tween in­doors and out.

The pot­ting bench is one of the busiest places in the gar­den.

Tracey Shock­aert recre­ated her cot­tage gar­den in the city.

The fam­ily cot­tage was sold but she got to keep the sign.

A two-level deck, top, has plenty of room for the many pot­ted plants in the gar­den in­clud­ing trop­i­cals, herbs and veg­eta­bles.

The apri­cot tree, above, pro­vides a shady place to read.

There are al­ways flow­ers on the ta­ble, at left.

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