A GARDEN OF COLOUR AND TEXTURE
Work is never done for this self-taught gardener
Ineke Nantais has a gift for gardening.
She’d probably deny it, but the fact is that this self-taught gardener, with little such tradition in the family and no mentors or teachers, has created a fabulous garden that has all the elements — design, sustainability, all-seasons interest — of one born out of significant experience and expertise.
In a small space behind their west Mountain semi-detached home, she and husband George have created a wonderful garden that reveals its colours, textures and details as a visitor walks its curving paths. It’s complemented by a lovely front garden that this year is planted in reds and whites to mark Canada’s 150th birthday.
One of the “byproducts” of Open Garden Week is that I get to see or hear about all sorts of wonderful gardens that might make a future column. And there’s always at least one that several people tell me about: “You have got to go see this garden” at such-and-such an address. “It’s wonderful” (or spectacular or amazing).
During this year’s iteration of OGW, I was encouraged to see the
garden that the Nantaises had made; they opened their garden to visitors this month for the first time.
Ineke and George have been in the home for more than 35 years and started making the gardens close to 30 years ago.
The owner of the other side of the semi-detached house — it takes up quite a wide lot in its entirety — worked with them to make front gardens that complemented each other. She passed away about a decade ago, but Ineke has found gardening fellowship with the owner of the past two years, and the front gardens today are equally tended and have similar colour schemes.
But it is the back garden where Ineke’s gardening talents are best illustrated. Here’s a garden where texture — the “feel” of a plant — counts as much as colour and shape. There are more than a dozen small trees and shrubs planted in the beds and borders, and that’s not including those planted along the property lines.
“My first goal when I started was to have a three- or four-season garden,” Ineke says. “Every month to have something in bloom. The second goal was to have a variety of textures in the garden.”
The main bed in the centre of the garden was originally planted entirely with dwarf evergreens — which she still loves, especially for their look when snow-covered in the winter. But over time, some got too big for the space, a couple more died, and Ineke decided to try some rose bushes.
It’s been a successful transition; there are lots of roses in flower now and the plants seem to thrive there. The latest addition was five Canadian Shield roses, a new introduction bred for Canadian climates. They, too, are flourishing.
Further to the rear of the property, Ineke and George have made a small pollinator garden with milkweed (a lovely coral variety), a miniature rose called Gourmet Popcorn, yarrow and foxtail lilies.
Given that their space is not large, it seems a smart move to garden vertically as well: Ineke has a multitude of clematis climbing the fences, trellises and obelisks.
One of the most unusual plants in the garden — one I’ve never seen before — is a trumpet vine, about 25 years old, that was first trained up a shepherd’s hook and has become a “tree form” with a thick, bark-covered “trunk.”
Ineke and George prune the laterals back hard every spring and the result is a three-metre-high trumpet vine tree. It’s spectacular.
There’s a handsome Bloodgood Japanese maple that has matured into the perfect size for the garden, a lime green smoke bush, a chamaecyparis (false cypress) evergreen shrub that Ineke has pruned and trained into a three-stemmed tree form, all interplanted with perennials such as hostas, astilbes, hydrangeas (a sweet variety called Tiny Tuff Stuff and a Ruby Slippers oak leaf hydrangea), heleniums, and coneflowers.
“I had a lovely affair with echinaceas (coneflowers),” Ineke says. “That’s over now. I tried all the varieties and a lot of them died. I only have the hardy ones left now.”
Interspersed among all the plants are various bits and bobs of garden statuary and signs collected or received over the years.
Ineke is a self-taught gardener, but not by messing about and learning from mistakes.
She researched plants and gardening until she knew what she was doing. “I love reading,” she says. Now, after a busy May and June, it’s time to relax and enjoy the garden.
Will she reach the point of no more big projects?
“At my age, I think I’m there,” she says with a laugh.
And then she bends to pull a weed and muses about moving a plant.
Ineke hasn’t stopped yet.
The garden is navigable via a quaint flagstone walkway which winds its way through the plants and flowers.
White flowers stand out against this hosta’s broad green leaves.
In a small space behind their west Mountain semi-detached home, Ineke Nantais and her husband George have created a wonderful garden that reveals its colours, textures and details as a visitor walks its curving paths.
Here’s a garden where texture — the “feel” of a plant — counts as much as colour and shape. There are more than a dozen small trees and shrubs planted in the beds and borders, and that’s not including those planted along the property lines. Above: A windmill in the shape of a stylized flower. Left: A 30-year-old trumpet vine that Ineke Nantais has trained to climb a shepherd’s hook is now a tree providing shade and beautiful orange blooms in the garden. The hummingbirds love it too.
This mountain hydrangea looks like it belongs in a bridal bouquet.