A GAR­DEN OF COLOUR AND TEX­TURE

Work is never done for this self-taught gar­dener

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - ROB HOWARD

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.

PHOTOS BY CATHIE COWARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

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.

PHOTOS BY CATHIE COWARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

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.

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