Down to an art
High school teacher’s property in central Hamilton already boasts eight awards for civic beautification
She’s won six Trilliums, Hamilton’s award for civic beautification. The front garden is a masterpiece; the backyard an oasis; her work a splendid labour of love.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GARY YOKOYAMA, THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR
HOW TRILLIUM AWARD? DO YOU WIN A
Driveway? Immaculate. Hose? Neatly coiled. Garden mulch? Freshly turned. Containers of annuals? Overflowing with healthy colour. Front garden? Picture perfect. Every inch of grass trimmed and edged. Every shrub and plant healthy and vigorous.
HAS IT down to an art. Her central Hamilton property has won six Trilliums — the city’s award for civic beautification — and two Pink Trilliums (2012 and this year) for the best example of that beautification in her ward. Hers, along with 15 other properties across the city, is a contender for the Red Trillium, to be awarded in October, recognizing the best example in Hamilton.
Tish, a Hamilton high school teacher, has been in the house for coming up to nine years. She’s done a lot of work on both the home (she may be one of the few people who actually enjoy painting their house) and the gardens.
We’ll return to the front garden — a masterpiece of colour and design — in a moment. We walk up that immaculate driveway to the gate (which she built) through the fence (which she built) to a lovely shade garden at the side of the house. Past that, where a garage used to stand, is a lovely garden shed.
As you enter the back garden, you see a gorgeous, irregularly-shaped pool. It’s surrounded by pavers which in turn are surrounded by flower borders, all of it designed to be somewhere between low- and nomaintenance.
Two tall, columnar trees sit between the back of the house and the pool; Tish has planted the beds with grasses, hydrangeas, sedums, small conifers, garden phlox and, along a shady fence line, hostas and coral bells (heuchera). It’s calm, peaceful — a genuine oasis in the city.
As the home is in a designated heritage district, Tish had to get permission to make changes to the back garden that would be visible from the street. That included asking to take down her old garage. There was time and paperwork involved, but the result is a lovely back shed, pool and garden that matches the style, if not quite the era, of the home.
But it’s the front garden that really wows.
Here’s a garden that uses foliage — leaves of plants — rather than flowers for its look and feel. In one flower bed alone, I saw the deep bronze leaves of heuchera, pale green and blue green evergreen shrubs, flaming red Japanese blood grass, a yellow-green conifer, a variegated weigela, Japanese painted fern, a deep green “whipcord” cedar, an emerald green cedar, a large dark burgundy barberry, and hostas in several shades of green.
The only significant flower in the entire front (outside of containers) is a wonderful big-leafed hydrangea with large blooms that open white and turn a sweet shade of pink.
The use of colour is artistic, but so too are the mixes of leaf shape and texture, and of plant shape and size. This garden is a master class in gardening with foliage. Every plant, bush and shrub gets regular attention — shaping, cleaning out any dead leaves, pruning for size. Tish is a woman of few words, but her affection for her garden and for attention to detail is evident.
I mustn’t ignore the overflowing baskets and containers that line the house’s veranda. Tish starts planning them in May. This year, they’re a mix of large purple petunias, small yellow petunias, lime green sweet potato vine, all with extra accents of purple, burgundy and green.
By mid-August, most containers are looking a little worn. But Tish’s are big, healthy, overflowing with flowers and not a brown leaf or dead flower to be seen. She plants them all herself and is meticulous about watering — and least daily and more often as needed. She trims and deadheads on an almost constant basis.
In September, the annuals come out and fall plants — chrysanthemums at the top of the list — go in.
Regular care and maintenance is essential, she says. A gorgeous Nootka spruce and a mature Japanese maple — “It turns bright red in the fall” — are protected by burlap wrap every winter.
“It really helps. They’re healthier since I did that.”
Working in the garden is not just a way to fill a teacher’s summer, she says. She has other work. For Tish, it’s a labour of love.
“I like to work outside. I like to cut grass. I like things nice and neat. I get a kick out of it.”
This garden is a master class in gardening with foliage.
In the backyard around the pool Tish has planted the beds with grasses, hydrangeas, sedums, small conifers, garden phlox and, along a shady fence line, hostas and coral bells (heuchera).
The overflowing baskets and containers that line the house’s veranda are a mix of large purple petunias, small yellow petunias, lime green sweet potato vine, all with extra accents of purple, burgundy and green.
Tish Jeffrey (above right), a Hamilton high school teacher, has done a lot of work on both the home and the gardens. It’s not just a way to fill a teacher’s summer, she says. It’s a labour of love.
Every shrub and plant in Tish Jeffrey’s garden is healthy and vigorous.