The sight of a gorgeous climbing rose on the grounds of romantic Jardin de Bagatelle in Paris inspired Walker to plant a climbing rose against an obelisk in her backyard. She chose John Davis from the Canadian Explorer series, a hardy climbing rose with double pink blooms that was specially developed at the Morden Arboretum Research Station, so it is well-suited to survive our Manitoba winters. “There are many other inspirations from our travels,” says Walker, “that are not in my garden but perhaps someday.” Most notably, Walker recalls the pebble mosaics in the Chinese garden courtyards at the Sun Yat Sen garden in Vancouver and at the Floriade, an international horticulture expo held every 10 years in the Netherlands. Spring in the Netherlands attracts visitors from around the world. Irene Friesen travelled from her home in Pinawa in March of 2012 so she could catch the first colourful expression of masses of flowering bulbs in vivid bloom at Keukenhof near Amsterdam. Her trip of a lifetime included visits to Malta, Germany and Switzerland. Keukenhof, known as the Garden of Europe, stirred her senses. “If you travel to see only one garden,” says Friesen, “Keukenhof will exceed your expectations.” Friesen says there are three garden attributes that linger with her. First, sculpture and gardens are partners, she says. “In Europe,” describes Friesen, “there has been a major philosophical shift away from romanticism. The contemporary garden is an unusual synthesis of satirical, futuristic, urbane and joyous expression.” When Friesen, who has created her own designs as a potter, stepped into a small, treed garden room dominated by a dragon sculpture, her inspiration was not to mimic the design, but rather she viewed it as a whimsical reminder all of us have the capacity to breathe fire about the issues we are passionate about. And to also be the friendly dragon that plays with the children who enjoy our gardens. Friesen was struck by the functionality of the gardens she visited. Beehives in city gardens are a common sight. Herbs and vegetables grown in public gardens are used by chefs in recipes at garden restaurants. Friesen took special note of the rows of trimmed boxwood used to separate square plantings of herbs as a tool to control cross-pollination. Some gardeners will space their plants such as French thyme a distance away from another herb such as Italian thyme to avoid spreading dominant flavours. Friesen plans to borrow from the idea of creating borders of small clipped hedges for her own herb garden, but instead of boxwood, which is not reliable in our climate, she will substitute a variety of barberry, a dense, small-leaved ornamental shrub with an added bonus — deer resistance. Cherry Bomb barberry, a new listing for 2015, for example, is a low-growing shrub with crimson foliage and bright red berries in fall and winter. Friesen is introducing herself to the ecological design principles that form the basis of permaculture, a sustainable practice that has a presence in most of the European gardens she visited. She observed that not only is close attention paid in European gardens to companion planting as a non-chemical means to reduce the use of pesticides, but also there is often the close proximity of wetlands to formal gardens.