A local garden:
The flower house
For years Marie and Emmett Wenger have been toiling happily away, building magnificent gardens together. It’s seems to be a match sown from the earth itself.
Marie was a young child when she first felt that twinge of love for gardening, “We lived on a farm and my chore was to look after the vegetable garden, but I’ll always remember the special garden I shared with my mom filled with dahlias and peonies,” shares Marie whose been hooked ever since.
Meanwhile, north of Edmonton, Emmett was growing up on his family farm doing some of the same gardening chores. He too loved gardening and had planted a long row of dahlias from the house to the road as a teenager.
When the pair met, Marie was living in an apartment and although she was unable to garden her love for it never left her. “Emmett had a house with a beautiful garden at the time,” recalls Marie, “and once I saw it my joy and love for the garden came rushing back.”
Today the pair garden in much the same way they did in their early days, together. “We had established a beautiful garden in our previous home, but at the time we felt that we had done all we could do with it,” says Marie. “When we bought this house 33 years ago, it was a blank slate and
we saw the potential for gardens. The land was uneven with a few trees and two tiny gardens, it was basically grass from fence to fence. The first thing we had to do was level the ground and remove the numerous thistles that had taken hold. I remember teaching the children how to remove them. It used to take Emmett over an hour to cut all that grass.” The only original plantings remaining in the yard today are a pine tree, an apple tree, a viburnum, a mountain ash shrub, a flowering crab and a peony.
Looking at the lush, colourful gardens bursting with blooms everywhere now, it’s hard to imagine how it must have looked in the early days. Little by little the pair began their miraculous transformation. It started with a huge children’s play gym at the back of the yard being relocated and a perennial back yard border was started.
Over the past couple of decades, they've managed to transform a drab yard into a show stopping display of natural beauty. “We love to grow plants. We find so much pleasure and relaxation working in our yard,” says Emmett. As the children grew and no longer made use of the back yard as a play area they slowly removed grass and added more and more garden space.
A picturesque pond complete with waterfall was added in 1997 and was the last major change made to the back yard. They managed to naturalize its appearance by using a mountain ash for the back drop, grasses, goats beard and water plants. Bird feeders and houses can be seen poking through the flowers in several locations. “We welcome the birds and enjoy watching them, except for maybe the sparrows who eat away at the young vegetables. It’s amazing how many birds come to the pond if you just sit quietly near it,” says Marie.
Several different flower gardens make up the backyard which provide some formality with their curved edges. However, the beds have the carefree attitude of an English cottage garden. When creating the gardens the couple’s intent was to design it in
such a way that it could not be seen in its entirety from one spot. One has to take a leisurely walk down the slate paths and stepping stones or sit in the different seating areas to experience the whole yard and the different plantings. If you look carefully you will notice vegetables are not grown separately but have been incorporated into the beds sharing growing space with floral and foliage plantings.
When asked what her favourite flowers or part of the garden was Marie was reluctant to choose. “I love whatever is in bloom at the time. In the spring it’s the marsh marigolds, single heritage peonies and fernleaf peonies. The alpine bed is in full bloom as well. By summer the martagon lilies and Queen of the Prairies Filipendula, columbines, salvias, roses and delphiniums are in bloom. I could go on and on talking about the plants all day,” she laughs.
Marie and Emmett have quite a collection of martagon and Asiatic lilies, though Marie admits there are less Asiatics now that they have more shade in the garden. As for their martagons she tells us that they have over 30 named varietes and several grown from seeds.
Hidden among the backdrop of flowers are several decorations that Marie and Emmett put together which highlight their love of nature and gardening, they are also sure to bring a smile to your face when you come across them.
Once the backyard beds were completed Marie and Emmett switched their focus to the large front yard, adding beds and decreasing the lawn space. The grass now has been reduced to form winding path ways for walking around the different front yard beds. Their objective when building the various beds was to have plants
in bloom from early spring to freeze up in the fall and they have succeeded.
“Gardening provides us with excitement through the seasons as different flowers come from the spring bulbs to colourful annuals and perennials that extend the growing season and provide great fall colour. We have made use of every square inch of space to grow something,” says Emmett.
One of the greatest pleasures shares Marie, is seeing how people in the community enjoy their gardens. “You know almost everyone’s gardens are in the back of the house but we have lots of gardens in the front. It brings us such enjoyment to see people stopping to look at the flowers on their walks. We have had the pleasure of speaking to some of them and they tell us that they purposely take a route past our home on a regular basis to see what will be blooming next. The children refer to our home as ‘the flower house’.”
Last year the Wengers took part in the Edmonton Horticultural Societies’ self-guided walking tour. Over 877 people visited their gardens. After the craziness of the previous year Marie and Emmett plan to just sit and enjoy the garden this year sharing it with family and friends. Their twoyear-old grandson enjoys the flowers and learning what he can eat in the garden.
The most wonderful part of Marie and Emmett’s gardens is that they created the entire makeover by hand and as a team. It’s rare to find someone with the same passions as you but Marie and Emmett did. They spend endless hours together in their favourite place, the garden. This masterful garden is a testament to their wellorganized, arduous work, brilliant ideas, love for one another and for gardening.
The front yard is always awash with colourful blooms.
Backyard seating area.
A colourful mix of perennials.
Soft mauve allium and roses.
Colourful Asian lilies and delphiniums.
The backyarfd is designed in such a way that you have to walk the paths and explore to see it all.
Flowers, flowers everywhere!
Pond installed by Emmett and Marie.
Emmett and Marie Wenger.
Front flower bed with annuals added for colour and interest.
Neighbours walk by just to see what's in bloom.
Interesting decor is everywhere.
Statues are hidden among the flowers