Inspired by nature, this creative couple’s ideas for the garden have created an oasis for native species and birds
Re-creating Nature: For two Quebec gardeners, their creativity and inspiration mean ideas for the garden are bountiful
It all started for Nathalie Marois when, intrigued by some co-workers’ occasional plant exchanges, she decided to participate. “That was the nudge,” she says now. Inspired, she began taking courses at the local rec centre, and just a few years later, she had completely transformed the landscape of her garden. “I had absolutely nothing at the beginning,” she says. “I created my own roots.”
When eventually she moved to a new house with her partner, Serge Pivin, she brought her newfound passion for gardening with her. Just as well, as their new backyard, 16 by 30 metres, had only a crabapple tree and grass. Together, Marois and Pivin conceived of a new plan for the yard, inspired by the wonder and love of living things. “Both of us are inspired by nature, and both of us have creative sides, so ideas for our garden abound.”
With full southern exposure and little cover, heat could be unbearable in the summer, so they decided to create a glade-like environment. They introduced many trees and shrubs, including three variegated maples and a Japanese maple, to go along with the crabapple. They planted 10 different shrubs (among them lilac, yew, weigela) and added a hundred perennials and bulbs, ranging from snowdrop to chrysanthemums. “Our garden blooms throughout the season!” Marois says.
To attract winged wildlife, Marois and Pivin added a bath and a feeder, and each year they allow the echinacea to go to seed to offer another food source. As a result, they are visited by countless birds, including cardinals and goldfinches. “Every spring, blue jays come to visit. They perch on poles and call out until we feed them peanuts,” says Marois. “And at summer’s end, a small woodpecker comes to sleep in our birdhouse.” Birds that want to nest are always welcome. A little white-tailed rabbit also shows up from time to time.
Marois and Pivin take an ecological approach: they don’t use any chemical fertilizers and they compost. “In the fall, we pick up the foliage to avoid fungal diseases.” They won’t use insecticide but will use boiling water when balance is threatened by an overabundance of ants. They recover rainwater and use a soaker hose to ensure none is wasted. And by planting a lot of native species, they have introduced healthy biodiversity and created a welcoming place for pollinators and other native wildlife. The result is a refreshing oasis right in their backyard, which includes a garden pavilion and a spa. “It’s not a job for me — it’s therapy,” says Nathalie. “It’s how I find balance.”
Marois and Pivin’s garden is registered in the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s WILD Spaces Backyard Certification Program. Visit cwf-fcf.org to learn how you — and your garden — can get involved.