Anchorage Gardens is a quintessential country garden of yesteryear. The historic farmyard in Boissevain, Man. was transformed by Don and Betty Engbrecht. The couple’s passion for their work can be seen in the charming flower beds and displays of agricultural history located throughout the property as visitors take a relaxing stroll through the property.
The gardens received their name “Anchorage” from a piece of history dating back to 1898. In that year a British sailor by the name of William Moore built a two-storey stone mansion on the property, which the Engbrechts acquired in 1969. In 1976, “The Anchorage” as the mansion was referred to, was torn down due to its increasing disrepair. The stones and rocks were used to line the paths in the gardens, making it only natural that the gardens would inherit the name “Anchorage”.
It was claimed that the gardens went from innocence to intent. To be in the stage of innocence was to clean up the yard and sides of buildings and install flower beds with the sole intent of beautification.
The intent stage didn’t begin to formulate until the mid-1990s when all of the flower beds and display sites received a site or garden name as well as a place name. The perennial garden, for example, was renamed the Place of Affirmation, and the secret garden received the new name, Place of Meditation. Twenty-four sites were planned, named and constructed over in a period of 15 years starting in 2000. Place names were chosen to represent attributes of life that we share and/or live by on a daily basis and therefore the tours were called, A Journey of Life through Anchorage Gardens.
The gardens were created around two basic principles. First, that all construction used only recycled material and second, that each site was to incorporate an agricultural accent. Each year the promise was made to those who toured the gardens that a new project would be completed for them to see if they came back, a promise that Don and Betty have achieved each year for 15 years.
During this period of growth and development, the Engbrechts coined numerous terms such as: close up gardens, organized chaos and rim art. The “close up garden” phrase referred to the rustic nature and subtleness found in the flower beds. The rusting scrap metal art in all flower beds was hard to find unless the eye focused on it. Organizing chaos refers to the repurposing of materials that are considered to be junk and rim art refers to the use of wagon wheel rims in the sculpting of various art works.
The metal work in Anchorage Gardens plays a very complementary role with the many plantings and flower beds. There are five metal arbours made from oil-stem pipes and one-inch cable and four galleries of which
three are themed and one is displaying un-named art pieces. All 70-plus pieces are created from agricultural scrap metal.
Over 1,000 feet of paths wind through the various parts of the yard and flower beds, complementing the textures and colours of the plantings. The gardens have specialized in coleus over the past five years. It is a beautiful plant and exhibits beautiful textured leaves in various colour combinations. Paths are covered with a variety of materials, such as wood chips, crushed rock and gravel. In life, paths curve, cross and come to an end, and so do the paths in Anchorage Gardens.
The guests at Anchorage Gardens, in excess of 2,000 over the past 15 years, can view displays of agricultural equipment for each decade from the 1930s to the 1970s. The tours have entertained gardeners and nongardeners alike, men, women and children. A favourite activity has always been the opportunity to pet and feed the goats at the end of the tour. It has been an incredible experience to share the gardens with people from all across Canada, the United States and overseas. Don and Betty have learned much from their guests and hope that they have been inspired by what they saw in Anchorage Gardens.
Rocks from the old Anchorage house line the walkways.
The new house stands on the grounds of the old Anchorage mansion.
From the deck one can gaze out upon the sprawling garden.
The deck disappears under an abundance of container plants.
The paths unravel in an unpredictable manner.
Metal art sculptures are scattered playfully throughout the garden.
The art is made from repurposed agricultural scrap metal.