A Local garden: A wild wonder in the midst of the city
Bev Pike learned most of what she knows about gardening from her grandmother. Hilda was an expert gardener and had gorgeous gardens at her home here in Winnipeg for thirty years, followed by another thirty years of gardening in her retirement years on the west coast.
“She was self-taught,” says Bev. “She made an effort to know the Latin names of many plants, figured out the best time to plant various seeds and learned how to germinate different plants. The most important thing she taught me, was to have a heightened sensory awareness of the plants around me,” she shares.
As an artist, painter and writer, Bev knows the importance of sensory stimulation in all its forms – smell, touch, colour, leaf rustlings and wildlife movements. “I love the difference in the air as twilight approaches, the heightened scents after a summer shower and the colour vibrancy of flowers at different times of the day,” she says. Bev’s favourite part of the
day is sitting in the garden with a cup of tea, listening to the natural acoustics and taking in all of the sensory activity.
The most intriguing aspect of Bev’s garden is that it is so wonderfully wild. She has been tearing up lawn and planting native tall grass prairie plants since 1993. Her front yard, consisting of mostly shade, contains beautiful native plants like the rare Yellow Lady Slipper, Smooth Sweet Sicily, ostrich ferns and Canada Anemone to name a few. Her garden extends to the boulevard which contains her collection of plants that don’t mix with the tall grass prairie gardens. Tulips are just some of the beauties that you can see growing there as you wander past her house.
The back of her garden is the “sun” garden and is filled with cord grass, bee balm, clover, Culver’s Root and some vegetables. It may not have the polished look of a master gardener’s garden, but that is due to the wild nature of her indigenous plants. “The plants sucker out and move around, but I let them do what they are supposed to do. The garden is very low maintenance as the plants are very hardy and eliminate the need for much weeding,” Bev says of her garden. Indigenous plants are hard to move due to their deep root systems (they can extend 15 feet underground) so relocation is almost impossible. If she doesn’t like where something decides to pop up, she usually has to leave it.
Wild is beautiful
Just because her garden is wild, don’t think for a moment it is not beautiful. It is filled with its own enchantments.
Bev believes you have to develop an eye for Prairie gardens. “It’s just a different way of being in a garden. It’s like a sensory overload. There aren’t the large visuals like one would see in a country garden. You have to learn to appreciate this type of garden in a different way. It requires more of a concentrated appreciation where you absorb yourself within the tiny details and rareness of it.
When she began to build her garden, Bev’s primary goal was to restore habitat for the birds and monarchs as they passed through the city on their migrations. It is an attractive spot to watch the insects, birds, and wildlife as they relish in the haven she has provided. Over 20 different bird feeders are spaced throughout her small property and attract orioles, hummingbirds, rare song sparrows, and many more migratory and overwintering birds.
In the summer, Bev loves to sit on her covered bench that is draped in wild cucumber. “The large blossom spike look magical and have a cinnamony, spicy-sweet smell that is shared by many of the prairie plants including the wolf willow,” she says.
When the season comes to a close, she brings many of her plants into her heated porch which becomes a lush conservatory. A place to enjoy the beauty of her plants even in the midst of winter.
Taking a walk on the wild side, Bev Pike strolls through her garden, enjoying the sensory awareness of the plants around her.
The garden has embraced a free spirit.
The shady front yard grows thick with native plants.
Many of the plants were chosen because they were monarch, bee and bird friendly.
Potted plants are brought into the heated front porch for the winter.
Stories from Home, will be featuring Bev, her gardens and art in a documentary set to air in August.
A bee dances among the fresh blossoms.
Prairie gardens require a concentrated appreciation for small details.