The happy gar­den

Manitoba Gardener Magazine - - Contents - Story and pho­tos by Dorothy Dob­bie

Asense of joie de vivre lifts the spir­its of all who visit the gar­den of Ber­nice and Jay Haw­ton. It’s an in­tan­gi­ble thing, per­haps to do with the way Ber­nice has laid out the gar­den and the way the plants cosy up to each other. The sense of hap­pi­ness is sus­tained by the lovely sun­room that over­looks the scene, defin­ing the hu­man pres­ence. And Jay has made a whim­si­cal metal gate out of struc­tural steel and the posts of an aban­doned elec­tri­cal fence to help set the mood.

The sun seems to shine a lit­tle brighter here, re­flected by a kalei­do­scope of blooms all work­ing to­gether in the har­mony Ber­nice im­poses on them. The three curved beds, the bird­bath fo­cal point, the nat­u­ral slope of the land lead­ing to a back­drop of wild birch, spruce and po­plar, the pond nes­tled along a re­tain­ing wall snug­gled by se­dum, hostas and creep- ing Jenny sing to­gether in a sym­phony of colour and form. It all makes Ber­nice’s heart sing along.

Ber­nice is con­stantly look­ing for new songs. She trav­els to Winnipeg seek­ing out dif­fer­ent plants, look­ing for tex­ture as well as colour. “There are over a hun­dred dif­fer­ent bushes and flow­ers in my gar­den,” says Ber­nice, “and I am hop­ing to get name tags be­side each plant this spring.” This aide mem­oire would help Ber­nice iden­tify the plants to her con­stant stream of vis­i­tors, who come to take in the sights and bask in the warmth of her per­son­al­ity.

Ber­nice’s friendly Man­i­toba mood is a birthright. She is no stranger to this part of the coun­try, raised as she was

on a farm north of Sed­don’s Cor­ner where, be­fore she moved away to be­come a school teacher, she watched her mom grow flow­ers and veg­eta­bles. Then she mar­ried, had a daugh­ter, di­vorced and fell in love again with Jay, who brought her to Pi­nawa thir­teen years ago. At that time, in the back yard there was only a rect­an­gu­lar veg­etable patch that the bears loved to raid for corn – if there was any­thing left over af­ter the deer were fin­ished. Now Ber­nice uses veg­eta­bles to en­hance her curved flower beds. She plants car­rots for their ferny tops and toma­toes for their lus­cious red fruit and onions for their struc­ture, spot­ting all of these where they will help to com­plete the per­fect bal­ance she has in her mind’s eye.

Jay is a gar­dener, too, but in the

larger sense. He farms 100 acres nearby, rais­ing al­falfa as a hobby. And it is be­cause of the al­falfa that they keep leaf cut­ter bees, prodi­gious pol­li­na­tors as they are, and it is be­cause of the hi­ber­nat­ing bees that they can over­win­ter their gold fish in a cool shed out back. The fish are gathered into a plas­tic stor­age bin, three feet by two feet, and placed in the shed with the sleep­ing bees, where they do just fine in a co­matose state un­til spring.

Bees and fish are not the only an­i­mal life af­fect­ing their gar­den­ing, A six-foot stucco-wire fence sur­rounds the whole thing to keep the deer out. “The deer are lovely an­i­mals,” notes Ber­nice, but their in­sa­tiable ap­petite for flow­ers comes into con­flict with her ap­pre­ci­a­tion of their beauty.

The stucco-wire, open and al­most in­vis­i­ble, was erected to re­place an elec­tric fence which the deer either jumped or ig­nored in fall when their thick win­ter coats ren­dered them im­per­vi­ous to the shock. The deer own the town, says Ber­nice, who points out that they are re­ally just as johnny-come-lately as hu­mans.

“This was all swamp­land be­fore,” she notes. “But now that it’s been drained, the deer and the bear have moved in. Un­for­tu­nately, peo­ple en­cour­age the deer by feed­ing them.” To make mat­ters worse, a re­cent do­gon-a-leash by­law has left the deer free to roam and graze com­pletely un­mo­lested. “They’re very cu­ri­ous,” says Ber­nice. ”If there is the tini­est open­ing in a fence, they can get in.” And this sum­mer, they proved it by brazenly ex­ploit­ing a mere six-inch open­ing in Ber­nice’s fence and crop­ping back the mugo pine. “But,” she says brightly, “they didn’t seem to like the snap­drag­ons,” adding, de­spon­dently, “of course, it seems they get used to ev­ery­thing even­tu­ally.”

But deer prob­lems aside, Ber­nice’s gar­den is a park­land that in­cludes a nat­u­ral look­ing pond built along­side a re­tain­ing wall in such as way as to com­pletely be­long there. While honey­suckle and fox­gloves re­sist her green thumb, lit­tle else does. Her fo­liage is lush, her flow­ers glow­ing with colour. She has res­cued three kinds of lady slip­pers from high­way con­struc­tion and weed killer on the road al­lowance. She loves the way shiny leafed berge­nia look next to sil­ver artemisia. She is filled with joy by the way the tiger lilies show against the dark green ev­er­greens.

As Ber­nice her­self puts it: “Each month of gar­den­ing brings me plea­sure in the dif­fer­ent plants that come into

bloom. I have daf­fodils, early lilies and some tulips in spring. The berge­nias and irises come a bit later. Yel­low prim­rose makes a gor­geous splash of yel­low. More irises, lady’s slip­pers and lilies bloom next.

“Then the monks­hood and del­phini­ums stretch up and take over with their dark and light blue blos­soms. The Siberian iris and ze­bra grasses rus­tle their el­e­gant leaves, while the roses be­gin to bloom. The nat­u­ral ferns in the back lift their fronds as a back­drop to the lilies and red bee­balm, while hostas mark the edge of most of our beds. Here and there are in­di­vid­ual sur­prises that catch the eye – heucheras, se­dums, li­a­tris, veron­ica, and pots of an­nu­als hid­den here and there.

“The low spot at the back pro­duces a large patch of marsh marigolds in spring. On the re­tain­ing-wall gar­den, the creep­ing jenny tries to get away on me – and usu­ally does! I have to be ruth­less!

“My pond re­lies on the plants I dig from the ditches or from the farm. I have cat­tails in pots, along with var­i­ous other wild wa­ter plants. They sur­vived quite nicely over the win­ter. My win­dow boxes boasted ver­bena, petu­nias and creep­ing jenny, but I feel a tug to go back to bright red gera­ni­ums!

“It seems ev­ery time I turn around some­thing else is bloom­ing, so it is an ever chang­ing scene.

“Right now I can look out from our warm and cozy sun­room and en­joy the white blan­ket of snow that cov­ers the gar­den. The wagon wheels and a few tops of rose bushes, fern spore fronds, and dark­ened Au­tumn Joy mark the gar­den spot. The pic­nic table is cov­ered in snow. The wood logs wait for grand­chil­dren at Christ­mas, so we can clear the snow off the rock for a fire and marsh­mal­lows. Af­ter snow­mo­bile rides through the back for­est they’ll re­turn for hot cho­co­late and fresh pop­corn done over the fire. A few car­ols, and slid­ing down from the deck steps across the snow-cov­ered grass and into Grandma’s gar­den– it all leaves us filled with joy. Life is good!”

Next to gar­den­ing, Ber­nice en­joys trav­el­ing around other gar­dens to get ideas and see plants she hasn’t tried ac­tu­ally grow­ing. Next year, she says she will re­move some of the ferns. She will put in some new heuchera for the thrill of gaz­ing at their in­tri­cate and chang­ing leaf pat­terns and she will add some more blue to the gar­den. She loves rounded shapes and she loves change – Jay of­ten has to feel around for a chair when he comes home at night from nur­tur­ing his al­falfa. In the spring­time, he will give a hand with the heavy lift­ing in case Ber­nice gets a new idea. In be­tween times, they will walk over to the nearby golf course and play a few rounds. The kids and their var­i­ous ten grand­chil­dren might drop by. The gar­den will smile upon them all.

As Ber­nice says, life is good!

The sun­room seen through a screen of yel­low evening prim­rose ( Oenethera), orange lilies, daisies, and mal­tese cross set off by a clump of cheery grasses. Be­low, the whim­si­cal gate made by Jay.

Above right: Ber­nice loves the sil­ver leaves of lambs’ ears and con­trast of pan­sies grow­ing amidst the creep­ing jenny. Shiny berge­nia is a bold note in an airier plant­ing. Be­low: Se­dums and creep­ing Jenny con­trast with the rough rock from the area.

Sweep­ing curves pro­vide a path for the eye to fol­low in Ber­nice’s Pi­nawa gar­den. Struc­ture is lent by the tall indigo plant and tex­ture from the spot­ted, fuzzy leaves of pul­monaria and the strappy leaves of iris.

The gar­den as seen from the sun­room, right.

A de­tail of the rich colour in the gar­den.

Above left: the gar­den shed, where the Haw­tons over­win­ter bees and fish, peeps out be­hind a riot of colour. Above right: airy ferns, red Mal­tese cross, white achil­lea (The Pearl), blue false indigo, blue del­phini­ums, yel­low evening prim­rose and bright orange lilies all works to­gether in a sym­phony of colour and tex­ture.

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