Digging, weeding, planting, hefting and hauling loads of compost; gardening is often tough physical work! It's not a hobby you would intuitively think would be suited to someone in late middle life or even older.
If you've been following this series of blog posts, you'll know that now by now that Duff and Donna Evers have a very large garden, but what you may not realize is that they are both gardeners in their seventies.
If Donna could interject right about now, she'd probably tell you that gardening keeps them fit and young at heart. She might even toss in a lighthearted joke about gardening saving them a fortune on a gym membership.
It may be a lot of physical labor, but gardening is also a passion; a love of plants and nature that both she and Duff share.
In this, the final post of the series on their garden near Halifax Nova Scotia, we are going to look at the little woodland garden to one side of the house, and to the what Donna refers to as the "gate of lost marbles."
I am going to let Donna tell you the story of this part of the garden in her own words:
"This area started out with a cedar hedge between us and our neighbour. There is a path through the hedge for visiting back and forth, by both people and pets."
"On the edge nearest the lawn we planted a border of rhododendrons. In the area between these plantings, there were native hemlock, maples and poor spruce. Again, we weren't planning to garden in this area. Nature took care of the unsightly spruce, we limbed up the hemlocks and bought more plants. Another garden to fill."
"Now we needed a way in and out of this garden. Duff built arbors leading into the garden at both ends."
Miss Cleo makes a grand entrance.
"There is also an arbor halfway down the garden and an arbor with a series of window frames that runs along a retaining wall. I love the view of the lake through these 'window frames'. The arbors all support clematis or climbing vines. Clematis flammula is a wonderful scented late bloomer."
Anemone sylvestris has ferny foliage and white flowers in late spring. Anemone sylvestris looks wonderful in combination with Narcissus or tulips. It also helps disguise the bulb's dying foliage. This plant spreads quite readily. Full sun or light shade and moist to wet conditions are preferred. Height: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches), Spread: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9
Donna: "Trillium grandiflorum 'Flore Plenum' was a birthday gift from a gardening friend. I hold my breath every spring until it appears. Then there is mandatory viewing for friends, neighbours and even total strangers."
Donna: "Maiden Hair Fern, Adiantum pedatum is a shade lover, pest-free and looks good with everything. What more could you ask?"
Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum has arching black stems and fans of green leaflets. The foliage is great in cut flower arrangements. These ferns like rich, moist soil. You may find that they take several years to reach a mature size. Height: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches), Spread: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.
Donna: "Anemonella thalictroides 'Shoaf's Double'. Just being able to let that trip off your tongue makes you a gardener. It blooms for about a month."
Anemonella thalictroides 'Shoaf's Double' is a plant native to woodlands that blooms in spring. It is easily grown in average, well drained soil, but its preference is sandy-humusy soil. Height: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches), Spread: 7-15 cm ( 3-6 inches) USDA Zones 4-8
Primula kisoana alba
Donna on the subject of Primula kisoana alba: "I love the pink form too. They spread by runners, but are not invasive."
Primula Sieboldii is native to eastern Siberia, Manchuria, Korea and Japan where is grows in open woodlands and damp meadows. Primula Sieboldii likes free draining, soil that is rich in organic matter. Sun to light shade. Height: 15-30 cm (6-12 inches), Spread: 30-38 cm (12-15 inches). USDA Zones 4-9
Candelabra Primrose, Primula japonica is a group of woodland plants with fresh green foliage and a crown of flowers in late spring. They prefer part shade and moist or wet clay soil that is rich in organic matter. Height: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches), Spread: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches). USDA Zones: 5-9
In the background is Brunnera 'Jack Frost' with tiny blue flowers.
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' has heart-shaped, silver colored leaves that are veined in a bright green. Sprays of blue flowers, which closely resemble forget-me-nots, appear in mid-spring. 'Jack Frost' can take more sun that many other types of Brunnera, but it prefers afternoon shade particularly in hotter gardening zones. Average garden soil is fine, but 'Jack Frost' likes moist conditions. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm ( 12-18 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.
There is a nice collection of rhododendrons and magnolias in this area of the garden.
Donna: "Magnolia Susan is one of "the girls" from the US National Arboretum. I like it because the blossoms open over several weeks and you always have a combination of dark buds and paler open flowers."
Donna's photo of Magnolia sieboldii
"It would be difficult to pick a favourite magnolia. Magnolia 'Butterflies' has wonderful upright foliage. Magnolia sieboldii (shown above) is vase-shaped and suitable for a smaller garden. The outward facing blossoms are white with purple centres. In the fall, it has showy red seed pods."
Donna's photo of Magnolia 'Helen'
"We were given a collection of magnolia seedlings, started by a friend with seed crosses from the American Magnolia Society. These seedlings, which are now trees, caused great excitement when they first bloomed. The best of the lot is one we have named Magnolia 'Helen' after our friend's mother. It has caused a stir in the magnolia world. I think our friend would dig it up and take it home of the darn thing wasn't so big. He is working very hard at propagating this beauty."
"This area slopes to what was once an ugly divergent ditch, but is now my favourite spring tonic. Siberian iris, Skunk cabbage and native Interrupted fern fill in later. Right spot, right plant. Over the bridge behind "The gate of Lost Marbles" (no need to ask who has lost their marbles) is a compost area".
"We lifted the idea for the Gate of Lost Marbles right off the internet. The marbles really shine in February on a fresh fall of snow- a bonus we didn't expect.
"The gate and the fence is covered with a grape vine that does double duty. It hides the compost bins and gives us wonderful grape jelly. A holding bed and a makeshift cold frame are also tucked behind the gate. A Red Haven Peach tree and Rhododendron schlippenbachii have somewhat elevated the status of this necessary, but unsightly part of the garden."
And so we arrive at the end of this three part series.
What a pleasure it has been to work with Donna Evers to put these posts together. She has put up with endless questions and has always replied to my emails with patience, warmth and a wonderful sense of humour.
Thank you Donna from the bottom of my heart!
To Canadian readers, Happy Victoria Day long weekend!
And to all other friends, have a wonderful weekend!