Donna and Duff Evers have the enviable view of a lake which sparkles through evergreen trees at the back of their home near Halifax, Nova Scotia. There is a short plateau of land with a deck and then the property rolls down in a gentle incline to the lake.
Is it harder to garden on a slope than a flat piece of land?
"There are days my aching bones make me wish I was gardening on a flat plot of land, but on the whole, the positives out weigh the negatives. And we don't have to go to the gym to work out," Donna laughs.
To ease the incline the Ever's have terraced the slope with a low stone wall that runs most of the width of the property. As you can imagine, this was no small undertaking.
Donna: "The stone work came first and we learned the hard way. Several walls did not come through the first winter and had to be rebuilt. We did things right the second time around. It helps to have a husband who likes working with stone. We handpicked the stone from a local quarry and trucked it home. The walls began with a three to four inch tamped base of crushed gravel. Fitting the stones together was a bit like working a jigsaw puzzle."
Marking the outer perimeter of the terraced garden is a square lattice fence.
Donna: "The fence in this garden serves several purposes. It defines the garden and separates it from the expanse of grass that is the septic field. It breaks up the wind from the lake and provides support for all the climbing vines."
"When making this garden we had to work around a massive stump that was impossible to move. We planted a climbing hydrangea and a clematis at the base of the stump. It took a while, but the hydrangea completely covers up the stump and the clematis now weaves its way through the hydrangea."
Donna: "Gardening on a sloping property definitely has it challenges. The biggest one is erosion. The terraces and stone work, combined with my obsession for over-planting has taken care of that problem. The stone walls with their excellent drainage have provided unique planting sites for lewesia, saxifraga and hens and chicks."
Donna: "The walls are a great place to sit with a coffee in the spring sunshine."
Donna: "I'd like to think that this plant was evidence of my gardening skill, but the truth is, it's dumb luck. Lewisia needs excellent drainage around the crowns to prevent rot in winter."
"I am never certain it will make it through the winter. Fingers crossed! It never seems to be happy on our rock walls. I must give it a little fertilizer this spring."
Bellflower, Campanula chamissonis: has compact green leaves which grow not more than two to six inches high. Light purple, bell-shaped flowers with a white throat appear in mid-spring. Again, good drainage is essential. This campanula is not invasive. Full sun. Height: 5-15 cm ( 2-6 inches), Spread: 15-20 cm (6-8 inches). USDA Zones 4-7.
Donna: "The geum is the one everyone grows. It does really well in our dampish soil and it often has a few blooms again in fall. I love it planted with anything blue."
Geum borisii: Forms a low growing clump with sprays of bright orange flowers from early spring into summer. As Donna notes, it may even re-bloom in fall. Part shade and moist soil are best. Height: 30-45cm (12- 18 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches)
USDA Zones: 5-7. Note: Geum borisii struggles with heat and humidity south of zone 7.
Jacob's Ladder, Polemonium ( left) and Veronica gentianoides (right)
Two blue options from Donna's garden that might be planted with Geum:
Donna: "Jacob's Ladder, Polemonium (seen above on the right) likes dampish spots in our garden and it has become well enough established that I have been able to divide it and spread it about. It blooms earlier than other varieties of Polemonium and the foliage seems to be a little more delicate."
"Veronica gentianoides (seen above on the left) is another spring favourite. I love it planted with orange and yellow geum in the front border. The leaves form a ground-hugging rosette and the spikes of flowers are the loveliest blue."
Donna: "The terrace wall needed to be backfilled with crushed stone to provide drainage. The crushed stone also helps with freeze/thaw winter conditions here in Nova Scotia. Most years the wall requires a bit of spring maintenance in the way of repositioning a stone or two."
"When completed we back filled the walls with quality garden soil and compost. Then the fun began. The area gets full sin all day long and we filled it with sun loving plants."
Donna: "Duff chose a relatively flat spot and made a level pad of crusher dust. Over the winter it formed into a relatively solid base. The shed is a board and batten construction with a cedar shingled roof. The windows were recycled. I only wish it were bigger because it is filled to the rafters."
Rosa 'Father Hugo'
Donna: "Rosa 'Father Hugo' is an early bloomer and it does not repeat bloom. It is disease-free and low maintenance. I just have to cut it back from time to time so we can get to the shed. It has attractive reddish stems and great fall color. I have never seen it for sale in local garden centres. Ours came from a cutting taken from a friend's garden. Roses do not do well in our garden and so I am happy to have the lovely Father Hugo."
Father Hugo Rose or Golden Rose of China, Rosa hugonis
Species rose (1899)
Is a vase shaped rose that can reach up to 9 feet tall. It is a very hardy (to Zone 5) and drought tolerant rose. It has attractive ferny foliage and single yellow roses in spring. ARS Rating: 8.7
More posts on Donna and Duff's garden up soon.
Featured are the gardens to the front and right of the house.