Saturday, May 16, 2015

Duff & Donna Evers, Part 3: The Woodland & the Gate of Lost Marbles

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 arbours leading into the garden at both ends."

Miss Cleo makes a grand entrance.

"There is also an arbour halfway down the garden and an arbour with a series of window frames that runs along a retaining wall. I love the view of the lake through these 'window frames'. The arbours all support clematis or climbing vines. Clematis flammula is a wonderful scented late bloomer."

Anemone sylvestris

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 bloom 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

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 than 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 if 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 grapevine 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!

Missed Part 1? Go back and read it here.
Here's a link to Part 3.


  1. Donna and Duff's garden is a delight and so reminiscent of gardens seen in Scotland but of course Nova Scotia is Latin for New Scotland.
    I envy them being able to grow Trilliums, my soil is wrong. Why is it we always want to grow the things we cannot?

    1. I know what you mean Rosemary. I have dry shade in a good part of the yard and always want to grow ferns, astilbe and other shade lovers that require more moisture than is available in my garden.

  2. Breathtaking! Such a beautiful post.

  3. Wow, and wow again. All my favorite plants! I have a lot of anemonella but not 'Shoaf's Double, wii have to look for it.

  4. What a lovely and inspirational garden!

  5. Amazing Jennifer! Yes gardening is hard work!! They have such an incredible space and I will be bookmarking several of those plants up there.....SO clever to put plants in the stream bed under the bridge! Just so beautiful! Wishing you an outstanding weekend! Nicole xo


    1. Hi Bonnie,
      I tried to find a link to an email address, but couldn't see one. I sent a message through your Google plus page, but didn't hear back, so I am glad that you stopped back in. Please email me your mailing address so I can send the book to you. My address is

  7. Woodland gardening is my favourite sort of gardening, it is beautiful. Such lovely plants and so well put together forming little tapestries of foliage.

  8. What a pretty idea - the bridge across the yellow creek!
    Love Anemone sylvestris, I have no success in growing them

  9. Such at marvelous Woodland! Love that bridge. I have always dreamt of having one. The Anemone is stunning. I have a few myself, but never the double flower one.

  10. What an incredible garden! Simply gorgeous and so inspiring to read about people still gardening in their 70's. How lucky to have had the opportunity to see this garden. :o) Your in my Blogger Spotlight. :o)

  11. I love their plant choices. Their rhododendrons are GORGEOUS.

    What a beautiful garden.

  12. Thank you for sharing this beautiful, beautiful garden. It is such a wonderful inspiration and you can see immediately that it was designed, built, and tended with love.

  13. Wonderful-ness ♥ so well put together!

  14. A truly amazing and beautiful garden. I think it is totally awesome that the owners tend to this garden at their age. I could only hope to be half that active if or when I reach my 70's.

  15. I have really enjoyed the posts on this garden, wow....what to say, it's a work of art! Those magnolias are stunning, I'm green with envy! xxx

  16. This is the kind of garden that dreams are made of, if I was there with my camera they couldn't kick me out until's beyond radiant and beautiful.

    The first shot, had me gasp for breath...and no name below it, I was tempted to scroll through and find out for sure if it was a Thallictrum. Which for some silly reason I left behind to my great regret in my old garden. It's been on my mind for the last few weeks...a yearning to find one again. And here is a beauty that supercedes any expectations...Anemonella thalictroides...sigh.

    Your skill with the camera is amazing, your narrative delightful...and that garden is a joy.


  17. Absolutely beautiful Jennifer .. what a wonderful story and illustrated so gorgeously with perfect pictures ! .. I too would love to have this garden ... it would bring the child out in me, especially the little bridge and gateways .. it makes me miss Nova Scotia even more because I can almost smell that distinctive scent from such amazing plants and sea air.
    Joy : )

  18. I so look forward to your posts ... to see your wonderful photo's and to share beautiful gardens.

    This series has been an utter delight. The walk I've enjoyed through the garden and particularly the colour of the 'primula japonica' and as for 'the Gate of Lost Marbles' well just a great touch.

    In their seventies they put many of us younger to shame...

    Have a good week, think the weather is improving.

    All the best Jan

  19. Absolutely breath taking. I certainly have garden envy when I look at these photos. So many plants I would love to try here.

  20. How beautiful! Came over from New House New Home.

  21. What a blessing to have enough property for all of those rhodies and magnolias. Your photography is amazing. And I might be lifting the marble gate for my own yard here. It is so beautiful!

  22. How fabulous! I love that bridge and the arbour. This garden looks so fresh and beautiful, gorgeous use of colour and texture.

  23. How lucky you were to see this garden in person...amazing especially this woodland garden!

  24. Again, my heart flutters over their beautiful woodland garden! I can tell it is a true labor of love. I love the Gate of Lost Marbles! Thank you for your gorgeous photos of a very special garden.

  25. Thank you for sharing the rest of this garden, Jennifer. What a beautiful place! I could see spending a whole afternoon here, and even then you would probably miss something. Love the bridge and the gate, and I now I'm really wanting to add some primulas to my garden.

  26. I would love plans for the arbor that has the gate with marbles. I envision it above my gate.


Apologies, comments are disabled at this time.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.