Saturday, January 27, 2018

A Storybook Shade Garden

Regular readers might wonder how I select the gardens that appear on this blog. A tempting assumption would be that I like everything I show, but strictly speaking, that's not the case. It's a little less personal than that.

For every eight gardens I visit, I feel lucky to walk away with one that I feel readers might really enjoy. It's not that the other seven gardens weren't nice, they usually are, but somehow they lack that extra bit of magic that makes them special.

This brings me to today's garden. Storybook characters aren't my cup of tea, but my own personal tastes aren't relevant in this case. This garden is quite unique. It speaks to the personality and imagination of the woman that created it. You know a little something about her by the time you wonder the pathways and stop at all the little vignettes. And I think that's great.

Storybook figures may not be your thing either or just maybe you think that Snow White and her seven diminutive friends are absolutely adorable, either way, take a moment to look past them to the garden as a whole.  The plantings are quite nicely done. I don't know about you, but I have never seen a wisteria vine used in such an interesting and novel way.

Just look at this little guy with his round belly, laughing smile and eyes wide open in wonder. It is impossible to think that a gardener who'd chosen such a jolly figure as a garden ornament could be mean-spirited or unkind.

In fact, when I spoke with Eva Martini on the phone to learn a little more about her garden, she was lovely and warm. She was happy to answer all of my questions and seemed genuinely touched that her garden might be featured.

Being solid concrete the figures are heavy. It took no less than two men to load the largest statue, that of the of a storybook princess, into Eva's car.

Eva's fantasy garden began with Dopey. A local nursery was planning a move and the owner was looking to clear his inventory of concrete figures. He had Snow White and all seven of the dwarfs.

For Eva, the classic story had been a childhood favourite. She might have liked to have all eight characters, but being frugal, she bought just one.

Eva brought Dopey home, hand painted the concrete and settled him into her garden. But poor Dopey seemed a little lonely without his buddies. So Eva went back to the nursery. Eventually, over the course of several months, she bought all seven of the dwarfs and the fair Snow White.

The sign reads, "No wabbits allowed!"

The garden itself is a little over twenty years old. Eva laid out the paths and did most of the work herself as a surprise for her husband who was away in Italy for a time nursing his ailing mother.

Wisteria can be a very aggressive vine, but Eva keeps it in check by pruning it hard three times a year. To train the wisteria up and then across, she's used sturdy metal poles that she purchased at the Home Depot (wisteria has been known to snap pieces of wood in two).

One of the nicest things about wisteria are the long, dangling flowers each spring. Getting a wisteria to bloom can however be a challenge.  The vine must be pruned at the right time of year and you really need to know exactly what you're doing. 

Eva has succeeded in getting her wisteria to flower most springs, but the weather has been so unpredictable in the last couple of years she's had trouble coaxing her vines to produce the fragrant flowers.

The garden's color palette is largely a quiet mix of greens, but Eva's used variegation and different shades of the same color to great effect.

At the very back of the yard, there is a vegetable patch and cutting garden. Eva grows asparagus, kale, tomatoes and many other vegetables. One of her favourite crops is chicory which Eva picks, mixes with a bit of water, and blends into a juice. Eva tells me that she loves chicory's bitter taste.

Another prized crop is a rare banana-shaped tomato that Eva grows every year from seed she saves herself. This heirloom tomato comes originally from Poland and seeds are next to impossible to find. Eva says the yellow tomatoes are deliciously sweet and meaty.

As well as vegetables, there are bearded iris, some roses and tall, purply-blue Larkspur in this part of the backyard. The larkspur reseeds itself every year.

One the final leg of our tour, we'll pay Snow White a visit. As you can see in the picture below, Eva has created a fantasy setting worthy of her beloved storybook heroine.

Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Big Magic, her new book about creativity, "Do whatever brings you to life...Follow your own fascinations, obsessions and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart."

I think that's exactly what Eva Martini has managed to do so superbly in creating her storybook shade garden.

Eva sent me this picture of her tomatoes. Look at the size of them!


  1. Absolutely delightful! I like whimsy in the garden and you never know what you might find around the next bend in the path. This garden is a huge undertaking to keep it all in bounds. And I'm quite sure the "wabbits" would love this garden too!

  2. Gorgeous! I love green and all it's different shades and this garden really shows it off. She had also done a great job layering which is something I always struggle with.

  3. There are so many take-aways and great ideas in her charming garden; thank you for sharing it with us! I very much enjoyed this beautiful space. Ms Martini has created a magical garden!

  4. What a delightful garden! I hope she has children or grandchildren as they would find a garden like this magical and delightful and it would stay with them all their lives. Well done and thank you for sharing. Nice photos by the way.

  5. I don't usually like gnomes, but how could you not take a shine to these guys, considering the surroundings.

  6. Wow! What a beautiful garden!! So green and I like the gnomes :)
    Have a great sunday now...
    Love from Titti

  7. This is wonderful, full of beauty and whimsy and reflects the delight of the gardener. Rather perfect I would say.

  8. I love that green garden with the curved paths and of course the Wisteria for that romantic touch, the vegetable and cutting garden are great too. Wonderfully the dwarfs don't disturb the beauty of the garden but add something....

  9. Hi,
    I enjoyed this, thank you for the tour. I found it lovely.

  10. I'm one of the many family members who grew up admiring my Aunt Eva's amazing garden. Each of us has a picture with Snow White or our favourite dwarf. Herself and her garden are magical! Thank you for writing such a nice piece about all of her hard work!

  11. I am so impressed with the lushness and creativity of this garden. What an inspiration!

  12. I have been in this garden many times and it is as wonderful and whimsical as Eva herself! She does have children (grown now) and grandchildren, and also many, many nieces and nephews who have spent many happy hours enjoying this magical garden (my children included). Eva is a very special person and her garden reflects this.

  13. It's not my style but it's her garden and that's all that matters. :o)

  14. What lovely gardens, Jennifer!
    I am not really one that cares for lawn ornaments, but I sure do love the way she has placed the Seven Dwarfs throughout theses gardens. It really is quite perfect.

  15. I too am not so fond of fairy tale like ornaments but this garden is truly a lush and uniquely beautiful garden. I commend her for following her heart and for all the hard work that has been put into her gorgeous garden.

  16. That was a fun tour. Didn't know you toured gardens which I enjoy seeing, I must come visit once in awhile. I say awhile since my yard or what used to be called backyard gardens has taken it's toll with our 2 dogs whom we love have killed so many plants and love to dig holes sooo it's taken a toll that makes it hard to visit other bloggers. Still have hopes of figuring out fencing to protect my garden beds.

    1. Dogs are always a challenge, but we love them holes and all, don't we? I find my dogs are somewhat dissuaded from running through my big garden at the back by the low box hedge. They also avoid the hard edges of my raised beds. Piper however is a digger and I do end up with some potholes. I reprimand him, but he sometimes persists with his digging. It's discouraging, but what are you going to do.

  17. Thank you for sharing this, I absolutely adore it! It would be my idea of a dream garden (hence me pinning all of the pictures in my dream garden section of pinterest). I love whimsical gardens and Disney and this is a delightful combination!

  18. Thanks everyone! I am sure Eva is proud of her garden and touched by all the kind words.

  19. This garden is absolutely breathtakingly fabulous. I love everything about it

  20. Replies
    1. I believe the tall blueish poles are plant supports that she uses for her tomatoes.

  21. Yes, that’s correct. Her tomatoes get to 6 feet in height!

  22. Wow I found this site amazing. She is great.


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