Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Garden in the Most Unlikely of Places

The steep, rocky slope and the splendid view of the pine forest beyond were one of the many things that first attracted John and Peggy Lewzey to their property near Everton, Ontario.

"Our previous house had a very open yard, so the privacy of the enclosed wooded garden was very appealing. The property was covered in snow when we saw it, but the bones of the house and garden spoke to us. We thought that the existing concrete steps would, at some point, be replaced with natural stone," Peggy tells me.

A stone staircase at the side of the house takes you down to a narrow plateau where you get the first glimpse of the waterfall and oval pond at the bottom of the ravine.

The lovely Annabelle hydrangea on one side of the stone staircase.

The striking contrast of bright green on grey stone.

Looking back to the first set of steps.

Looking forward to the steps down to pond.

The first view of the pond.

Bright purple Campanula set against the grey limestone.

Imagine the effort involved in moving these huge boulders into place. They must weigh a ton!

"The stone steps, paths and patio were added in 2010," says Peggy," We have a friend whom we consider an artist with stone. The dolomitized limestone was sourced by him from a quarry near Glen Williams. The stone suits the craggy landscape around Everton and Rockwood very well. The project took 2 months to complete and was accomplished by one man with a small bobcat machine."

Left: Hardy succulents Right: A carpet of Creeping Thyme cascades over the rocks.

"Japanese Maples are a favourite shrub/small tree in our garden, especially those with fiery fall foliage", says Peggy.

“Rob the Rock” was a delight to work with," says Peggy, "He would muse thoughtfully and decide which particular rock would be just the right one for a certain location. We had a rough idea of how things would look when they were finished, but it was very much a work in progress that would be adapted by Rob or ourselves as we went along. The flagstone was laid down by the bridge, working up past the dry stone wall that supports the patio, many meandering steps, a connecting pathway to more steps and the side garden. Then some stepping stones finally takes you to the driveway at the front of the house...37 steps in all! Not for the faint hearted, but good exercise." 

From the stone steps there is now a good view of the pond. John and Peggy give some credit for the pond to the original owners of their property:

"The location was originally quite boggy and fed with a spring, so it was a natural area to visualize a pond. It was dug out with a backhoe, which got stuck in the mud more than once. The finished depth in the middle is now about 9ft."

"The pond is lined (the spring keeps the level constant). Any overflow finds it’s way via a creek to the Eramosa River."

"The pond is stocked with rainbow and speckled trout that overwinter there. The spring, which runs into the pond, keeps an open area in the ice which enables the water to stay well oxygenated," John tells me.

"We had regular visits from great blue herons when the pond was newly stocked with small fish and now that they are full grown we see mink hunting in the area. When newly stocked several years ago we started with 50 fish, but nature takes it’s toll, and we now have about 15. Our oldest resident lived to be 9 years old."

"The 12 ft. limestone rock face is naturally occurring, we have a pump underneath which cycles the water to the top, making a gentle and natural looking waterfall," says John.

"Cedar bark was tied around the pipe carrying the water to the top of the rock face so that the workings of the waterfall are camouflaged for a more natural look."

I asked Peggy about her favourite plants. 

"Favourite plants? We all have lots of those!," she replies,"For shade, Maidenhair Ferns, which look so delicate and lacy, but are actually quite tough in our garden. Japanese Painted Ferns. which are tough and are quite happy to be divided and spread around the garden... I love ferns!"

The list of favourites does not end there...

Japanese Forest Grass

Hosta (left) and ferns growing amongst the rocks (right)

"Japanese Forest Grasses of all varieties which so elegantly drape over rocks and the edges of raised beds," Peggy continues her list. 

"We have a lot of hostas in the garden, another good shade plant...all sizes from the huge 'Sum and Substance' to the tiny 'Blue Mouse Ears'."

"For spring colour in the shade garden, Bleeding Heart is a favourite, pink or white flowering, both green or chartreuse foliage." 

"Some favourite spring flowering, sun-loving shrubs are lilac. We have a common lilac that flowers spectacularly next to our driveway, but had to remove a French hybrid because it just didn’t do well. Also we have a White Star Magnolia that flowers beautifully without fail."

Lamb's Ears, Stachys byzantina

"Sometimes it isn’t just a favourite plant but rather a favourite combination of plants that pleases the eye. A favourite grouping is Ladies Mantle, chartreuse Forest Grass, the bright blue of trailing Waterfalls Campanula and the soft grey of Lambs Ears. I could go on and on," Peggy says.

"The boardwalks enable direct access across some boggy garden areas to the acres of forested conservation area and a regional scout-camp with many trails, limestone cliffs and geological pot-holes. the Eramosa River runs through it all. We have made good use of the trails over the years for dog walking and exploring with our grandchildren. We are encouraging the spread of wild ferns in these damp areas, including Ostrich, Sensitive and Hay Scented ferns," Peggy tells me.

Looking back up the slope, it is easy to think that you'd have to be part Mountain goat to garden here, but Peggy takes it all in stride.

"The steep slope is a challenge to garden on, especially as we are not as nimble as we once were!,"she laughs."Recently we have been getting some gardening help on the steeper areas.Our aim with our plantings was to cover the hill with low maintenance plants which we keep well mulched."

"There was some existing English Ivy groundcover from the previous owners, difficult to eradicate but it gets a severe haircut every year to keep it from smothering out other plants. There are many evergreens planted, along with Buddleia and Sedum 'Autumn Joy' for autumn colour."

"The slope is south facing so can become dry; in periods of prolonged drought we have an old pump that takes water from the pond for occasional watering."

The property may have its challenges, but it is hard to imagine a more spectacular setting for a garden!


  1. This is my fave of all the gardens you've posted. Stunning, lush and fresh. xox

  2. What an amazing garden! I love all the hardscaping they have done. It looks as if it's been there forever, not only since 2010. I see lots of my favorite plants in their garden...ferns, Japanese maples...

  3. It's fabulous, I love everything about it. Well done.


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