Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Preview of the Canadian Cancer Society's Annual Garden Tour: Paula's Garden

For Paula, gardening is a passion deeply rooted in family.

"My parents only really started gardening about 35 years ago with their purchase of a house in Mississauga.  However, it was at their current house purchased 5 years later where they both truly invested (time and funds) into their garden," Paula tells me.

"They started with a designer's plan but soon abandoned that to shape their garden in their own way.  Over the years the garden has evolved from a limited set of familiar plants from their experiences in the Azores (where our family obsession with hydrangeas comes from) to a garden full of many varieties and colour."

In her mother's case, a love of gardening reaches back through the generations to Paula's great-grandparents.

"My mother often reflects on her memories of growing up in her grandparent's gardens and we feel that is likely her inspiration. She has a real knack for flower and plant design," says Paula.

Her father and sister have also been a big influence.

 "My father has become a collector with over forty varieties of hydrangeas and an even greater number of hostas. Each year my parents expand or reshape parts of their garden to fit in new ideas or plants. As my sister grew up, she started taking a more active part in recommendations and new ideas."

A flagstone walkway leads to a seating area at the side of the house and then splits to lead visitors in two different directions. One path leads to a back patio and the other to a log cabin style shed.

 Container plantings by the side door.

There is something to be said for having a big expanse of a single plant. Here native Ostrich Fern has been allowed to colonize a large area. The effect of a big swath of fresh chartreuse is dramatic.

An idea to Steal: Don't feel you have to clutter your garden with a million different kinds of plants. Sometimes one is all you need to make a dramatic statement!

Ostrich Fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris is a clump-forming, upright deciduous fern. 'Fiddleheads' emerge at the base of the clump in spring and unfurl into broad green fronds. This fern is easily grown in medium to wet average garden soil. It will colonize an area with favourable conditions over time. Part-shade to full shade.  Height: 90-120 cm (36-48 inches), Spread: 60-90 cm (24-36 inches). USDA Zones: 3-7.

 Ostrich Ferns

The front garden.

The purchase of her own home provided Paula with an opportunity to experiment with garden design and plant choices. The property was not without challenges. When she bought the house, the sloped front garden was a mix of periwinkle, ferns and a few trees. The shaded backyard offered a narrow terrace with a steep and rocky drop to a natural creek.

Paula was unfazed, "I did not think I had much of a hand or interest for gardening and wanted a low maintenance garden.  I relied on my parents a lot in the first few years. My father shared many of his hostas and other plants and helped with all the heavy lifting (for instance, he laid almost all the flagstone)."

"My mother became my design advisor.  My sister started contributing recommendations and gifts of new plant varieties. All of them helped with the work!"

Epimedium lishihchenii 'Fairy Wings'

An idea to steal: Start a collection of an unusual plant that interests you. 
Barrenwort or Epimedium is a shade plant that offers an amazing range of flower shapes, sizes and colors. The foliage also varies in color, size and shape. 
It's fascinating to see a range of different cultivars grouped together as Paula has done in her garden. To get a better idea of the diversity of Epimedium available, check out the listings Epimedium on the Lost Horizons Nursery website.

 Epimedium x warleyense 'Orange Queen'

Barrenwort, Epimedium x warleyense 'Orange Queen' is a non-invasive groundcover for shade. 'Orange Queen has sprays of tiny, creamsicle-coloured flowers in mid-spring. Old foliage can be trimmed back to the ground to show the flowers to best effect in the spring. This is a fairly adaptable shade plant that will flourish in average, sandy or clay soil. It is also drought tolerant once established. Divide in early fall. Height: 20-25 cm (8-10 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches), USDA zones 4-9.

Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum

Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum is a great plant to naturalize in a woodland setting. In spring, plants with two large leaves produce a single white flower that becomes a yellow fruit. The unripe fruit is slightly poisonous but is edible when fully ripe. This native plant spreads by creeping rhizomes and will often carpet a forest floor. In mid-summer, it goes dormant. Grow this native in average, medium moist, well-drained soil. Part-shade to shade. Height: 30-45 cm. USDA zones: 3-8.

A closer look at the"apple".

Dwarf Western Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum aleuticum 'Imbricatum'

 Brunnera macrophylla 'Dawson's White' (left) has heart-shaped green foliage that is edged with cream. Sprays of pale blue flowers, which closely resemble forget-me-nots, appear in mid-spring. This cultivar is more sun tolerant than the older Brunnera macrophylla 'Variegata'. Part-shade to shade. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches).  Zones 2-9.

Brunnera macrophylla 'Looking Glass' (right) has cool-toned, silvery-grey leaves that have fine, blue-green veining and leaf edges. Sprays of blue flowers emerge in spring. Average soil is fine and moist conditions are best. Part-shade to shade. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches). USDA Zones: 3-8.

Dwarf Bearded Iris

When she set to work, Paula was surprised to find she shared her family's passion for gardening.

"Over the years I've discovered that I enjoy gardening more than I thought I did. I began applying more of my own ideas to the overall design.  My sister and mother are still my advisors even when we (occasionally) disagree on plant preferences," she laughs.

"My sister Ozzie and I are very close. She and my niece are a significant part of my life.  (Family is important for us). I think, however, my sister is even more interested in gardening than I am.  Ozzie loves researching techniques, plant varieties, nurseries, etc. I wouldn't have the gardening knowledge or a variety of plants without her. My dad starts teasing Ozzie that she has started her plant orders in January and jokes that she orders from all over the world."

Mature trees tower over the backyard and cast the garden into the shade.

Trilliums love the sandy, free-draining soil.

Large Flowering Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum is a wildflower native to Ontario. They have white flowers with three petals which are held aloft on a stem containing a whorl of three leaves. 
Trilliums are spring ephemerals that require patience. They can take up to 7 years to go from seed to flower. As the flowers fade, they turn from white to a soft pink. Trilliums require moist, well-drained, slightly sandy soil that is rich in organic matter. Full to part-shade. Height: 20-50 cm (7-19 inches) USDA Zones: 4-9.

Even Paula's Dad has benefited from Ozzie's interest in plants.

"He loves the variety she has introduced to his collections. My sister regularly drops off new plants for me to add to my garden. Especially any that my parents may not be a fan of."

Next week Paula's garden will be one of the eleven gardens on this year's tour in support of the Canadian Cancer Society. Not surprisingly, everyone has pitched in to help get ready.

 English Button Daisy, Bellis perennis

 Double Primula in the front garden.

Lungwort, Pulmonaria saccharata 'Silverado' has green leaves when it emerges in spring that quickly become splashed with silvery-grey. The flowers appear as early as April and are purply-blue and pink. Part-shade to shade. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches).  USDA Zones 2-9.

"My entire family still regularly pitch in with the labour.  My sister and dad were here most of the day," says Paula.

All the hard work has paid off. "I enjoy sitting or walking through my garden, appreciating the beauty of the plants and feeling a sense of accomplishment when plants are thriving and the garden looks good. A day spent in my garden is something I look forward to -  it’s my stress relief."

The 13th Annual Spring Garden Tour in support of the Canadian Cancer Society will be taking place on Sunday, May 27, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  This year’s tour will take place in the Clarkson area of Mississauga where eleven homeowners have graciously agreed to share their lovely gardens with tour participants.  All proceeds will go to the Canadian Cancer Society to help fight cancer.

Tickets will be available for sale online at


  1. What a beautiful garden and h o m e!

  2. a rich looking garden, and those towering trees!

  3. Jennifer I've been pouring over your blog for ages looking at all the garden tours. Thank you so much for identifying all these plants along the way. I am looking forward to reading more here. Paula's gardens are lovely and I love that gardening is a joy that her whole family shares.

    1. Thanks Lisa! I am glad you like the blog and have enjoyed the post on Paula’s garden.


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