Friday, February 4, 2011

Gardens I Have Loved Before - Part 3

If you missed the earlier posts in this series please click on the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

I think from ages 14 - 17 I couldn't have cared less about gardens.  It was simply a chore that my mother insisted on and in turn, I hated.  I wanted to be at the movies or the mall with my friends.  Cool kids didn't garden in my mind.  But it was always around, and as a child you seem to learn by osmosis.  Sucking in that information around you whether you realize it or not.  My mother would talk about her garden, there would be chores that required help and like it or not I seem to have picked up a thing or two.  During that period of time we moved.  We left the cold harsh winters of zone 2 and went south to the temperate rainforest that is coastal British Columbia.  I had to relieve myself of all those sweaters and parkas.  We were in zone 8!

My parents had retired and built a home on a wooded 5 acre lot located on the gulf island of Gabriola.  Immediately mom set to work to make herself a dream garden.  I think retirement agreed with her.  Cedar, dogwood, fir and hemlock surrounded an open meadow.  There was a pond and an old orchard which included apples and plums.  Daffodils and wildflowers, like trillium and blue eyed mary's, dotted the landscape.  Initially some rocks were dragged in to shore up the driveway, then some beds were added and quickly the garden began to take shape and expand.  However, just as quickly mom had to come to terms with deer.  There was just no getting away from them.  Rather than fussing with so called deer proof plants fences were erected around the entire house to keep them out of the beds.

Brick and wrought iron fencing surrounded the front of the house
Even fencing proved difficult with determined deer though.  Babies were able to squeeze through the spaces in the wrought iron fence pictured above.  One large female actually shimmied under the porch and squeezed through the small opening to gain access to the flowers.  One section that contained 10 foot high netting was torn by the deer to gain entry.  With each break and enter fixes would be made and weak spots in the barrier were sealed up.

When the fences were firmly in place the garden really gathered some steam.  A fountain, stream and water feature were added.  More and more plants continued to amass.  My mother, who acknowledged her growing age and arthritis, attempted to find options in her garden that would save her time and work.  When she began her beds she laid down good quality landscaping fabric, enthusiastically telling me it would save her from constant weeding.  I guess we all learned something from that garden.  While the landscaping fabric kept the weeds out initially it became a giant pain in the rear end all too quickly.  While weeds might not grow from underneath the fabric it doesn't stop them from landing on top of the fabric and taking root.  Removing these weeds then becomes virtually impossible as the roots become intertwined in the fabric.  Moving plants around also became a painful exercise as you would have to chop a hole in the fabric to open up a space for new plants.

Another trick my mother used, and one that worked much more favourably, to reduce work in the garden was to use seed bearing perennials that multiplied quickly and filled up empty spaces all on their own.  The garden took on a cottage look after several years as foxglove, rose campion, columbine and daisies aggressively seeded and coated the beds. 

After several years it became a cottage garden filled with self seeding perennials.
By the time I moved away from this home at age 20 I had started to come around to gardening again.  Watching tadpoles in the pond, birds bathing in the small stream and feeding from the flowers got me back in touch with nature.  I willingly began to help pick apples and plums and collect seed from plants like columbine and hollyhock. 

My parents sold this house 3 years ago and I regret now that I didn't take more photos of my mother's garden.  The photos I have included were taken just days before they moved.  But I am thankful for all that I learned while we lived there and the memories I have of that home.  From that garden sprung a garden of my own as I transplanted and took seeds to create my own patch of paradise. 


  1. Marguerite, no wonder you are an avid gardener, look where your love took root. I love the cottage feel of your mom's garden.

    I love stories, I really do.

  2. Oh how I loved reading this...what a testament to your mom, and what a beautiful garden. I loved the rose on the arbour in full bloom and fully enjoyed the experience you described and shared. Thank you.

  3. Your mother had a wonderful garden~I love the cottage self seeders. Thank you for sharing this...gail

  4. What a garden your mother created. I feel like her... I have created my gardens in my retirement and they are taking shape nicely now. But I have no daughter to appreciate them and learn from them and write about them some day. How hard it must have been for her to leave that house.

  5. Hi Marguerite,
    I can identify with so many elements of your story. I don't remember my mother teaching me how to garden. I learned by osmosis as well. I have also experienced the same dilemmas as your Mum with landscape cloth.
    I agree with Laurrie's comment. How hard it must have been for your mother to leave this pretty garden behind! Have a great weekend. Jennifer

  6. Wow, lucky girl to have such inspiration. My mom was an avid gardener too and I used to trail along, bored, as she talked about each plant. What a rotten teenager I was! I wish she could see me now. It's amazing what we absorb from our parents. :)

  7. Cheri - I'm glad you like stories. I had fun telling these.

    Gardeningbren - Those roses were quite something, although I laughed at how they are sticking straight up. I remember they were awful to prune - so high up and full of thorns.

    Gail - probably the best thing I learned was about self seeding plants. A bit of biology and botany thrown into my education.

    Laurrie - How lucky you are to spend retirement doing something you love. It will keep you happy and healthy I think.

    Jennifer - Oddly it was my mother who prompted the move from that house. It was simply too much to take care of and now she is busy creating a new garden on a much smaller lot!

    Ms.S - I'm fortunate that my mother is still around and still gardening. I think she is greatly pleased that she is able to share her love of plants with me, her youngest daughter. I'm lucky I still get her advice!

  8. Your mom's garden was wonderful!! Whata wonderful gift she gave you by allowing you to love a garden. After my dad died, I could feel him in my garden. It was so peaceful and such a powerful part of the healing process. Great story. :o)

  9. Your Mum's garden looks amazing, she clearly won out against the deer and is quite a plantswoman. I love that you have seed for your own garden from hers. I have fuchsias that are cuttings of cuttings from my much-love Nan's garden, who in retrospect is probably my family gardening mentor despite the fact that we never talked about it.

  10. Montessori said children are like sponges and soak up information, I agree with her, I can understand the mid-teen wanting to be out with her friends, it's interesting you no longer mention edible plants, deer are very persistent and can jump very high fences I admire your mother's persistance in keeping them out,

    I love the cottage garden it's beautiful, I also love the Gulf islands and envy your living there, I love self seeders and I have plants I brought from my parents garden that my Dad planted,

    what a contrast an island on Canada's west coast to an island on the east coast, wow, Frances

  11. Wow! Your mother's gardens were beautiful! That part of the world seems to be the most ideal place to grow a garden. Not that I've ever been there; it's just the photos of gardens in the PNW are just always so stunning. I had the same experience with landscape fabric when we bought a home years ago where it had been used by the landscapers. Decomposing mulch and natural debris that fell on the beds actually created a thick layer of soil on top of the fabric, creating weed heaven. Ultimately, we had to remove it all, which was a nightmare.

  12. Very beautiful story! the garden is beautiful, I loved that entrance with the red flowers

  13. Very beautiful stories Marguerite! Isn't it interesting that even though there are certain things we didn't like doing as children they still had an impact on us as adults. And despite our best efforts to the contrary we still learned a lot!

  14. Casa Mariposa - I've heard from others that a garden or a particular plant has helped them and reminded them of lost loved ones. Amazing the powers a garden has.

    Plantaliscious - I wish I could have kept more of those plants when we moved. I had a hard time parting with my plants to come across country but luckily seeds are easy to pack.

    Island Threads - Very high fences are required for deer but my mother had another trick up her sleeve. My dad loved those deer and fed them daily in the meadow. Those deer were so well looked after that robbing the garden of flowers no longer was necessary.

    Floridagirl - I agree that part of the country is ideal for gardens. Not too cold, not too hot, lots of rain, lots of natural mulch from those huge trees. *sigh* now I'm homesick.

    fer - that climbing rose was one of my mother's favourites. Despite how difficult it was to prune!

    Jane - It certainly lends some weight to the nurture theory. Our childhood's really do impact us in ways we don't even realize at the time.

  15. Marguerite dear,

    The seeds of your Mother's garden self sowed in YOUR heart! They'll continue forever.

    I loved the succession of photos, but especially loved the view of the cottage garden against the homestead.

    Love and happy new week to you,

    Sharon Lovejoy Wrties from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  16. hmm should I be feeding the rabbits in the hope they will leave my flowers alone ;o)

  17. Sharon - I didn't know it at the time but yes, I carry that garden in my heart.

    Island Threads - I think rabbits multiply at a much faster rate than deer, not sure if you should encourage them!

  18. How fantastic that you were able to bring some of them with you. A reminder of such a beautiful garden. Sweet. I like the look of the brick and the wrought iron. Your mother had an eye in the garden!

  19. Laura - while I was able to move plants from my mom's garden at that time unfortunately when we came east I lost all my plants. There was just no way to take them on that journey. However, seeds are easily packed and I have hollyhocks and columbine still from that garden.