Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Aiken House and Gardens

A day or two prior to leaving town on vacation I decided to take in my very first garden tour.  Hubby was already in Toronto and I had the afternoon to myself so it was the perfect opportunity.  I have been to plenty of public gardens before but never a private garden so this was a new experience for me.  The thing that jumped out at me right away was how a private garden is so distinctly that of the person who created it.  Aiken House and Gardens is thoroughly the creation of Carolyn Aiken and her romantic flare jumped out at me from every corner.  Baskets full of flowers, statues, water fountains, tables set for tea, Victorian books and linens popped up in unexpected places and set the tone throughout.

I just loved this chicken guarding the table set for tea

If only all scarecrows looked this classy!

charming cherubs

There's a beautiful day bed hidden in this alcove.
Perfect for whiling away a summer's afternoon
Almost as soon as I arrived I chastised myself for not bringing the big camera with me.  Initially I had not wanted to lug it around and be 'that girl' with the ginormous camera but now I'm sorry I didn't capture better photos of the sights I saw that day.  I also managed to run out of memory space on my small camera and that meant finding a spot to sit and transfer photos to a memory card mid-tour.  Luckily that turned out to not be a problem at all as this garden was full of pleasant spots to sit a moment.  I had no trouble finding a quiet place to sit and muck with the camera.

The perfect spot to sit and fiddle with my camera
I sat in this cozy nook, listening to water running from an almost hidden fountain, surrounded by the flowers of Hydrangea and Astrantia.  I could have stayed hidden there all afternoon, it would have been a real pleasure.  Another Carolyn - from Carolyn's Shade Gardens - recently wrote a post about garden seating and how it not only about providing seating but is also for viewing and can evoke feelings in the viewer.  Wandering around that afternoon that post really came to light for me as the seating not only provided a spot to sit but reflected the style of the garden and it's romantic tone.

Tempting to sit but also lovely to gaze at.  The blue highlights drew me in.
Another design feature I really admired was the use of paths leading you through the garden.  I never felt lost at any moment.  I easily walked from the entrance and through each garden, one path leading to the next.

It was as easy as following the path

A small detail, greatly admired, was the use of the same colour in different shades.

In the photo above is royal purple Jackmanii clematis, lavender and white monkshood and a bluish purple hydrangea.

But perhaps my favourite spot in this garden, the one that made me swoon and say I have to Have That! was this grove of Staghorn Sumac.

The lower limbs appear to be pruned creating an inviting spot to hide in the shade.  I couldn't resist.

This native shrub is so exotic looking, and the architecture of the plant so defined.  It's really eye catching on its own but to see so many in this grouping was awe inspiring.

There were so many details swirling in my brain after this tour.  Plants I admired, things I would like to try.  It was a great energy booster and I wanted to run to my own garden afterward and get straight to work. 

I would like to thank Carolyn for opening up her garden to the public that afternoon.  It was a wonderful treat and greatly enjoyed.  Please visit Carolyn at her blog Aiken House & Gardens to see many more wonderful photos of her gardens.


  1. Thank you so much for the lovely account of your afternoon in our garden. I enjoyed both the story and the photos.

    Take care,


  2. I just LOVE Carolyn's blog and had wondered if you knew of it. My hubs introduced me to her site a few years ago and I visit there regularly.

    How lucky for you to go in person. She's so incredibly talented and I'm sure sitting in the garden is quite different than looking at her dreamy photography.

    Now you can be inspired to create your own special outdoor spaces.

  3. What a wonderful garden!!! I've seen pictures of sumac groves before. They are so cool! If I had a bed in my garden, I'd never come in. :o)

  4. I hadn't thought about the distinction between public gardens (which can be great places to learn about new plants) and private gardens (which are more likely to have strong personalities and to provide design ideas) -- but as soon as I read it, I thought "Of Course!" There's a stand of staghorn sumac growing wild at the edge of a field across the dirt road from my property, and it is just glorious at this time of year -- but I had never thought of planting any in my garden. Hmm; another idea to tuck away for the future. Thanks. -Jean

  5. What a treat for you to visit such a beautiful garden. It has so much personality and charm. Wouldn't it be amazing to have an outdoor bed? It's always been a dream of mine to have a sleeping porch...maybe some day ;)

  6. Marguerite, How nice that you live in the vicinity of such an inspirational garden. There is a sumac grove in a park in Misssissauga which we occasionally visit. It is quite magical to walk under its low canopy. I like your picture from inside the leafy fortress.

  7. Carolyn - thank you again for the opportunity to see your gardens. It was a pleasure.

    Michelle - Carolyn's photography really is eye catching. I was sorry my photos didn't quite measure up to what you see on her blog.

    TS - LOL! I entirely agree, if you could sleep in the garden the house suddenly becomes irrelevant.

    Jean - I've seen sumac in gardens before (Canadian Garden Joy has an excellent example) but never in such numbers. That grove was truly spectacular.

    Cat - The most enticing aspect of this garden was definitely the personal touches that have been added.

    Jennifer - I couldn't help but duck under the leaves to see what it was like under those shrubs. Just an enchanting spot all round. This island is indeed lucky to have Carolyn in our midst.

  8. You clearly had a lovely time - enjoy turning all those thoughts and impressions into plans for your own garden! Re taking big cameras, I empathise, I frequently feel faintly like a show-off if I take my big camera out and about, but on the other hand I always regret it when I leave it at home, so am training myself to be unashamed!

  9. What an inspiring garden--so many fun features. Thanks so much for linking to my post and for commenting on my ideas about seating. When that happens it makes all the hard work of blogging worth while.

  10. Marguerite that was such a beautiful tour and to have my favorite tree highlighted in a grove ? PERFECTION !! I only wish I had the room to make areas like that .. loads of windy paths half hidden .. surprises dotted through out .. perfect garden fodder for me: ) Thanks girl !

  11. Oh my goodness, that garden is heaven on earth. Carolyn certainly makes the most of the short gardening season. I could live in her garden - sipping her lemonade and browsing through her books:)

  12. What a lovely treat to be able to tour Carolyn's garden. I love garden tours. I need to spend more time making paths and places to sit in my garden.

  13. Janet - taking that big camera out makes it look like I know what I'm doing and I really have no idea. I really didn't want anyone asking photography questions but like you I will need to train myself to be unashamed of the big camera!

    Carolyn - your post was really interesting to me as I had never looked at seating as a piece of art before. it really turned my thinking around and when I saw this garden the idea came to life. Isn't blogging grand?

    Joy - I thought of you immediately when I saw those trees! Knew you would enjoy that sight, just wish I had taken a better photo. The sight of all those red cones was really spectacular.

    Jane - it would never occur to me looking at Carolyn's blog that she has a short growing season. It really is remarkable how lush her garden is.

    Melanie - walking through this garden really got me thinking about paths. My garden has no sense of direction at this point and it makes such a difference.

  14. Greetings, Marguerite!

    I happened to be browsing through Carolyn's blog - again - and stumbled upon your blog. My hubby and I travelled from Newfoundland this past August solely to meet Carolyn and to experience her gardens firsthand. What a joyful trip! We hope to return to PEI in the fall of 2012 to enjoy some autumn walks...What a beautiful place your island! I am enjoying your blog and will return soon.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,

    Linda at Beautiful Ideas