I first heard about ‘Pat and Peter’ when I was employed at Lost Horizons. It was ‘in your neck of the woods. You really should seek them out and see if you can get a private viewing!’ I had the opportunity to meet Pat while I was employed there and quickly sensed that we had a lot in common – specifically with our obsession with plants and desire to utilize botanical Latin wherever and whenever possible. Kindred spirits unite!
Five years have passed since our first introduction and I vividly remember the day she walked into LittleTree, saw me, and simultaneously we both asked: ‘What are you doing here?’ The rest as they say is history. I was thrilled to be able to have Pat on ‘Through the Garden Gate’ [segment airs this coming Monday at 7PM] as my second guest for the segment of the show entitled ‘Botanical Trespassing.’ I had been to her botanically rich gardens twice before, and was secretly hoping that I would be able to visit again so as to capture the gardens in 2012!
Pat and Peter have resided in the magnificent country stone house for over thirty years, and completed an addition in 1983. In 1984 the foundation plantings and walkways to the main entrance were completed. Pat mentions that at the time, ‘the back of the house consisted of lawn surrounded by some mature Picea, a ‘Gray Snow Apple’, a dwarf McIntosh and a large vegetable plot. Additional Pinus glauca and Picea species were added to create a wind break, and a heritage orchard was begun.
2001 saw the installation of the gazebo and various stone patios. It was in 2002, after being ‘left hanging’ by no less than three landscapers that Pat decided to try and create the gardens surrounding the patios in spite of being what she calls, ‘a novice in every sense of the word!’ If this is what a novice creates sign me up for the course!
I did mention that Pat too suffers from the same malady – that of seeing, wanting, and possessing all interesting, rare, and unusual horticultural wonders, did I not? I was unfamiliar with Ulmus minor ‘Jacqueline Hillier’ until my visit Wednesday evening, and even though it has a four legged pruner, it still looks absolutely magnificent!
As Pat continued her self motivated quest to create borders on her property she stated that after deciding on the location and shape of the beds, her first step was to visit a local nursery, clipboard in hand, noting all the plants that she liked the look of and whether they liked sun or shade. Armed with her list she returned home and laid it all out on graph paper and then went back to the nursery for the plants! As time went by, more borders were cut in, and it was around this time that she noted the perplexed expression on husband Peter’s face. It would appear that she would busy herself with uprooting plants and moving them with a somewhat consistent regularity - ‘such was my level of incompetence!’
In 2005 Pat entered a Canadian Gardening magazine’s contest and to her delight she placed third in the ‘beautiful beds and border category! In the fall of the same year, Larry Davidson, plantsman extraordinaire, designer and installer built a magnificent pond and rock garden around the already existing borders. The results are nothing less than magical!
Although difficult to photograph, there are dueling waterfalls with an expanse of pond in the centre, and while sitting to enjoy a glass of wine, cheese and crackers with both Pat and Peter, the sound of the cascading water was near hypnotic….. almost more so than the intoxicating plant selections! Almost!
In 2006 Larry Davidson, whose woodland nursery Lost Horizons has remained a personal favourite, returned and installed a large border alongside the road for privacy, but also to try and reduce the sound of passing traffic on their busy concessional side road. 2007 saw the creation of a shrub border along the south side of the front lawn in an area that was filled with the oh so common and ubiquitous orange ‘ditch’ lily. A small border was added in 2009 across the driveway from the house.
I was thrilled to be reacquainted with Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Miss Grace’ a sublime grafted specimen that as soon as I saw it at the nursery, I knew there were only two gardens where it could happily reside! It was so difficult bidding her farewell, but I knew she was in the best possible hands!
I love Robinia pseudoaccacia ‘Twisty Baby’ [aka ‘Lacy Lady’] but apparently not as much as whomever has decided that it tastes good! Fingers crossed that it will repair itself and that the raccoon or beaver will hightail it out of this sanctuary on the double!
On an earlier visit I had spotted what looked like a Viburnum. Upon my commenting as such, Pat introduced me to V.plicatum nanum ‘Semperflorens’ whose snowball like flowers set it apart from the other plicatums which have a more lacecap floral display! Just one more rare and unusual beauty that Pat has collected over the years!
Not one to choose favourites, but these last four photos are of plants that make my heart leap, all of them lovingly cultivated by Pat! For those interested they are: Polygonatum odoratum ‘Fireworks’ [after seeing it at Pat’s I HAD to have one for myself! We collector/hoarder types are very competitive rather we admit so to strangers!] Podophyllum plieanthum [I came this close to adding one to the garden, but the ones available for sale would have been nothing less than snail food in my jungle!] and of course the true gems of the garden, Meconopsis betonicifolia [M.baileyi] and Meconopsis grandis.
Pat, it was a thrill and pleasure interviewing you for ‘Through the Garden Gate.’ Your kind words of praise mean the world to me! Thank you for your continued support of LittleTree, and for my recent visit to your garden. I could spend days camped out there! Thanks for accompanying Julie, Barbara and myself on our recent plant hunting excursion to Lost Horizons, and for taking plant number eight off of my hands, thus reducing the amount of brow beating I received from Megan when I went into work the next day! Should I mention that it was Meconopsis x sheldonii ‘Lingholm’? Believe you me, its a true sign of friendship when I willingly hand over any member of this most worshipped genus! Lunch was totally unexpected! You are the best! Thanks as well to Peter for allowing me to monopolize Pat’s time, though I am sure you expect nothing less when she and I talk plants!
For a slideshow of my latest visit to this spectacular property, cue down to the footer of this blog.