Monday, August 14, 2017

Garden Visits: Ali's, on an Island

Hello! Have I got a treat for you today!  Ali, a reader and sometime commenter here,  has generously invited us to visit her garden, so my idea of a series of posts featuring readers' gardens is becoming a reality. In case you missed it, the first post in the series was a visit to Wendy's garden in Yorkshire, and I'm pleased to tell you that another reader has offered her garden for a third visit. So we're well launched, aren't we?

For today's visit, you might just like to sit a while in that charming blue chair, above, in its lovely setting and just take in this wonderful garden, but let's wander a bit, shall we, and then we'll have its generous owner, Ali, tell us something about it.

Ali points out that this structure marks "the drink spot" -- I'll have a limoncello, thank you!

Ali draws our attention to this butterfly, who's landed just at the right time. . . . From the butterfly's perspective, I suspect that anytime is the right time when it comes to this garden.

There are no fish left in the pond, Ali tells us -- a snake ate all of them!




Below, the gardener, working away, covered from head to toe -- she tells us that she dislikes bugs crawling on her. I must admit I'm not keen on the sensation either.
This typically West Coast home blends so well into its setting, and the artfully naturalistic plantings complement it splendidly.

That's the neighbour's fence you see in the photos above and below. As Ali will explain, she's chosen the immense challenge of gardening without a fence in an area with abundant wildlife.
Oh! This magical early morning light, filtered through the surrounding evergreens. . .

And below, observe the wonderful variety of the thyme. Look, but don't step -- Ali gently points out that no one is allowed to walk on this section while the thyme is in bloom. Isn't it gorgeous? I imagine it is probably alive with bees.

Now that we've had a good look around the garden, let's let our host answer some of my Garden Series questions.
I'm so pleased that you've offered us a tour of your beautiful garden, Ali. Could you tell us a little bit about where your garden is and perhaps a bit about yourself.
We live on beautiful SaltSpring Island which is part of the Southern Gulf islands of British Columbia, Canada. I'm a retired Public Servant. We used to live in the Ottawa area, but fell in love with SaltSpring and bought a one and a half acre lot twenty five years ago....never really knowing if or when this fantasy would happen.
I know you built this garden from scratch, and you've been at it for long enough that you have a beautifully mature garden now. Can you tell us something about that, especially given that you were living in Ottawa 25 years ago and between then and now, you've created this magic.
Fast forward to 1999....very early retirement  and here we were. We built our house in 2003....typical west coast style, cedar with high ceilings. Naturally all the bare ground had to be hidden. This was a very well treed lot, meaning that trees here tend to be a few hundred feet tall and two to three feet in diameter. There is very little soil and a lot of rock; we live on a ridge.
Did you begin with a clear plan for the garden or did it evolve more organically?
There was never a plan for the garden. When extra money was found, we had huge rocks moved and placed around by enormous excavators. I used a pick to dig holes between the rocks, put in some compost and bone meal place a plant and carried on.
What challenges or frustrations do you face in this garden?
 Gardening here has its special challenges. We don't have a fence. We have ravenous deer and rabbits. I had to figure out what they would not eat or just nibble, and would look good...also not need a great deal of water. So to me that sounded like the South of France...minus the deer. I tried to make it look as natural as possible, within the parameters that I had. The front garden looks very West Coast....meaning a few rhododendrons and ferns. 
You say there was never a plan for the garden, yet it has a very obvious sense of design, with very strong "bones." Can you say something about how you've achieved that?
I'm fairly creative and have a lot of energy, so I've moved plants around a lot. I go in the house..look at the garden, ponder....return outside and move a plant. It has to look good from every angle; especially from the house, because you can see it twelve months of the year. I think that makes me very anal. Balance and layers are very important in the garden. I can't grow everything that I love, so I try to make it as interesting as possible. I use a lot of pots with the same plant in them...terracotta pots with boxwood. Terracotta square pots with feather grass. All this mixed with the usual Mediterranean plants...Lavender, Germander, Rosemary, and lots of other architectural grasses that wave in the wind and shimmer in the sun.
Do you do all the maintenance yourself or do you have help?
It seems that I have an almost full time job with the garden. I don't think I've ever worked this hard at anything before.  It completely absorbs me. Because it's a creative process it feels like play.  I just keep puttering away. In case you were wondering, my husband does help. He cuts grass, or what we call grass...reclaimed forest. He helps move the heavies that I can't do myself...helps move piles of soil, and chops wood....we have a wood stove. During the week, in the summer, he mostly cooks supper. He also has to remind me that I should eat. At five o'clock he rings a bell to tell me it's drink time. We sit out in the garden, under the arbor and drink a glass of wine and chat and listen to the birds. He also  has taken these photos of the garden Please be sure to thank him for us -- they're beautiful photographs!

Two years ago I decided to get someone to help with trimming in the spring and fall. I really hated that job. The garden is fairly steep which makes it even more awkward. It does keep me very fit though. 
What do you think of the garden at this stage? You must be very pleased with it. . . .any changes you think of making?
I'm still amazed that the garden looks like it does. It looks planned. It really wasn't. I stare  at it a lot....and decide whether it needs something tall or something roundish. Because of the deer, I have learned to think that way. It mostly is about the process, the creating, the details. I guess I really  am anal.

Sometimes I wish we had a fence; we could get one built, but, I would probably drive myself crazy, because I could plant to my hearts content. I would miss seeing the deer up close. They drink out of the birdbath. That's magical seeing a big buck drinking...or a doe with the fawns. Then there are the times that I run screaming out of the house swearing at them....
And then the wild card question. . . 
Aw, the question that I wished you had asked. Would I have started this garden if I had known how how large it would get, how much time, how much work?  Yes, I would. I'm a bit of an introvert and it's a perfect fit for me. Creating something, anything that you love doing is so rewarding. I mean really, at the end of the day sitting in a garden with a glass of wine, what's not to love about that.

What's not to love indeed?! 
Thanks so much for allowing us this generous peek into your wonderful garden, Ali. And thanks also for agreeing to answer readers' questions about your garden. (We understand that you'll be out in the garden most of the day again, so it might take a while for comments to be seen and answered.)

And as for our readers today, I know you'll join me in thanking Ali--I hope you'll leave a comment for her, below, and, as I say, she has indicated that she's willing to answer your questions, if possible. So go to . . . .





40 comments:

  1. Ah, that blue chair with all the green round it: I want to sit there for the rest of the Summer. What a gorgeous oasis you have created, Ali. So glad you answer the call of the bell when it is drinks time. So many people seem to create a beautiful garden but never really pause and reflect in it. Nothing better than a satisfying drink while gazing around at all you have accomplished in the garden that day. It is incredibly good exercise, too, isn't it.
    Love your garden. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    A.in London

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    1. Thank you...the blue chair was placed especially to echo the colour of the flowers of the Lithodora in the spring.
      Ali

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  2. Oh my this is a wonderful post!
    Ali's garden is beautiful and she and her husband are very gracious hosts.
    The colours and textures of the plants that Ali has chosen all work together and compliment each other...she has a great eye for design...as you can see in these photographs.
    When I visited this summer she took me on a rose tour with her garden cub and introduced me to several of her friends...it was a blissful day.

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    1. Thank you Leslie. It was a fun day that we spent together. We certainly have to do that again.
      Ali

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    2. You were very lucky, Leslie, to be able to meet Ali in person and to spend time in her beautiful garden -- I can only hope I might manage that someday.

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  3. What a beautiful oasis! And such hard work! I really appreciate the natural beauty that Ali has created.

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    1. Thank you Mme. I did try to make it fit with the surrounding space. It would not have fit to have a formal style garden here.
      Ali

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  4. Your garden is beautiful Ali, thank you so much for sharing it with us. (And thanks to your hubby for the photos!)

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    1. Thanks your very kind. He does love photography. I used to turn around if he had camera pointed in my direction...now I hardly notice.
      Ali

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  5. It's so beautiful. A magic for the soul. I wonder, do you think of yourself as having one garden that flows, or several smaller gardens that you host, or both? The concept of garden "rooms" is what I'm getting at, I guess.

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    1. I love that comment...gardens that you host. It really flows around the house. There are slight changes and a lot of repeating of certain plants to bring a cohesiveness to the whole garden. I'm having a lot of fun with it. Thank you.
      Ali

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  6. Thank you, Ali, this is so lovely and inspiring; as soon as I get home from my current trip I will re-visit your garden to get moving on some tweaks needed in mine!

    ceci

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    1. Thank you. Just this morning we put up a gargoyle on one of the post of the arbour. I have a - thing - about rusty metal objects. It was crafted by a local artist.
      Ali

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  7. Your west coast garden is beautiful, Ali. Thank you for sharing it with us. I like your idea of planting the same plant in pots of one shape. Gardens are never done, are they? There's always something to tweak.

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    1. Yes the tweaking.....I think that's the fun part...you know, if I move this over there or add this here....call husband ask what he thinks...eye roll.....

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  8. Such a pleasure to see your garden Ali . I love that it is unfenced & seems to spring out of the wonderful forest around you . You've blended in with the surroundings , rather than fighting them . I'm a little envious of the deer , they've only visited here once , not so envious of the snakes .
    Things that catch my eye - your focal points of seats , pots , statuary & bird baths ( my favorites ) - the repetition of plants , I think you need that in a good size garden to avoid a 'spotty ' look -all those curves , I can't do with straight lines . What does it look like in winter ? Do you have deep snow ? I see your house has a serious snow roof . We rarely have deep snow here , so it is really exciting for us when the garden disappears under snow .
    I've checked & our gardens are 4583 miles apart , as the crow flies , so too far for me to pop around for a visit ( & a glass of wine ) but I feel we have a link . Thank you Frances for bringing we gardeners together . More please !
    Wendy in York

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    1. Thanks Wendy. This is a fun series. We all learn a lot from each other. We get a bit of snow. We are about three hundred feet above sea level. Last year was different....shockingly different. I had not thought to add a snow photo. The majority of the plants are evergreen, so the garden looks basically the same year round. The bones of a garden are very important for that very reason.
      i think you and I could chat for hours....

      Ali

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    2. I love "eavesdropping" on this conversation between you two marvellous gardeners, watching what you draw from each other's gardens that might even show up in your own...

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  9. Ali,your garden is amazing,magical-even more that it originated without a plan. It is an art (and a lot of hard work) and a great eye and talent for the design. I was wondering at the beginning of your post, if all the rocks were there before. The photos are lovely
    This idea about garden posts is great,I enjoy them very much
    I've never been to Canada,so,I've ignorantly noticed that a lot of you have similar chairs in beautiful colours. I've googled it and now know that it is an Adirondack chair-this would be nice post,too
    Dottoressa

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    1. Thank you Dottoressa. It would be so much fun to see gardens from your part of the world. Yes the Adirondack chairs...they are really comfortable. The blue one is a heavy man-made substance. It stays outside all year. The wind can not blow it around and on a dreary day in the winter the blue makes me smile. The others are cedar and get put away in the winter. Some rocks are the originals to there spot...we live on a ridge....some were pulled from the ground and placed in new positions.
      Ali

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    2. You will sometimes see these chairs called "Muskoka" chairs as well, Dottoressa, especially in Canada. I believe that Ali's might be a mate to the four I left behind on my island, those beautiful ice-cream colours in brilliantly sturdy chairs, a heavy man-made substance as she says. . . Pleases me to notice that, actually. . .

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  10. The first photo took my breath away. It is so beautiful, the way the colours blend. The different levels of your flower beds make the eyes wander up and down and give the feeling that you can never take it all in.
    Thank you, Dottoressa, for the information on the chairs. I had been wondering, too...

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    1. Thank you, your very kind. I really have a lot of fun out there. The first thing that I do in the morning is go to the window and look out. The light is usually amazing filtering through the grasses.
      Ali

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  11. It's like an art installation--the colors, the shapes. Nature is the canvas and plants are the medium. Ali has an artist's eye.

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    1. Oh, you are very kind...thank you.
      Ali

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    2. I would absolutely second this opinion -- it really is a work of art.

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  12. What a wonderful garden, Ali. I can imagine sitting in that blue chair with my drink. And a book... watching you do all the work. Ha. I am definitely not a gardener. Sometimes I wish I were. Just not often enough to act upon it. But I can appreciate the lovely results of the work of others:)

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    1. Thank you Sue. Where you live, a garden is not necessary. It's just beautiful as it is...watching the world cruise by.
      Ali

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  13. What a beautiful garden, Ali, and I am with A in London in being pleased to hear that you do have time to sit in your lovely patch and appreciate the fruits of your labours. Even if you have to be summoned by bells...

    And yes, that blue chair. I have been thinking about giving some of my old garden chairs a lick of paint and was vacillating between grey and lavender. Blue it will be...

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    1. I agree with you on the blue chairs. When the weather is miserable the colour pops and reminds me of blue skies. I have tried to use coloured pots but it does not seem to work for me. The plants look uncomfortable in their bright clothes....

      Ali


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  14. Ali, what an amazing accomplishment. The photos are indeed lovely. But it's your devotion to your form of gardening yoga that awes me. You have done a lot of good in the world with this creation. Thank you for your post. And thank you, Frances, for sharing this with your readers.

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    1. Thank you, what a kind comment. The Sun Salutations probably help.

      Ali

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  15. I especially appreciate the way you have reached a thoughtful and beautiful detente with the local creatures. We have beaver here which seem willing to take down any tree--deciduous or evergreen--and our chicken-wire defense is sadly inelegant.

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    1. Now that's a challenge that I would not like. I wonder how large a tree a beaver would tackle. I have been known to throw bad words at the deer. They don't seem to care.
      Ali

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  16. Another beautiful garden! I was especially interested to visit this one because I have once been on one of the wonderful Gulf Islands - Mayne Island, over 30 years ago. Canadian cousins of mine have a cabin there. When I visited, the surrounding land was as you would have had when you started out - lots of trees. So I'm all the more astounded at what you have created out of that raw material. In particular there is such harmony between the house and garden. Do you have a scheme of having more formal, colourful plants nearer the house, with the garden merging into less formal and greener planting as it gets to the margins and wilder land, or does it support splashes of colour throughout?

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    1. Thank you. Close to the house there are boxwood plants in the ground and also in terracotta pots which gives a slightly more formal feel to the garden. There is also a lot of lavender. Actually it's a very limited colour selection...except for the poppies, I never know what will happen until they open.
      Ali

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    2. Ali, how do you find the upkeep of the box? Are you troubled by box blight, which is a real problem now in the UK?

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    3. It has not struck yet. If and when it does I will have to rethink a lot of empty spots. I do try to keep them in a rounded shape....which of course is more work. Do you have many boxwood yourself Linda.

      Ali

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  17. Wonderful and inspirational - thank you so much!

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    1. Isn't it great? Thank you for joining us for this visit. . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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