Karen and Roger Watson’s Winnipeg jewel of a garden

Roger & Karen, with the family dog horning in on the photo inside the porch.
The brick-wall pond.
A vine covered arbour leads to what used to be the vegetable garden and is now a tranquil haven complete with pond and running water.

It would be appropriate to say that the Roger and Karen Watson garden is a jewel of a garden. After all, they own a jewelry shop in Winnipeg!

The garden reflects the owners’ occupation. Each plant has been carefully chosen and situated to show it off to its best advantage and, of course, there is a display case right out front. Visitors are welcomed by a pretty planting of allium, pink geraniums and candytuft in neatly cut beds flanking the front sidewalk. Grasses and other perennials ensure there is all season interest.

The Watsons have lived here for 36 years. When they moved to this pretty house across from the river and backed by a park, there was a globe cedar and a single daffodil. It had been there so long and was so deeply embedded that Roger never did find the bulb no matter how far down he dug.

Happy bergenia with etra large and shiny leaves thanks to Roger’s soil amendments.

Karen says Roger is the gardener. Roger says, it’s both of them, but he admits that he does most of the design while Karen makes suggestions for improvements. They are used to working together – they’ve done so in the store for over30 years and they’ve learned to respect each other’s areas of expertise.

They both love the garden and even had a large window installed in the dining room so they could see it during dinner. Among the view is cedar, a group of cedar planters overflowing with flowers and at the base of the planters, asparagus fern softens the texture of the stone walkway beside it.

The Watsons love the variety and colour of annials mixed with perennials.

A border edging one side of the front lawn blazes with colour: scarlet geraniums and pink impatiens set off the big shiny leaves of bergenia, which has already shed its spring blossoms. The annuals carry the colour burden for the still-to-come perennials: daylilies, lilies and an unusual variety of ligularia.

In another bed, along the front of the house, marigolds mingle with phlox and daylilies, while clematis climbs trellised walls behind a healthy clump of monarda (bee balm).Pink impatiens ring a birch tree in still another part of the lawn. Shaded by Engelmann’s ivy creeping up the wall is a thick planting of pink impatiens, which fills in the space along the side of the house beside the sidewalk.

The Watsons have an eclectic taste in flowers, so old favourites such as Sweet William show up beside lovely blue balloon flowers, old-fashioned powder puff mums, hollyhocks, cosmos and annual phlox. There are lots of traditional annuals, including nasturtiums and pansies. They love the colour and the variety. Tradescantia, the spiderwort, thrusts its spear-like leaves outwards at odd angles, its droplets of blue blossoms making surprise appearances here and there. Karen’s favourite flower is the poppy, but she says she likes them all, and that is evidenced by the mixture of plants. Roger favours the roses which show up throughout the garden.

Powder puff asters.

The lawn is pristinely groomed. There are no weeds to be seen anywhere. Roger uses a screwdriver to dig deep and root out dandelions. Every spring, he tops up his grass with a five-way mix from Anseeuw Brothers. He says it makes the best lawn dressing. Then he adds about a hundred pounds of seed. The grass is thick and like velve

At the back of the property, a flagstone walkway leads under a vine-covered arbour to a pretty courtyard garden. For 10 years, this was a vegetable garden, carefully maintained by Roger who despaired when Karen wanted to harvest the produce because it spoiled the look! Now it’s a flower garden and a place to “smell the roses”. A bench flanks a large clump of blue aconitum. You can sit here on a tranquil summer morning and listen to the sound of water flowing from a pink pump into a brick-walled pond. It is filled with lily pads, the margins supporting tall reeds and other water plants.

This is Winnipeg so hard clay underlays everything in the garden. But Roger has spent years amending the soil with peat moss and coarse sand. His mix is one part sand to four parts peat. He adds about an inch of this mixture to the beds and then digs it in. The success of this method shows in the happy way the plants grow and the rich darkness of the soil.

For both Roger and Karen, the garden is their Zen place. “It’s the best kind of therapy there is,” he says.

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