The Haugen Garden of Calgary, Alberta

Family Gardening & Smaller Spaces

The front yard of Marilyn and George Haugen.

Beautiful glowing roses in the garden.

Hydrangeas.

An infant smokebush is making its tentative way in the garden.

The flower on one of the 104 clematis in the garden.

Giant grasses.

Dazzling dahlia.

Potted succulents and dusty miller.

The deck has a wonderful view of both worlds.

The Haugen garden is an up-close-and-personal-garden. It has to be. Hundreds of plants are packed into a fairly small space, each lovingly located in a special spot by Marilyn when George, the plant collector, brings them home.

It works though. You get to know, intimately, every one of the 104 species of clematis, the glowing roses, the dazzling dahlias and sweet succulents, not to the mention giant Great Basin Wild rye that looms 10 feet over everything in the front yard.

But all this suits the genesis of the garden, dreamed by daughter Melanie as she recuperated from an illness and poured over dozens of plant books from the library, forming an intimate attachment with the plants she saw and read about.

It was that year, too, that the large spruce trees that had dominated the space in all the years the two kids were growing up had to be removed to avoid problems with power lines. That made way for a sunny front yard and in the now sunlit back yard, a new deck cried out for company.

Melanie was more than happy to oblige with ideas and orders from her new found compendium of knowledge that included all the Latin names. She needed to be sure there was no mistake in getting what she wanted.

Everyone became involved: Marilyn did the ordering, George did the shopping, son Gavin (who was giving up what was once the winter hockey rink) provided much of the labour and Marilyn contributed the artistic flair that brought it all together.

The result is almost a miniature botanical garden, each plant  highlighted in a manner that exposes its best attributes and set off by tasteful ornamentation. Marilyn has organized the plant tags on a ring so that visitor can quickly flip through this “catalogue” and find the names to each and every variety.

In this garden, the plants are compelling. They call out, happily attracting your attention, never noisy, but insistent, so that what might have been a ten minute tour turns into an hour of exploration. Most of the available horizontal space is filled – the Haugens still have a small lawn to offset the beauty of the flowers – so they make the most of their vertical space with arbours and trellises and fences to support tall plants and climbers.

“We’re so limited by what we can do because of our small space,” explains Marilyn. “We had shade out front before and had to redesign the garden for sun. But our garden portrays peace ands serenity. And it is sensory. We go for fragrance.”  As she speaks, the scent of Philadelphus lewisii ‘Warterton’ fills the air with its haunting aroma and its hint of citrus. George also loves Clematis flammula (known as Virgin’s Bower in Southern Europe and Northern Africa), for its strong almond scent. Marilyn will also plants vanilla-scented heliotrope and she plants jasmine, which they over winter inside.

For that reason, she adores springtime when the lilac is in full bloom and the sweet smelling petunias and peonies are still exuding puffs of insect-enticing scent. The astringent scent of bee balm is irresistible, too, and she loves the Japanese silk lilac.

George is still out buying more plants. Melanie has recovered but continues to love the garden. Gavin now lives in Ottawa and has a garden of his own – turns out, he too has a green thumb. It was a cold spring this year, says Marilyn, but the garden has once again emerged in all its glory.

With all that love around it, why wouldn’t it?

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