The life-affirming garden of Elaine and Warren Haggith

The fun starts right at the front door.

Dappled shade and bright sunlight play among the flowers in Elaine and Warren Haggith’s Edmonton garden. The two have known each other almost forever: they were in 4-H together, Elaine in grain and Warren in beef.

Elaine grew up gardening in Bruderheim not far from Edmonton. Back in those days, though, Elaine had the job of weeding and picking berries while her mom did the flowers. Now she can do flowers to her heart’s content, pruning, deadheading and fussing with them, while Warren does the berry picking — and the weeding! (I’m the cheap labour,” he declares). And there are a lot of berries: they grow Saskatoons, raspberries, honeyberries, blueberries, Nanking cherries and strawberries. Their biggest challenge is keeping the birds out of the berry patch.

As for Warren, well, he likes the rose garden and he has quite a collection including ‘Hope for Humanity’, ‘Morden Sunrise’ and the reliable and hardy Winnipeg Parks rose.

The Haggiths have been 19 years in this home, building on a skeleton of trees and shrubs that existed when they arrived. It’s been an incremental exercise ever since; they added flowers, then vegetables amongst the flowers, creating a country garden that fits in the city. Warren busied himself building patios and walkways, erecting trellises and a fire pit.

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A place to dream and drift with the moods of the garden.

When it came to the deck, everyone: kids, brother-in law, Elaine and Warren – pitched in to follow the plan designed by Elaine. “I knew I wanted a pergola to give me sun and shade,” she says.

Warren may be the cheap labour but he is also an engineer who brings his preference for perfection to the table. Elaine is more of a freelancer, wanting it done quickly so she can display her flowers. The compromise is that Warren does it the right way and Elaine is grateful at the end of the day. Warren also built the beautiful stone patio where the fire pit is surrounded by Adirondack chairs.

Tea for two.

In addition to the hard features and perennials, Elaine likes to play. She says her garden is filled with memories: an angel from her sister to commemorate her nephew, a picture frame around a three-dimensional flower vignette that she had Warren build based on something she saw at a friend’s house in Powell River. Now this simple element defines her garden, creating an unusual focal point that draws the eye to a shady corner of the garden.

The fairy garden began with a fountain.

There is also a fairy garden which morphed from a fountain they got for 75 per cent off and which begged for fairies. The mushrooms just happened.

This is a lovely garden that reflects the hearts and minds of its owners. The many fruit bearing trees and shrubs add year round interest and the perennials choices are carefully thought out, catering to the tastes of both gardeners. There are roses for Warren and ferns for Elaine. There are daylilies and false sunflowers and even Eryngium. Tall Karl Foerster grasses provide a backdrop beside red bee balm in the mixed planting. Potentilla and ligularia add substance. Some cobalt blue ‘Pacific Giant’ delphiniums tower against tall spruce trees beside the patio, the blue flowers contrasting with the orange berries of a nearby mountain ash.

Raised beds grow lettuce and lots of strawberries.

Beside the potting shed, there are some new raised beds where they are growing lettuce and lots and lots of strawberries(with a few marigolds for insect protection). There are tomatoes in pots, set off by a container of red petunias. Everywhere you look, the garden affirms life and all the good things in it — “the cycle” says Elaine, thinking back to her days on the farm when it was haying time and then early potatoes had to be dug. Now, none of this is so critical to life, but the routine of the seasons and their incremental joys and sometimes challenges (birds eating the fruit, drought, the red lily leaf beetle) are all part of that greater heartbeat that sets the pace for all of us.