The river rolls lazily by Tim Evans’ Assiniboine-side home, imparting a dreamy quality to this romantic garden. Round beds of tall flowers, their petals shifting in the eddies of air that disturb the still morning sunshine, punctuate the manicured lawn. The plantings are unrestrained, the plants energetic thanks to the river water that runs through their phloem and xylem. The water is filled with nutrition, melted down silt-size, so that hungry roots can make use of its minerals. The only other sign of its presence is a grayish sheen on the hostas, giving them an other-worldly quality.
Tim has in mind Piet Oudolf’s vision; masses of tall perennials set off by emerald lawns, like people at a party waiting for the music to fill the dance floor. You can see this fantasy in Tim’s garden in the height and freedom of the plants, most of them native and not easy to control, but are confined by his choreography.
Tim’s vision has more warmth than Oudolf’s. For one thing it is interposed by Zen images; East Indian Buddhas and other symbols. He wants the serenity of the symbols to invade the space, but his own personality keeps popping in – a touch of Victoriana, here and there in the wrought iron trellises and dividers and, especially, in the Victory Orangery greenhouse that hugs one corner overlooking the river. It was here, short weeks ago that a quartet of WSO string musicians played “Making Whoopee” in the garden, while a hundred of their best friends dined from linen-covered tables in this fairyland setting.
This is Tim’s third garden in the city: he constructed other lovely visions in the yards of both his previous homes; in its early days, Manitoba Gardener covered the one in Osborne Village. “My grandfather was a gardener,” says Tim. “He grew begonias and dahlias and gladiolas outdoors, but his real love was his house plants, the African violets and episicia.” He pauses and then adds, “You never hear of episicia these days, but they were like an African violet with vine-like tendrils.”
His father also gardened, growing vegetables, but it was his grandfather who taught Tim about flowers. His mother, he said, had a true brown thumb.
There are no brown thumbs in this garden. The flowers flourish: Joe Pye Weed grows as tall as your head. A nice fleeceflower shrub is already three feet high. Monarda blooms everywhere setting off the cheery blossoms of false sunflower. Filipendula flaunts her fluffy flowers among the orange daylilies, a tall black hollyhock reaches out towards the river. Delphiniums and daisies muscle out the veronica. There would be a riot here if not for the discipline Tim has imposed.
Then here are calming areas of luscious lawn. It invites a footfall or perhaps even a lie-down on its velvety surface. Eyes saturated with colour can get relief by taking the inlaid brick steps down to the water’s edge and watch the river roll by. To keep out marauding deer and rabbits, Tim has erected a fence that is half hidden by lush beds of flowers.
At the edge of the slope to the river, a retaining wall with a nautical theme makes way for a nice river overlook, Compost bins are cleverly hidden here while in front of them, two Adirondack chairs sit before a small fireplace, a perfect spot for a chilly summer evening.
From the tiered deck near the house where two wren families toil ceaselessly, to the river’s edge, Tim’s garden is a song of love. And he is not done yet. He wants to “fix the retaining wall” and he plans a formal, 16-foot by 16-foot, reflective pool in the centre. “It will have two feet tall sides and the center of the pool will be highlighted by four Buddhas forming a square, each looking in a different direction,” he says, pointing to the black heads set around the deck. “There will be a black granite top for seating all around the pond,” he says, his eyes growing dreamy. “And there will be a fountain in the center bathing the four Buddha busts. . . ”
Tim loves it all – the dreaming and planning and the digging and planting. And more than anything else, sharing it all with others.
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