Crazy for Trees

Chapter Four: Into the Garden

Oh, at last, pay dirt. A chance to show off! In this chapter I become tour guide, walking you through the garden. This chapter is the before and after, dreams lost, dreams revisited, dreams come true.


Here we can stop and smell, we can wonder at the complex beauty of the rose, the singular delicate power of the Fritallaria, at the ragged enormity of naming thousands of plants.

When I began this garden, I had no idea of what it was to become, I had no idea of how it would swoop me into its huge arms and carry me away. I kept no tags, wrote down no names. I had never been interested in naming things, simply in being part of their living in my garden.

Wild Flower Garden

With the writing of this book came a great challenge. OK, sister, now you've planted it and want to write about it, can you actually show someone your garden, actually name the plants within its boundaries? Not a chance. Hundreds of library hours later, hundreds of hauling huge encyclopedias around the garden, hundreds of phone calls to botanist friend, Gary, I can present this chapter, complete with the name of every damn plant in it.

In the initial writing of this section of the book, I simply described the different "rooms" I had created, named the plants, begged Roni to take photographs, photographs, more photographs. I wrote, I selected, I scanned, I read, I rewrote. I longed for more, more than to show you the plants, all clearly labelled, all beautifully photographed. I needed to let you know how I felt in the garden, what the garden did to me. And so, this chapter emerged as the most autobiographical of all.


Welcome to my garden, to my world, to me.

Sections to Chapter Four

Into the Garden

Table of Contents

Pinks Gone Wild:

Index Img 15

We begin the tour at the garden gate, where pink flowers of every type introduce you to the wild abundance to come.


How do you improve on a view of the San Juan Islands? You add a four tiered hedge, just low enough to frame the sea with alternating colours of blue and pink, flowing from Pinks Gone Wild, connected by a path of hardy Fuschia the colour of strawberry ice cream, joining a grove of Barnsley Lavatura which is flanked on the sea side by Blue California Lilac and Buddleia, and on the lawn side by a low stone wall soothed by a stream of cut blue grass in which swims a bed of lavender the colour of the sky and the scent of Provence.

Index Img 16

Kissing Cousins:

When a Japanese Angelica, leaves all cream and Spring green reach out to touch the leafy finger tips of a Chinese Red Bud surrounded by burgundy Fritallaria and Spring blooming burgundy Heather, the touch is like the touch of the two relatives you love most in all the world, the California Cousins, and so this room is named after them.

Roni's Canary Garden:

Work beside me, in my garden, and you shall know me and know the garden. It is an invitation I take seriously. I do not extend the invitation to any I cannot love. I do not want strangers to be part of this garden, nor even those not close to me. Working together in the garden is too intimate and sacred an act for strangers. Roni cleared this room and a canary (or yellow finch) came to visit as she worked. It reminded me of my first canary, and its terrible demise in a trap set for mice, not pets, by a gentle woman who never forgave herself. This garden is named for the complexity of life when one chooses to be surrounded by life, it is named for the ghost of a canary and the invitation for more to come and stay. A vast carpet of yellow woodland flowers and two exquisite Snake Bark Maples do the inviting.

Mickey's Shade Garden:

Index Img 17

This room is named for my daughter, Mickey. Close to the cabin, where I can keep an eye on it, shy and watchful, in the shade, alive with the muted soft beauty of Epimedium, Painted Fern and Bleeding Heart and Hellebore and Camellia, this garden delights me more than any other. At its edges, where dappled light enters, cream leaved Hosta and Sedum and Allium Trequetrum embrace the soft greens and whites and pinks. In three years, a pink Wisteria and pink climbing Rose and evergreen Clematis have grown amongst the tall cedars and threaten to reach the stars. Their blossoms perfume the morning and bring butterflies to visit even on the grayest of days. This is a garden for things delicate and almost silent. This garden doesn't shout its beauty, it whispers, it sighs, it simply, is.

Sunken Garden:

Index Img 18

Inspired by a visit to the Seattle Home and Garden Show, and dictated by the greed of two huge cedars, this garden is home to a quaint koi filled pond banked by a yellow maple, Acer'Aureum'. You can reach it by walking down stone steps and a stone wall built by friends over a summer of many visits and many bottles of wine and roasted sausages.

Chartreuse Garden:


Inspired by a visit to the Seattle Home and Garden Show, this room, composed of Golden Irish Yew and grass (Mellium effresum 'Aureum') and those exquisite small Rhododendron, "Wren", is nested behind a glorious yellow Maple, 'Aureum'. You can reach it by walking down stone steps and a stone wall built by friends over a summer of many visits and many bottles of wine and roasted sausages.

My Impossible Arbutus Garden:

OK, so this is my show off garden. They said I couldn't transplant an Arbutus. So I did, two of them, and surrounded them with Masterworts of every hue and hybrid Cranesbill and pink Monkshood, Berberis, 'Rose Glow' and Damask Roses and then flanked the whole thing with a glorious pink Dogwood. Just to make sure this garden was noticed, I added a Dawn Redwood, snipped to control its height but not its beauty.

Young Love:

Ferns Young Love

We never forget our first love. Mine was Joey, and he made my teen years full of grace and tenderness. This garden was built with Ferns and Toad Lilies and red Magnolia and species Rhodies. Next year, it will house a pond and a bridge and a welcome to young lovers everywhere. It is my most nostalgic and most romantic garden, hidden deep in the forest. A moss topiary girl sleeps in a brass bed behind a tree. You might see her as you pass. You might not. It's up to you.

Meadows and Mothers:

Index Img 20

Two golden Weeping Willows give strength and courage to this garden room, once the home of three giant Alders and too much swamp. Today it is full of things wild and thirsty and beautiful. It is where my mother and I spend many peaceful moments. This is my tribute to her and her memory.

The English Garden:


Thank you Sackville-West, for inspiration and controlled beauty. For mock orange and lilac and a river of Day Lilies. For Lupins and Delphiniums and Hollyhock, Foxglove, Verbascum, Veronica and Aster and oh, did I mention an Albizia to frame in elegant pink flowers of bird like beauty and fern like leaves? (The Weeping Pear was reserved for a more theatrical spot.)


What do you do when the neighbour sells a corner of his lot (adjacent to yours) to the county and instead of giant Cedars and spirited young Pine you get to enjoy a cement block and three noisy generator-run e-mail monsters? You plant a row of Lilacs that love the alkaline from the cement, you plant a Tulip Tree, two Ginkgos, several evergreen Magnolias and yellow berried Hollies. You throw in a mix of Weeping White Pine and cheer for all the sun the neighbour let into this room.

Pine Tree with Droplets

Theatre Verde:


Tennessee Williams, this room is for you. Drama and writers have long been an important part of my life and no garden of mine could go without a theatrical tribute to them. If it isn't dramatic, it doesn't go into this garden. Two Maples (Semi no hane and Roseumarginatum kagihi mishik) rub shoulders with a pink Dogwood, creating a profusion of colour in Spring.

This colour is followed by the pinks and white of the Weeping Cherry standing next to a white Weeping Pear Tree, behind a Dove Tree, under a sea of white and wine Tulips that bloom for months. That's just for starters. Come on in, the Roses should be in full flower by June. The liliesCallas, Casa Blancas, Madonas, Cascades, Silver Sunbursts, Black Dragons, Artistics, Formosanims, bring us into Fall. Then the Strawberry Tree (Arbutus Unedo) bursts into bloom, right next to the Rosa Bengal Fire, shouting, "Look at me, look at me, look at me," and we all do.

Angel's Wings:


My favourite teacher, my grade nine Latin teacher, and life long friend and mentor, Dorothy Farnell, this garden is for you. It houses all your favourite flowers, including so many Iris that it feels like a field of chiffon in late Spring. Then there's the skeleton treesa Purple Beech, a Japanese Stewartia, a Weeping White Wisteria, several Paper Bushes, an Umbrella Pine and two Honey Locusts. Like you, this room will live for a very long time in my heart and in the hearts of all who walk by. It is next to the road and flanked with wild flowers. Already the neighbours stop and smell and pick and enjoy. They call you a gift and I agree.


Empress Royalty

Paulownia Tomentosa, Empress Tree, I've wanted one since I was twenty. Saskatchewan doesn't grow Empress trees. Nor do small Kitsilano gardens. But acres do and my garden does. She is the Grand Empress and all flowers in this room are grown to show off her royal beauty.



If I didn't live here, I'd live in Tuscany. So why wouldn't I grow a Mediterranean garden, resplendent with seven foot tall California Poppy, steely blue Globe Thistle, Russian Sage, wandering Brazilian Verbena and ever-blooming blue Hebe. And why wouldn't they have the nicest view in the garden, next to the pool, overlooking the sea? My own bit of Italy, ah, divine.

Betty Boop:

Index Img 27

The energy of my favourite childhood cartoon character Betty Boop fills this little garden which forms a natural sitting room in the middle of the lawn. A Styrax Japonicus is the central figure in this garden. You can perch on a ceramic Chinese bathing stool next to the Betty Boop Rose and look up into the white of the Snowbells and smell their almond perfume and sometimes you can weep, as I do, for the sheer joy of being alive.


Statue of Elvis

I saw him in the 70's and the dreamy power of his sexual energy remains an almost alarming reality thirty years later. It seems fitting I dedicate a garden room to the King. This room lingers near the house, is full of sexy, dusty rose and black and green. A Weeping Katsura moves in slow rhythms to the wind, bringing the perfume of Chocolate Cosmos and rose Daphnes to the open window of the cabin. The combined textures, colours, smells stir the loins, a tribute to all things vibrant and mysterious and alluringly alive. Didja' eva' see a more glorious thing?

Topiary Garden:

Books have always inspired me. The glorious A Tuscan Paradise by Marina Schinz gave me the idea to plant a bed of round topiaries to look as they are about to roll over the stone wall into the path that leads to Roni's Canary Garden. Sometimes, in the night, I listen for the crash.

Prairie Gals:

That's what we are, my mother, my grandmother, my daughter and I. This room is for us. It houses all our favourite flowers. Lilies, Gladiola, Tulips, Roses, Smoke Trees, a Sorrell that grows more beautiful each Autumn, and of course, the grand dame of them all, the favourite tree in all my garden, A Cornus Controversia Variegata named Mary after my grandmother. Dan Hinkley of Hersonswood says he curtsies to his, and sometimes, in the moonlight, she curtsies back. Mine reaches out and touches me with her silver tipped fingers. When she does, I smell baby powder. It is the scent I always associate with grandmother. She died when I was two. But I remember, oh, I do remember the smell of her nightgown, the baby powder she always dusted under her arms and under her large bosoms. And at night, when my tree touches me, I know I can smell her still.


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Crazy for Trees: Synopsis  |  Crazy for Trees: Chapter One  |  Crazy for Trees: Chapter Two  |  Crazy for Trees: Chapter Three  |  Crazy for Trees: Chapter Four  |  Crazy for Trees: Chapter Five  | 

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