Garden Showcase

From 1999 Morden garden tour
Lorne Stelmach

The annual Art of Gardening tour in Morden sponsored by the Pembina Hills Arts Council is only a couple years old now, but it is quickly becoming a highlight of the summer for many people in this region of Southern Manitoba. Each tour features six local yards, which are among the many lovely ones here in Morden, home of the annual Corn and Apple Festival. The tour organizers each year aim not only to feature different yards but to show a range of ideas and approaches to designing and landscaping a yard. Some may have a mix of perennials and annuals, others may feature more greenery and shade-loving plants and another one might have ponds or garden structures as highlights. A common compliment heard from many participants has been not only on the variety of garden ideas but also the fact that some of the chosen yards show what someone without a fancy home, yard and budget can do. So, if the garden tour inspires even one other person to start digging in the dirt and hit the greenhouses next spring, then it certainly has accomplished something extra special.

Photo #1:
One of the varied garden beds in the spacious yard of Els Tessier. It's a wonderful mix of flowers and colours blended with some greenery. Tessier is one of the owner/operators of Morden Nurseries, so one can see she enjoys bringing her work home with her. And her large yard offers her lots of room to keep creating new ideas.

Photo #2:
Located at the apex of two curving streets, the yard of Frank and Monica Loewen is a wonderful haven that must stop traffic when it is in full bloom. The variety of flowers, shrubs, vines and trees here is what visitors will most take notice of. When your eye digs a little deeper into some of the garden beds, you will find some lovely yard ornaments and other interesting little surprises.

Photo #3:
Back again at the yard of Els Tessier with a view of the garden bed at the furthest rear point of the yard. It is a work in progress with an arbor leading the visitor on to a winding stone path that circles around through a mixture of trees and shrubs accented with some colour from annuals and groundcover.

Photo #4:
Another view of one of the flower beds at the home of Els Tessier as visitors enjoy some lemonade and some of that southern Manitoba hospitality. Earning a green thumb in Morden no easy task!

Initially, I may not have thought it was such a lofty ambition, but, alas, what I fool I was.

A fool, yes, not to fully appreciate the work that would be involved. And what was my objective? Well, to earn our place in the Morden Yard of the Week program. Now, some may scoff, but anyone who has done any at all significant amount of yard and garden work - especially starting from scratch as a beginner - likely fully appreciates the time and effort it demands.

I, unfortunately, as a mere wide-eyed but gung ho rookie have been learning through my first forays into this surprisingly complex world that there is not only more to it than meets the eye but more work than one might realize.
My wife, Michelle, and I are now through our second season of working to develop a yard and garden we can really be proud of here in southern Manitoba - one that will become a warm, welcome and colourful refuge from the rest of the world. We still seem a long way from that, and I now realize we are not in the running for Yard of the Week ... and likely won't be for some time yet. Not that there is any lack of effort on our part, and we certainly are not short of ideas and inspiration.

That is the problem ... inspiration ... as we call Morden home, and what might pass as a nice yard in some other communities may just not be quite up to par in this beautiful corner of the province. It's no wonder so many people are now turning out each year for the annual home and garden tours offered here by the Pembina Hills Arts Council. Just driving around Morden quickly shows you this community has more than its fair share of inspired gardeners. It almost seems like they all somehow feed off the creative energy from the wonderful grounds of the Agriculture Canada research station here. If you want your yard to keep up to the high standards here, it seems you have to go the extra mile judging by the range of beautiful yards - from the perfectly manicured to the more exotic and lush landscaping of people like Irma Guenther.

Why must these people make it so difficult for us beginners to catch up? Fortunately, I have a strong, creative and inspired force on my side as Michelle is never short of ideas or "brain waves" as she calls them. Both lovely and talented, she is the kind of person who would much rather build and create something herself.

So, with her brains and my brawn ... well, okay, I don't have much of that, but after two years now of digging up sod, shovelling manure and fertilizer and marching back and forth to the field with a loaded wheelbarrow, I must have developed some muscle ... our vision for our yard is starting to take shape. We built an entryway kind of structure - we are not sure what to call it ... a kind of arbor-trellis-pergola kind of thing which I'm sure may be getting some quizzical looks from the people out for their Sunday drives. Next, we added some custom made wrought iron railings designed by Michelle, and now we look ahead to adding a bench and some plants including vines which we hope will start snaking their way overhead. We have two flower beds underway in the back yard, and one in the front as we try to draw inspiration from yards around us here as well as the ones we see in the magazines (will ours ever look that perfect?).

What I have realized from reading these articles is that I still have some learning to do. From knowing the garden zones to the very particular needs of individual flowers and plants. This could all get pretty complex if you cared to make it so. For now, I'm doing well to remember the names of everything we have planted. In the front, let's see, we have a variety of hostas encircling the two crabapple trees, a couple Astilbes and other assorted shade-loving greenery. In the back, we have Muhgo pines, tricolour Sedum, Goldflame Spirea, Dianthus, Yarrow, Mother of Thyme, Liatris ... and those funny little clumps that look like some sort of odd vegetable ... uhmm ... oh, year, Hens and Chicks. Another bed has daisies, bleeding hearts, blue Scabiosa, two varieties of Coreopsis and ... and ... other stuff?

Earlier in the year, I remember walking past these new flower beds each day looking for any signs of growth, but this was a disheartening exercise for awhile. We held out hope ... with most of this all being perennials ... for a more spectacular show next year. Then, we left on two weeks holidays, and upon our return we were greeted with a sudden explosion of growth and some colour. And we smiled as we looked at our first bed started in 1998 with hand-me-downs and donations from friends and family and marvelled at how much thicker, fuller and brighter everything was this year.

So, I am learning that patience is a virtue particularly when it comes to gardening ... not that we are going to curtail some of our grander ideas just yet. Now we are contemplating a pond and waterfall for the back yard. And with our fall planting of a whole mess of tulip, crocus, daffodil bulbs and other stuff, we can anxiously await spring all through the long cold winter.

Patience ... patience!
Oh, PS: the tour is held each summer in July, I think I forgot to mention that!
People can call the Pembina Hills Arts Council / gallery at 1-(204)822-6026 for information.


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